Much to my delight, young summer squash are now popping up in gardens, farmers markets, and roadside stands across Ontario. Crooknecks, cocozelles, black beauties, sun drops and butter blossoms to name a few. But my favorite, just by virtue of its spaceship-shape alone, is the patty pan.
However mother nature came up with such a kooky-looking veggie is beyond me, but inside its eccentric exterior is a soft, tender flesh that is deliciously mild and happily familiar.
I pulled this meal together from several different places in my back country meanderings. I picked the kale from a friend’s garden, squash from a farm stand, peas and garlic from the market – a journey in a meal I’d like to say. Eating in the summer and having some kind of connection or memory tied to the ingredients in a dish brings me more pleasure than almost anything else. I love looking down a plate full of stories.
Patty Pans from Never Never Land
For a long time, I called patty pan squash Peter pans. I was also six. I can’t recall if this was a sneaky way for my parents to entice me into eating one of the peculiar-looking vegetables or just my own imagination, but either way, I was more interested in playing with them than eating them. They made seriously great UFOs and hats for stuffed animals in a pinch.
Aside from their endless source of non-edible entertainment value, summer squash is also an excellent source of manganese and vitamin C, and a very good source of magnesium, vitamin A (notably through its concentration of carotenoids, including beta-carotene). They contain good amounts of fiber, potassium, folate, copper, riboflavin, and phosphorus too.
Many of these nutrients have been shown in studies to be helpful for the prevention of atherosclerosis and diabetic heart disease. Summer squash’s magnesium has been shown to be helpful for reducing the risk of heart attack and stroke. Together with the potassium in summer squash, magnesium is also helpful for reducing high blood pressure. The vitamin C and beta-carotene found in summer squash can help to prevent the oxidation of cholesterol. Since oxidized cholesterol is the type that builds up in blood vessel walls, these nutrients may help to reduce the progression of atherosclerosis.
These stuffed summer squash are an elegant start to any meal, or eat a couple with a side of greens for a complete dinner. The filling is absolutely delicious and could easily make a meal of itself without even going near the inside of a patty pan. Try it on its own if you so desire – it’s tasty hold or cold. The caraway seeds, although a last-minute addition, were the most amazing part of the dish. I haven’t cooked with them very often as I mostly add them to crackers and breads, but it was such a surprising hit of flavour that complimented the delicate vegetables very well.
The feta cheese is a totally optional ingredient, but one I would recommend to those that eat goat and sheep diary. The saltiness balances out the sweet cooked onions and bright pop of peas.
If you can’t get your hands on patty pans, any summer squash will do. Zucchini is always available, so in that case, slice the squash length-wise, scoop out most of the flesh in the center to make a boat in both halves, fill them with the vegetable mixture, and place the halves back together again. Perfect!
Summer Stuffed Patty Pans
Serves 3 as a main dish, 6 as an appetizer
6 small patty pan squash
knob of coconut oil or ghee
1 medium red onion
1 clove garlic
1 Tbsp. caraway seeds
1 cup shelled green peas
2 cups chopped kale
1 cup cooked quinoa (or other whole grain)
½ cup crumbled goat or sheep feta (optional)
sea salt & pepper
1. Cut around the stem of the patty pans to create a lid. Next, scoop out the inside flesh, leaving a ½” rim around the top to hold the lid in place. Reserve the flesh and roughly chop, set aside. Rub the inside and outside of each squash with a little olive oil, coconut oil or ghee (to prevent drying out in the oven). If you cannot get the squash to sit evenly, slice off a little of the bottom to create a flat surface (be careful not to cut too deeply and create a hole in the bottom.
2. Heat a knob of coconut oil or ghee in a large skillet. Add the onion and a few pinches of salt, cook until translucent, about 5 minutes. Add minced garlic and caraway seeds, and cook for another couple minutes. Next add the peas and squash, then the kale a minute later, folding occasionally until the kale is slightly wilted. Remove from heat, stir in the cooked quinoa and crumbled feta. Season to taste with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper.
3. Preheat the oven to 350°F/175°C. Fill each patty pan with the vegetable mixture and place the individual lid on top of each squash. Arrange the patty pans in a baking dish with a little water in the bottom. Bake for 15-20 minutes until the squash is soft and cooked through.
4. Serve with any leftover filling, and a drizzle of good quality olive oil. Enjoy!
I actually made this dish a couple weeks ago, just before heading off to teach in New York City. It was absolutely amazing. Thanks to Sous Style for hosting me and all the people who came out to learn and share a meal. I will post some pictures soon!
Looking forward to the classes tomorrow and Friday here in Toronto. It’s a packed summer of sharing the love! I am bursting!
Much love to all. Sunny days,