Vegetarian Stuffed Patty Pan Squash
I’m sitting on the porch today to write this post, soaking up the autumn rays of the heavy late-afternoon sun. It requires a good deal of squinting to see my laptop’s screen, but it’s worth it . I can understand why the pilgrims chose this time of the year to give thanks. Every warm moment in the fading fall sun seems like a precious gift. And really, when I think about my life right now, hectic as heck and strung out as it is, I’m really really lucky to have so many good things and good people bumping along with me on this mysterious ride.
Sorry if I’m a bit moody and wordy today. In addition to the amber autumn sunbeams making me warm and fuzzy, I’ve had an interesting week with lots of “potential” for fulfilling some of my quirky visions for the future and lots of opportunities to reflect on my past while peeling and canning gobs of fruit and vegetables. More details on all of that later. All you really need to know is that my mind is in an interesting place at the moment.
There is a recipe in here somewhere, I swear. But let me bend your ear for just a bit longer. As you know, cooking holds a lot of memories for me. And local food holds a lot of passion for me. And urban farming stirs my imagination in ways I will only hint at most of the time for fear you all think I’m nuts. One reason I find these three things so compelling is the fact food is so critical to the welfare of our community – not just for nutritional value, but also as a means for mending neighborhoods and bringing families and strangers alike together.
So many of our modern cities are still plagued by “food deserts”, blocks or whole neighborhoods where access to fresh produce and other healthy food choices is extremely limited, and it’s no doubt hard for individuals in these areas to get “three square meals” a day. If I had my perfect world, there would be an urban farm dedicated to growing food just for the surrounding neighborhood in every part of our city. And also in that perfect world, neighbors would gather together to take the fresh bounty and work to put it in jars to preserve it for winter so no one would have to worry about catching three buses and walking five blocks just to get some green beans and fruit for their kids in the bitter cold of January.
Unfortunately, we’re not quite there yet. In the meantime, there are still many neighborhoods and neighbors within them that need some help getting decent food to set on their tables. Over the past year, food pantries have seen a 33 percent increase in demand, while their costs have climbed 20 percent, due to rising food prices and fewer donations. I can’t imagine those pressures are going to lessen any time soon. It’s not often that I jump on the corporate benefactor cheerleading squad, but Stroehmann (ya’ know, the bread guys) has started a Nourishing Neighbors™ campaign that donates 10 cents of every purchase of Stroehmann King and Stroehmann Dutch Country bread to the Great Philadelphia Coalition Against Hunger when you buy their products at an Acme or Giant supermarket from now until November 7th. Many of these stores are also hosting food drives at the same time so you can toss a few cans into the donation box if you’re not in need of any bread. Or, I know from personal experience, food banks love to get fresh produce from local gardeners so if you have anything left in your garden yet this year, consider gleaning it and dropping it off at the food bank.
So thanks in advance for lending a hand to help nourish our city’s neighborhoods. I know many of you aren’t in Philadelphia, but I’m sure there’s a similar way to help out the hungry in your neck of the woods. How delightful would it be if everyone in your town could have a hot plate of food before them tonight? Perhaps that plate should have an aromatic and steamy Vegetarian Stuffed Patty Pan Squash on it? They are very tasty, filling, and nutritious. Perfect!
Vegetarian Stuffed Patty Pan Squash
A Straight from the Farm Original
1 unpeeled head of garlic
4 medium patty pan (or scallop) squash
1 can (15 oz) butter beans
1 T. butter
1 small onion
1 t. finely minced fresh rosemary
1 t. fresh marjoram
1 T. fresh minced chives
½ C. grated parmesan cheese + more for sprinkling
generous dashes of salt and pepper
lemon slices to garnish/squeeze
*Stuffing can be made the day before; just store stuffing and “shells” separately in the fridge in air-tight containers.
Using a sharp knife, cut the top half inch off the head of garlic. Set garlic on a sheet of foil and top with butter and a dash of salt. Draw up edges of foil and create a sealed pouch to enclose the garlic. Bake at 400 F until garlic is soft when squeezed, about 45 minutes. Carefully unwrap and let stand to cool.
Wash the squash and slice about a ½ inch off the top. Place squash (including “tops”) in a large saucepan and fill with water to about half way up the squash. Set over high heat and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 10 minutes or until a sharp knife easily slides into the squash. Drain off water and allow to cool.
While garlic is roasting and the patty pan steaming, drain and rinse your can of beans. Place in a microwave safe bowl and heat on high for 2 minutes. This step is required, but it helps to loosen up the beans. Use a potato masher to mash the beans into a smooth pulp. Set aside.
When squash is cool enough to handle (I hold mine in a dish towel when in a hurry), use a spoon to scoop out the flesh, being careful not to pierce the sides or bottom. Set “shells” in a baking dish and set aside. Chop scooped flesh up as best you can.
Preheat oven to 350 F.
Melt the butter in a skillet over medium heat. Mince the onion and add along with the squash flesh to the skillet. Season with a pinch each of salt and pepper. Sautee until golden brown. Add the herbs and sautee for another minute. Add the mashed beans, roasted garlic and parmesan. Stir well to combine. Season again with salt and pepper, tasting to make sure you like it.
Carefully spoon the filling into the squash shells in the baking dish, mounding to up at the top. Drizzle with a little olive oil and sprinkle generously with additional parmesan cheese and salt. Place “tops” back on squash, but do not press them down. Bake until golden brown and hot, about 15-20 minutes.
Serve immediately garnished with wedges of lemon and sprigs of herbs.