Friday, May 27, 2011

Petite Stuffed Patty Pan Squash

The aesthetics, the sheer beauty, the intrigue of many a mysterious vegetable have motivated me to try an abundance of unknown produce. Example: Patty pan squash. After being on vacation for a week and diving head first into the farmer's market, I was dazzled by how many new veggies had appeared while I was our of the country (frolicking in the meadows of a castle in Tuscany for my beautiful sister and her husband's wedding mind you). I of course went overboard with all of the new beautiful choices. Despite having to travel for work and moving into a new abode this next week, I still bought a whole fridge full of veggies!

Patty pan squash - these things are positively adorable. There aren't many vegetables that can be classified in that category, though any baby version of a bigger bulb like baby artichokes are definitely more appealing to me. Fiddleheads, those are in the cute category. Though the exterior of patty pans suggest they have something interesting going on inside, they taste very much like any old summer squash. What makes them special is how fun they are to play with. Nature itself built into each little tulip of a squash a serving platter with which you can fill glorious flavors and textures. Well, semi-built-in. You do have to perform a little manual work to get them to serve as cups, but you simply have to parboil them for a few minutes and scoop out the center. Easier than you think.

So after browsing a few recipes, I decided to just go with what was in my kitchen. With a 3-day-old rock hard baguette, I whipped up a very taste batch of homemade bread crumbs. If you have some good, stale bread, I recommend chopping it, toasting it (if needed) and running those crusty carbs through a food processor for a minute or two. Voila! Homemade bread crumbs that are far superior to store bought. If you do use store bought crumbs, use panko - it's crunchier. Add any seasonings or herbs you'd like. Next time I make this, I'll probably add a few tablespoons of walnuts. But I have to admit the bacon bits were perfect. Served on top a bed of blanched spinach with a pinch of sea salt...Delicioso!

Stuffed Patty Pan Squash
Makes: 6-8 squash
Prep time: 20 minutes
Cook time: 20 minutes 


6-8 medium patty pan squash
2 T. Earth Balance, divided
2 T. red onion or shallot, minced
1 T. garlic, minced (2-3 large cloves)
1/4 c. bread crumbs, homemade
1 T. meatless bacon bits
1/4 tsp. rosemary
1/4 tsp. sea salt
1 T. nutritional yeast (or parmesan for you omnivores that probably don't have nooch in the cupboard)
Fresh ground pepper
Spinach for serving

Fill a deep skillet or large shallow pot with 2 inches of water, heat over high heat and lay whole squash in pan, stem side up. When water is boiling, lower heat to medium and simmer squash about 5 minutes or until just tender. Remove from heat, drain and set aside to cool.

Preheat oven to 400F. Set aside a muffin tin to hold the squash.

When squash are cool enough to handle, cut a circle around the top stem with a pairing knife. Using a spoon, scoop out the stem and any flesh with seeds from the center. Set aside and mince to use for the filling. Repeat with all remaining squash. Place prepared squash in muffin tin and make filling.

In a large skillet, heat 1 1/2 tablespoons of Earth Balance over medium heat. When butter has melted, add minced onion and garlic. Cook on medium heat 3-4 minutes or until vegetables are becoming golden (but be careful not to burn). Add minced squash flesh and cook another 2-3 minute. Add remaining Earth Balance, breadcrumbs, bacon bits, rosemary and salt. Cook, stirringly constantly, until breadcrumbs are golden brown. Finally, add nutritional yeast, stirring to combine, and remove from heat. Set aside in a small mixing bowl.

Fill each squash to the brim with breadcrumb filling. Bake in oven for 15-20 minute or until tops are browned. Remove and serve!