How To Make A Mess Of Squash… and Fix It

I had intended to write about how to make Squash Latkes/Fritters/Pancakes today.

I spent Sunday grating and pressing and drying squash. I collected fresh thyme and chives from the garden and mixed batter on Monday.

Clay painstakingly formed the patties, stuffed with excellent goat cheese. We set up the electric griddle in order to cook the batch uniformly (and quickly).

And wow, were they terrible.

  • I grated the squash too coarsely, so couldn’t get a crisp cook all the way through.
  • The batter – with its specific ratios of flour, egg, leavening, and seasoning to squash – was too thin to form a nice crust around the vegetables.
  • They were blander than bland, and I like squash!
  • I have made these before, and they were amazing – we couldn’t stop eating them. But this effort was a total fail.
  • Sadly, I’m out of summer squash, so can’t try again just yet. When the opportunity arises, though, my plan is to whip up a traditional pancake batter and mix in some squash purée – since that works with butternut and pumpkin in the fall!
  • Other (successful) news: I made a double-veggie zucchini bread that my colleagues devoured in 45 minutes yesterday, and our gazpacho flavors seem to be melding nicely in the fridge – I didn’t get to taste the former, but the latter is tonight’s supper. Stay tuned…
  • What’s your most disappointing kitchen fail?
  • Simpaug Farms CSA: Week Four

    Oh, squash. You are an excellent part of summer.

    We’ve reached the midpoint of July – the moment when I routinely trip over the fine line between “this life is manageable madness,” and “OMG its all too much.”

    In our house, July is the busiest and most stressful month of the year, made more so by the summer slow down (e.g. “What do you mean your summer business hours are 9-3 on Tuesday and Thursday?”). Lots of things are more difficult, and feeding us is the last thing I want to think about. Which makes me so thankful for the CSA.

    I walked into the Fairfield Farmer’s Market yesterday morning and Max handed me a gorgeous box just full of vegetables. All I had to do was plan to eat them.

    What’s In The Week Four Share:

    Vegetables

    • Kale – one 12-ounce bunch
    • Peas, almost large enough to shell – 10 ounces
    • Cauliflower, white and purple – 12 ounces
    • Salad Greens – one 8-ounce bag
    • A variety of Cucumbers – 17 ounces
    • Red Cabbage – one 30-ounce head
    • Spring Onions, red – 2.5 ounces
    • A variety of Squashes – 51 ounces
    • Fennel Bulbs and Fronds – 12 ounces
    • Peppers – 3 ounces

    Other

    • Eggs – one dozen

    I was so grateful that everything in this week’s share was familiar to me from past weeks and my non-CSA diet – I had already recorded the storage techniques. Moreover, with one exception, upon seeing each item I knew exactly what to do with it.

    What To Make With This Week’s Share

    Confession: We didn’t cook much last week, so had quite a lot of vegetables left over. We haven’t lost a single item to rot or waste, and I’m hoping to continue that streak! But this week’s plan includes a lot of “extras”.

    Squash Chips

    Two of the summer squash became squash chips. We sliced them 1/8-inch thick with the mandolin rather than 1/4-inch; they crisped beautifully, but stuck to the sheet pan. Next time I’ll try 3/8-inch. Clay has requested a little heat in the seasoning blend, so next time I’ll skip the cheese and use a Moroccan spice blend, and see how we like it.

    Sunday lunch: squash chips are an excellent replacement for potato chips.

    Squash Latkes

    In the summer of 2012, I made fabulous yellow-squash “fritters” stuffed with goat cheese and herbs. Everyone who tasted them likened them to latkes rather than fritters, so that’s what I call them.

    I can’t find the recipe, so I’m winging it: mixing flour, salt, egg, fresh herbs and squash to make a thick batter/thin dough; forming it into balls around a bit of crumbled goat cheese; fry in oil. I shredded the rest of my yellow squashes for this purpose yesterday – they’re currently draining in the fridge.

    Scallop Squash stuffed with Rice and Greens

    I had intended to make risotto with greens last week, but we ran out of time so took the easy way out: Clay pressure-cooked the kale and chard to tenderness and made fluffy, seasoned rice on the stove, then combined them with bits of steak and chicken for a terrific quick dinner.

    We’ll seed and bake the scallop and pattypan squashes, scoop out and purée the flesh, combine it with this week’s kale (pressure-cooked like last week) and more rice, stuff the squash with the mixture, and bake again to crisp the top and warm it all through. (We’re having friends over for dinner on Friday, so I expect this will be a make-it-together dish.)

    Summer “Gazpacho”

    I enjoy cold soup, but prefer the flavor of cooked vegetables to raw ones. True gazpacho fans are reeling in horror, I’m sure, but to each her own. Yesterday we grilled a delicato squash, the peppers, and a handful of red onions; tonight we’ll chop and mix them with tomatoes, roasted garlic, and a mess of herbs and spices, then blend it all together and chill for 24 hours. It will serve as a very light supper for tomorrow night, since we’ll arrive home near midnight.

    My Favorite Dill Pickles

    Yesterday I turned the cucumbers from this week and last week into garlic dill pickles – our haul turned into two pint and five half-pint jars, so we’re set for summer hostess gifts.

    I love that our friends request my pickles as gifts!

    Lunchtime Crudités

    Clay has been digging on raw vegetables with hummus for lunch – it’s simple eat-on-the-train-or-classroom fare. I chopped the peas, non-pickling cucumbers, and cauliflower for him – along with carrots and cherry tomatoes. Lunch, managed.

    Purple cauliflower! It’s so much more vibrant than anything I’ve seen in a shop.

    Egg Sandwiches

    We hard boiled a half-dozen eggs and will slice them for sandwiches, with salad greens and a Dijon mustard dressing.

    Cabbage and Fennel

    We keep intending to make more slaw, but haven’t yet, so have multiple heads of cabbage at this point. I’m planning to shred all of it and toss with different herb and seasoning blends and dressings. That might happen on Wednesday, but it’s more likely a Saturday project – we’ll see.

    As for the fennel, it’s the one item I don’t have a plan for. I’ve been using small pieces, julienned, in salads and as flavoring agents with meats and sauces, but a little goes a long way. Thankfully it stores well.

    What’s your plan for this week?

    The South Shall Rosé Again

    collards Waterlogue.png

    “Are you going to eat these collards, or should we just put them in the compost?”

    She wasn’t making it a personal challenge, just letting me know that she had no intention of doing anything with those greens we’d received in the CSA box.

    It being summer musical writing season—this year I’m working on three shows at once because, I guess, if you want to get something done, ask a busy person—I haven’t put a lot of thought into the lunches I’ve grabbed in the few seconds before I had to run to catch a train. Which meant it was Sunday, I’d just brought home this week’s CSA box, and last week’s collard greens were staring out from the crisper. I was determined not to waste them, and she wasn’t home for lunch anyway, so collards it would be.

    Note to Self: put “prepare lunch” on your morning to-do list so it isn’t the last thing that gets done—or, worse, doesn’t.

    I set the Instant Pot to “Sauté” (sort of like setting phasers to Stun, but tastier) and put in a big dollop of bacon fat from the jar in the fridge. While the pot came to temp and the fat melted, I washed and dried and chopped the greens and a couple of garlic scapes. This would have been a great time to use that ham hock in the back of the freezer, but we didn’t have a ham hock in the back of the freezer, so bacon fat and garlic would have to do.

    Note to Self #2: get a ham hock and put it in the freezer.

    I added the greens and garlic to the now-sizzling pot and stirred to make sure everything got coated, and sautéed the greens for a couple of minutes. This would have been a great time to have some stock defrosted, too. Alas, I hadn’t had that much foresight either.

    I added a dollop of Dijon mustard, a little squirt of sriracha sauce, and a cup of rosé wine, then lidded up the pot and set it to pressure-cook for 20 minutes.

    Now I know perfectly well that no self-respecting Southerner would cook collards with Dijon mustard, sriracha sauce, and rosé wine—if they had those things in the fridge to begin with.

    I never said I was a self-respecting Southerner.

    They were delicious.

    Will I do it this way again? Probably not. Maybe next time it’ll be Swiss chard with orange juice and soy sauce.

    collards orig.jpg

     

     

     

    How to Make Mango Salsa

    We decided to observe Independence Day last week with a Mexican-American take on the traditional burger-and-salad fare: we opted for nachos with grilled, spiced beef, roasted corn-tomato-jalapeño salsa, torn CSA greens, and a lime-and-yogurt crema spread over blue corn tortillas.

    It was a fabulous plate, and sourcing ingredients from our local Latino-owned market to make a dish that could not exist without the blending of culture that has always accompanied American immigration felt like an act of great patriotism.

    Our favorite spice market, Penzeys, had a similar idea; on Friday they gave away gift boxes containing Latin American spices: Mexican Vanilla and their own spice blend for Salsa & Pico.

    In gratitude, Clay brought home a large bag of other treats to play with, but our first objective was showcasing the gifts.

    I am dreaming of Mexican Wedding Cookies; they will have to wait for the temperature to drop; we tucked the vanilla away to await that occasion. But the Salsa & Pico blend just cried out for freshness – and we obliged.

    We snowed the spices liberally over a bowl containing a diced ripe mango, charred scallions, chopped tomatoes, crushed garlic scapes, torn cilantro, minced roasted hot pepper, and the juice and pulp of one ripe lime. A quick stir followed by fifteen minutes for the ingredients to get friendly yielded a bright, happy dish just bursting with the flavor of sunshine on a beach.

    We served the salsa inside pulled pork burritos, but if left to my own devices I would have picked up the bowl and a spoon and called it dinner.

    Simpaug Farms CSA: Week Three

    Onions on the deck in the early morning light.

    While I usually try to keep Sunday’s free from obligations so that we can recharge at home, yesterday was most definitely busy. Clay worked in the morning and led a pair of meetings in the afternoon, while I spent many hours in the car; three friends whom I haven’t seen in 22, 10, and 2 years collaborated on a brilliantly moving song cycle, and I attended the American premiere performance. To say that it was a deeply moving experience is quite an understatement.

    Anyway. Amid all that, Clay swung by the Farmer’s Market to see Max and collect this week’s share. Since our time for cataloguing was brief, we’re a bit light on the details; I’ll do my best to revise for volume later this week.

    What’s In This Week’s Share: Week Three

    Vegetables

    • Collard Greens – one bunch (Clay cooked and enjoyed last week’s bunch, and will share the experience in a post of his own.)
    • Kale – one bunch
    • Salad Greens – one bag
    • Swiss Chard – one bunch
    • Pattypan Squash – several fist-sized ones
    • Pickling Cucumbers – a large handful
    • Pointed Cabbage – one head
    • Spring Onions, red and white varieties – a large bunch
    • Summer Squash – a half-dozen small ones
    • White Scallop Squash – one lovely large one

    Other

    • Eggs – one dozen

    How to Store CSA Vegetables

    Storage this week is so easy. The onions went into a jar of water (which now feels like a kitchen staple on our sideboard!). We wrapped all of the greens and put them in the high-humidity crisper drawer along with the cabbage, cucumbers, and squashes. Voila – finished!

    What To Make With This Week’s Share

    I am thrilled with this week’s share in particular, because there are some dishes that I’ve been wishing on that we now have the makings of!

    Chopped Kale and Pomegranate Salad

    While more of an autumn dish than a summer one, I love these flavors together. Clay is writing a musical featuring Hades and several mentions of pomegranates, so it’s making me hungry for sharp, sweet-tart bites. Nuts and seeds are fabulous in chopped salad, making it excellent for filling take-along lunches, and we have an abundance in the pantry.

    Risotto with Chard and Mushrooms

    I adore risotto, and have quite a good time with the constant stirring. I’ll cut our chard into long ribbons and combine it with porcini mushrooms for bursts of rich, summer flavor.

    Sandwich Toppers

    We enjoyed cabbage in delicate slaws over nachos and in burritos last week, so I’m looking forward to more of that on our sandwiches this week. Pastrami, havarti, a tomato spread, a bit of mayo, and a peppery slaw on Clay’s sort-of-sourdough bread sounds so good!

    My Favorite Dill Pickles

    The dill in my garden is exploding with seed pods, so I’ll turn those pickling cucumbers into garlic dill pickles as soon as I have 30 minutes in the kitchen!

    Salad Supplement

    The roasted vegetable and gnocchi salad we made on Saturday is wonderful, but could do with a bit of fresh crunch. We’ll tear up those salad greens and mix them into the next portion for extra color and freshness.

    And the squash!

    I’ll definitely make more squash chips. I’ll make another frittata, though I’d like to try adding a bit of acid to the dish – maybe roasting tomatoes alongside squash for the filling. The scallop squash is supposed to be fantastic when fried, and since we still have some chèvre from Lost Ruby Farm I’ll turn it into summery squash latkes. And I’d like to try stuffing the pattypans in the style of stuffed peppers (which could be an excellent way to repurpose any leftover risotto).

    Who wants to join us for dinner?

    How to Enjoy a Glut of Squash

    Summer Squashes are abundant in July!

    Our CSA share has provided an abundance of squashes for the last two weeks: zucchini, summer squash, crookneck, patty pan, and a beautiful, large green one with striped skin, pumpkin-like seeds, and pale flesh. (I’ll remind Clay to ask Max what that variety is called at today’s collection!)

    We enjoy squash, but it’s easy for any single ingredient to feel overwhelming in our diet if we don’t make the effort to transform it in different ways. This weekend, we focused on transforming squash, and these are the options we’ve come up with:

    Grilled Vegetable Salad with Gnocchi

    Our supermarket puts out a complimentary magazine for loyalty card holders every month. Like all magazines, it’s generally an advertisement-vehicle for specific brands, but I thumb through it for different ideas anyway. This month’s pages were full of salads and tips on grilling vegetables, so we decided to grill up a bunch and toss them with gnocchi and a balsamic vinaigrette dressing for a lighter take on pasta salad.

    1. On Wednesday, when we had the grill fired up, we quartered the unknown squash lengthwise and sliced the patty pans into discs. We grilled them with large slices of vidalia onion, a quartered green bell pepper, and some mushrooms.
    2. We cooked the gnocchi (a cheater package from the frozen section of the market) according to package directions, and drained it very well.
    3. Clay made a vinaigrette of balsamic vinegar, olive oil, dijon mustard, and our instant pot yogurt, seasoned with an herb blend from Penzeys containing green onion, basil, celery flakes, minced garlic, dill salt, chives, and pepper.
    4. When the veg were cooled we chopped them and two gorgeous heirloom tomatoes into bite-sized pieces, added the room-temperature gnocchi, and tossed the whole mess with the dressing. (Clay dove into the bowl and mixed with his hands, so as not to pulverize the vegetables.)
    5. The salad went into the fridge overnight so that the flavors could meld and get happy, and then became fabulous take-along-and-eat-at-room-temperature lunches.

    Crookneck Squash Frittata

    Broiled squash slices, ready for their egg-and-cheese bath.

    We’ve never been led astray by a recipe from Uncle Alton, and this one is particularly good. I chopped both rosemary and thyme from our herb garden to mix with the squash  slices prior to broiling, and substituted a lovely mild chevre from Lost Ruby Farm for the ricotta cheese – and it was wonderful. I almost can’t wait for fall to try a variation of this with roasted pumpkin and butternut squash.

    The finished frittata. I should have pulled it out from under the broiler 30 seconds earlier, but it’s so tasty!

    Zucchini Bread

    I’ve been making the Zucchini Bread recipe from the Better Homes and Gardens Cookbook since I was 11 years old, and despite trying dozens of alternates championed by Food Network and Food52 members, I’ve yet to find anything as tasty or reliable as this one.

    It’s particularly forgiving if the two leftover zucchini in your fridge that really need to be used up measure out to a cup-and-a-quarter or cup-and-a-half of grated flesh rather than a precise one-cup measure; in that case I sub in a tablespoon or two of whole wheat flour for an equivalent measure of all-purpose, and allow the batter to rest and thicken for ten minutes before putting the pan in the oven. The texture is perfect every time.

    Squash Chips

    How can you go wrong with freshly grated parmesan?

    Samantha stated that her Baked Parmesan Squash Rounds isn’t really a recipe, more a two-ingredient short-cut to snacking. I didn’t believe her when I first read that, but she’s right. And as long as we have squash coming in our CSA shares, I have no interest in buying snacking chips at the market. (That’s saying a lot for me – chips are my favorite snack!)

    I sliced our last crookneck squash into quarter-inch-thick slices, patted them dry, laid them on a baking sheet sized for our toaster oven, sprinkled liberally with salt and pepper, and then grated a chunk of fresh parmesan over the whole thing. Baked at 425 for 15 minutes, they cooked up into divine, chewy little parmesan crackers. Next time I’ll put them in without the cheese for 7 minutes, then add the grated cheese and continue with the 15-minute plan – so they can get crispier without burning the cheese.

    What’s your favorite recipe for summer squashes? I’d love to give it a try – and to hear what you think of these!

    How to Make Vegetable Lasagna

    When I think “vegetable lasagna”, I imagine a rich, hearty noodle dish bursting with the flavor of fresh vegetables. When I search for recipes for “vegetable lasagna”, I most often find thin, watery-sounding meals that substitute thin layers of squash for noodles and skimp out on the chunky fillings that make lasagna such a stand-out meal.

    For our Easter celebration this year, I created a mash-up of lasagna and pasta primavera that was a beautiful, fresh, spring-flavor-filled dish, and it works equally as well for our summer CSA veggies.

    Since Clay and I cook for only two, I generally make lasagna in a small loaf pan; it provides 6 average-sized portions, so there’s plenty for a second helping, or to share with friends, or to pack for work-day lunches.

    Recipe for Vegetable Lasagna

    Start with the Bechamel sauce.

    • 3 TBSP butter
    • 3 TBSP flour
    • 2 cups Whole Milk (the more flavorful your milk, the more flavorful your sauce. This is a dish where organic milk from grass-fed cows really shines)
    • Salt, Pepper, and Nutmeg – to taste

    Melt and brown the butter in a small saucepan over medium heat, until it is aromatic and a rich golden brown color. Whisk in the flour to make a roux; then continue cooking for three to four minutes until the roux takes on additional color. Whisk continuously while slowly streaming in the milk, to avoid lumps.

    Turn the heat to medium-low and continue cooking while stirring frequently, until the sauce thickens. Once thickened, season to taste with salt, pepper, and freshly grated nutmeg, then pour into a small glass container and set aside.

    Once the sauce is made, prepare your other ingredients.

    • Half of a package of lasagna noodles, prepared according to package instructions (or fresh, if you’re fancy like that!)
    • One-and-a-half cups of fresh mozzarella cheese, diced and divided into three equal portions
    • One cup of freshly grated pecorino-romano cheese, divided into three equal portions
    • One-and-a-half cups of pesto, divided into three equal portions
      This week we used two parts roasted tomato and one part traditional basil
    • Sea salt and freshly ground pepper
    • An 8-ounce bunch of leafy greens (think chard, kale, or spinach), torn into bite-sized pieces, washed, blanched, and drained
      This week we used kale.
    • Approximately one-and-a-half cups of vegetables (think artichoke, asparagus, beets, green or wax beans, snap or snow peas, or summer squashes), diced and well seasoned with salt and pepper
      This week we used peas in their pods and zucchini.
    • Approximately half of one cup of alliums (think beyond onions to leeks, scallions, chives, or garlic), chopped very finely
      This week we used green onions, scallions, and garlic scapes.

    Once your ingredients are assembled, pre-heat your oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit, grab a loaf pan, and begin assembly.

    1. Spread a spoonful of bechamel sauce into the bottom of the pan.
    2. Arrange the first layer of noodles over the bechamel, with the edges overlapping slightly. Spread the noodles with one-third of the pesto then one-third of the mozzarella, then a drizzle of bechamel.
    3. Arrange a second layer of noodles over the first, and top them with your greens. Don’t be afraid to really pack the greens into your pan, since they will cook down significantly in the oven. Top with one-third of the pecorino-romano cheese and a generous spoonful of bechamel.
    4. Arrange a third layer of noodles, spread with a second third of pesto and a second third of mozzarella. Scatter your alliums here, and then add a drizzle of bechamel over the top.
    5. Arrange a fourth layer of noodles, spread with the last third of pesto. Scatter your chopped vegetables over the pesto with the second third of pecorino-romano, then drizzle with bechamel.
    6. Arrange your fifth and final layer of noodles, and spread the remaining bechamel sauce over the top. Scatter your remaining cheeses over the top, and grind fresh black pepper generously over the whole.

    Cover your pan with aluminum foil, and place on a tray in the center of the oven; bake for 40 minutes. Remove the foil and cook for an additional 15 to 20 minutes, until the lasagna is browned and bubbling; remove from the oven and allow to rest for 10 minutes before serving.

    This dish is absolutely satisfying as a one-dish meal, though at Easter we served it alongside kefta and pickled root vegetables. If you make it, I’d love to know what vegetables you choose, and how you present it!