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Posts Tagged ‘squash’

After four summers of putting up with the squash in my CSA box, I have, at last, found a reason to love the stuff.

My habit of perusing stacks of used books finally paid off during a spring visit to Nashville’s BookManBookWoman, which yielded a copy of Cover & Bake by the Cook’s Illustrated team. I’ve found the Cook’s Illustrated collections to be virtually foolproof — they do, after all, painstakingly test each recipe numerous times before releasing it into the wild.

I grew up with very little respect for the squash. I remember eating it mostly fried, although surely that wasn’t the only way my mother and grandmother prepared it. The only thing I really figured out to do with it myself was to chop it up and sauté it with a little garlic and olive oil. Passable, but by no means a method to use up copious amounts of squash.

This recipe, however, uses 2 entire POUNDS of squash, meaning I haven’t spent the last two weeks feeling bad about unwanted veggies languishing in the crisper. They’re all gone.

The original recipe specifically calls for zucchini and summer squash. I was saving my zucchini for brownies (I’ll share that recipe soon — seriously the best brownies ever), and I had at least three other varieties of squash in the box, including Slick Pik, Zephyr and patty pan.

Squash is squash, I say. I also substituted chopped leeks for the shallots, since I had leftover leeks and the Internet vaguely signaled that they would be OK. No complaints.

I also never bother keeping parsley in the house, so I used an entire cup of chopped basil instead of buying a whole bunch of parsley just for 1/4 cup.

This recipe is a lot of work, to be sure, but totally worth it. The creamy sauce delivers a consistent hint of fresh basil, and every forkful delivers a healthy array of veggies.

Baked Penne with Squash, Tomatoes and Basil
(Adapted from Cook’s Illustrated)
Serves 6 to 8

Topping
4 slices white sandwich bread, torn into pieces
2 tbsp. unsalted butter, melted

Filling
2 pounds zucchini and/or other squash varieties, halved lengthwise, sliced 1/2-inch thick
Kosher salt
3/4 lb. penne
4 tbsp. olive oil
6 medium shallots, minced (about 1 cup)
4 medium garlic cloves, minced
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
2 1/2 cups low-sodium chicken broth
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
2 oz. Parmesan cheese, grated (about 1 cup)
3/4 cup chopped fresh basil leaves
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley leaves
Ground black pepper
1 pint cherry tomatoes, quartered

For the topping:
Process the bread and butter in a food processor fitted with the steel blade until coarsely ground, about six 1-second pulses; set aside.

For the filling:
1. Toss the squash with 1 tbsp. kosher salt and place in a large colander set inside a large bowl to drain, about 30 minutes.
2. Bring 4 quarts of water to boil in a Dutch oven over high heat. Stir in 2 tbsp. kosher salt and the pasta; cook, stirring occasionally  until al dente. Drain the pasta, return to the pot, and toss with 1 tbsp. of olive oil; set aside. Adjust oven rack to the middle position and heat to 400 degrees.
3.  Spread the salted squash evenly over a double layer of paper towels and pat dry with additional paper towels, wiping off any residual salt. Heat 1 tbsp. olive oil in a 12-inch nonstick skillet over high heat until smoking. Add half of the squash and cook, stirring occasionally, until golden brown and slightly charred, 5 to 7 minutes. Transfer to a baking sheet. Add 1 tbsp. olive oil to the pan and return to high heat until smoking; brown the remaining squash and transfer to the baking sheet.
4. Wipe the skillet clean with a wad of paper towels. Add the remaining tablespoon of olive oil and return to medium-high heat until shimmering. Add the shallots and cook until softened, about 3 minutes. Add the garlic and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add the flour and cook, stirring constantly, until golden, about 1 minute. Off the heat, stir in the Parmesan, basil and parsley. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
5. Add the sauce, tomatoes and sautéed squash to the pasta; stir gently to combine. Pour the pasta into a 9-by-13-inch baking dish  and sprinkle with the breadcrumb topping. Bake until the casserole is bubbling and the crumbs are lightly browned, about 15 minutes. Serve immediately.

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Late update, since tomorrow will bring us the Week 2’s CSA  box.

My first 2013 Dennison’s Family Farm CSA box yielded the following:

  • Three onions: red, white and yellow. These have gone in everything from quinoa to chicken fajitas.
  • One leek. Still in the crisper, it’ll probably end up in quinoa.
  • Broccoli rabe. I washed and chopped the greens and buds, and the husband mixed them into ricotta along with spicy Italian sausage to add a little zest to his fabulous homemade calzones. In truth, the sausage overwhelmed the flavor of the rabe, but we tried.
  • Pac Choi: This sits abandoned in my crisper, because I am shamefully bad at using leaf vegetables that have to be cooked.
  • One green squash. I immediately chopped this up and stir-fried it in olive oil with a bit of garlic. Easiest side dish ever.
  • Two quarts of strawberries. Alas, the last two quarts of strawberries I’ll get out of Tennessee this year. I made ice cream with them using my favorite recipe from Ben & Jerry’s (this is the only ice cream recipe book you need to own, BTW). I tossed in a cup of white chocolate chips toward the end for Something Completely Different, but I can’t really taste them. Turns out super sweet strawberries are enough all by themselves.
  • Pistou basil. This is a dwarf basil plant that I need to transplant outside. Last year’s wasn’t very prolific, I have to admit, but I’ll be swimming in fresh basil for the rest of the summer when Dennison’s herbs, along with my emergency back-up plant, start producing.

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seeds1

During my most recent CSA adventure, I made stuffed eight-ball squash. Don’t tell the generations of ancestors before me who were Southern farmers, but I still just don’t like squash.

I did like the seeds, however, roasted at 350 degrees with a little olive oil and salt. They were crunchy and delicious, plus they looked awfully nice in my favorite green bowls.

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