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No-Bake Summer Squash Gratin (Sort of)

I meant to post this in August, but since some of us are still experiencing summer heat in September, and the markets still have summer squash (so. much. zucchini!), it seems fitting even now. I’m certainly happy not to be turning my oven on yet.

Squash Gratin For One:

  • 2 small to medium zucchini and/or summer squash
  • small onion or scallion
  • cheddar, grated, about 1/4 cup or more (I say more)
  • basil or thyme or parsley (fresh not dried)
  • 1 garlic clove, smashed a bit
  • breadcrumbs, about 1/4 cup (I based on the amount of squash, so use your judgment)
  • Splash of white wine or dry vermouth (the white one)
  • butter and olive oil

What to do:

Grate one of the squash and dice the other one. Or grate them both, if you prefer. I liked the difference in shape and texture but it is not mandatory. Just a bit of fun. Thinly slice the onion/scallion. Continue reading

Quick Hit: More Pesto Variations

Yes, by now we’re aware that pesto is a great way to use up bushels and bushels of basil – but what if your wallet balks at the price of pine nuts to go along with all that basil? And what if you’re also out of basil, having no garden of your own to be overrun with it? Well, there are other green leafy alternatives, as well as other nuts (actual nuts too). Experiment with what you have.

For example, try cress and cashews, plus walnut oil, garlic, and some chives (optional). Leave the cheese out until you plan to use the pesto (so you can freeze it if you want to), and try Pecorino instead of Parmesan. Great on pasta, or as a potato salad dressing or with peas, or on baguette or…

Or if you don’t have cress, try arugula instead. Maybe with walnuts instead of cashews. Really, the variations go on.

Quick Spring Lunch: Fusilli with Scallions, Peas, and Goat Cheese

Actually, the title says it all. This makes a quick lunch, especially if you have the pasta already cooked. This is barely a recipe, and I didn’t really measure anything, so use your judgment as to the ratio of pasta to scallions, peas, and cheese.

What’s in it:

  • 8 – 12 oz pasta (fusilli), cooked (how much really depends on how hungry you are)
  • 2 – 4 scallions, chopped
  • 1 cup peas (cooked along with the pasta)
  • chopped chives – about 1 Tbs (optional)
  • fresh goat cheese (at least 1/4 cup, more if you love goat cheese)

Brown scallions in butter and olive oil over medium high, let things get a bit crispy. Add in the cooked fusilli and peas. Stir. If you have them, add some fresh chives too. Serve in a deep plate (pasta bowl), topped with crumbles of fresh goat cheese. Toss a bit so the cheese can meld with the warm pasta. Bask in the Spring feeling (though you could make this dish all through summer and fall, it feels spring-like, and scallions are great in spring).

Gold Zucchini Pasta

Here’s something to do with the zucchini/golden summer squash that should be piling up by now. You can throw  this together quickly – either a dish for two people or one person who likes leftovers (hello, lunch).

What you need:
1 medium golden zucchini, or it can be a regular green one too, shredded (by hand on your cheese grater or in a food processor if you have it)
About 1 cup dry fusili pasta (estimate)
About 1/2 tsp chopped rosemary (fresh)
1/2 cup or so of panko breadcrumbs
1/2 cup grated Parmesan or Manchego (more if you like)
1 Tbs olive oil

What to do: (Note: I did not measure when I made this, so this is all speculation based on memory.) Continue reading

Delicious Delicata

The delicata squash – I first encountered it at my farmer’s market, where I picked it up at random because I was tired of the reliable standby butternut squash and recently disappointed by the acorn squash as well. It has a friendly look to it – striped, thin-skinned,  and on the smallish side, its shaped a bit like a zucchini or eggplant.

It is, as far as I can tell, the unknown squash – so far, no one I have mentioned this delicious squash to has heard of it. After I picked in an experimental frame of mind, I searched the food blogs for inspiration on how to deal with it. The Kitchn had this recipe for dip and I went with it because it seemed easy. Once I tried it, I never looked for another delicata squash recipe idea because it was so very delicious. In December, I made this at least five times in as many weeks. If you can find a delicata, make this now. Bring it to your next pot-luck party.

Apart from using it as a dip, this works wonderfully as a pasta sauce.

If you find yourself without milk, cream, and Gruyère, take heart. One variation I found to be very successful was to use a bit of butter instead of the milk, and then to add a triangle of the Laughing Cow Creamy Swiss Original spreadable cheese (one triangle for a smallish squash, two won’t go amiss here). An excellent, smoothly creamy cheesy dip that works excellently on crostini as well as penne pasta or farfalle or even elbow mac.

Make the delicata squash your new friend if you haven’t met before. It is well worth it.

Working with Leftovers: Savory Muffin Makeover

Not every recipe is a success. I’ve made beer-based quick breads before with good results but when I opted to bake a cheesy beer bread batter in muffin form, the savory muffins were a disappointment: too dry and bitter for my tastes. Loathe to throw out something that contained so much good cheese, I stuck the remaining four beer-cheese muffins into the freezer and ignored them for months.

The savory muffins reemerged from behind the frozen peas during a burst of cleaning frenzy, and once again I almost tossed them. The long wait in the freezer had not made them any more enticing (go figure). Because I really hate to waste food, I gave the muffins a defrosting grace period, hoping that would push me to find some way to use at least one or two of them.

The moment of revelation came thanks to serendipitous positioning: while defrosting in the fridge, the savory muffins sat next to a container of leftover black beans that had been seasoned in a pan with onions and garlic and oregano. The obvious answer to the unwanted muffin problem was staring me in the face. Continue reading

Pasta, Shell Peas, Mint and Scallions

It’s about time for all the fresh green produce to come into its own and take center stage. If your CSA or farmer’s market has landed you with some shell peas, you may now be appreciating the convenience of frozen peas. Shell peas, unlike sugar snap or snow peas, have to be shelled. For this recipe, shell the peas while watching John Carpenter’s The Thing (for example).

And yes, you can use frozen peas for this. No shelling. Continue reading