Tuesday, September 29, 2009
Flash In The Pan
It's rare that I'm ahead of the game where produce is concerned since lately I'm at the mercy of the CSA and our wacky Northeast weather patterns, but it seems that recently I struck gold. During our most recent distribution we got the lovely little patty pan squashes pictured above--not surprising since the weather here in New York just started to turn chilly. They're not all that different from any other yellow late summer or early fall squash, but as you can see, their shape is quite distinctive. They can range in size from fairly small (about golf ball sized) to as large as a softball. My batch was gorgeous and ran the gamut of sizes. Texture-wise they're not like the fall gourds that we call squash (pumpkins, acorn and butternut squash, etc...), instead resembling zucchini or summer squash in both texture and flavor. They're thin skinned and work just as well peeled or not, and they cook up just as quickly as they're summer squash brethren.
If you can find them I'd suggest doing everything from tossing them into pasta with lots of garlic and fresh herbs, to grilling them, or mixing them with other veggies for a tasty vegetarian quesadilla like I did (I sauteed mine with meaty portobello mushrooms and earthy cumin with a pinch of chile powder). They're great on pizzas too, or even blended into a vichyssoise-esque soup with potatoes and leeks, where they can lend a hint of sweetness (serve it hot or cold, your choice). You can even roast them whole or halved in the oven (the little ones are great this way) and served alongside a roast chicken. Or take that roasted flavor and puree it with chicken stock and a potato or two for a warm winter soup topped with stinky cheese and bacon, chive and creme fraîche, or a delicious herb oil. If you like tarts these guys make perfect foils. Slice them thin and fan like you would an apple, only on top of cheese or sauce instead of on a sweet concoction. It could be anything from a bechamel to a tomato sauce or just cream cheese.
They may seem confusing at first, but there's actually a lot to be done with any kind of squash, especially these because their soft texture lends itself to quick cooking techniques. I haven't even mentioned ratatouille or minestrone, but these guys pair really well with tomato sauce and tomato based soups. Try replacing eggplant with patty pans in a vegetarian lasagna and you'll find it works just as well if not better (I prefer their flavor to the often times bitter flavor of eggplant). There's no real recipe today, just a few words on patty pans in case you start seeing them around your market. Don't be afraid to pick some up and experiment--there's way more to be done with them than what I've suggested. And if you do give them a try, let me know what you did--I'd love to hear what other people are doing with them!