Rising Creek Digressions XI – a bucolic blog by Tim Hare
Photos by Tim and Sam
August and September make farming and gardening in Colorado worth it. In a sense, this is what we’ve been working for since March. By now, we’ve been through cycles of greens – both salad and hearty varieties. They are tasty, and darned nutritious – but they’ve also lost their novelty in some ways. Alas, seasons change. And for the past few weeks now, and now the really fun stuff has been happening in Colorado’s fields and markets. By fun, I mostly mean BIG – melons, peaches, sweet corn, apples, cherries, herbs, and even tomatoes. These are the ephemeral local foods that are the heart of the regional epicure’s year. So instead of digressions this week, I will go for directions.
I am terrible at following directions; thus, I rarely allow cooking recipes into my kitchen. But when I saw the size of the largest zucchini and summer squash coming off the Farmette’s flourishing “squash quarter”, it moved me to try to follow directions. I didn’t do the best job at that task, but I made a sincere attempt. Taking the large yellow summer squash and green zucchini squash into our kitchen this evening, we did the only thing you could possibly do with plants of that size (we had unusually large ones, and it is worth mentioning that there are also more delicate and manageable sizes coming off the fields here too). We looked up a recipe, and decided stuffing them was the right approach to getting them into our mouths.
If you looked around (and wouldn’t have to strain too hard to do so), just about all of these ingredients could be found locally (yup, even the quinoa). Cucurbita is the genus that includes squashes, part of the large vegetable family of Cucurbitaceae. These are the gourd-family that was first cultivated in Mesoamerica, and part of their “Three Sisters”, along with maize and beans. So, not only is squash a currently locally available food, it is also millennially local, dating back thousands of years in much of the Americas.
My fiancé and I tweaked just about the entirety of the recipe we found online, so it is worth writing here anew. Here’s what it involved for us:
Vegetarian Quinoa and Mozzarella Stuffed Farmette Summer Squash
Time: 1 hour
Two massive Farmette (or other) summer squash
1 cup quinoa
One vegetarian bullion cube
½ chopped red onion
½ chopped green bell pepper
Two cubed tomatoes
4 cloves chopped garlic
2 teaspoons fresh oregano
2 teaspoons fresh thyme
Salt and black pepper a gusto
Fresh sliced Mozerrella
Cooking oil of choice
1/3 cup breadcrumbs
Take your shirt off, and put on a sweatband – the kitchen will get hot and you will sweat if you’re doing this in August without AC.
Prepare the quinoa. Add one cup of quinoa and one vegetarian bullion cube to 1.5 cups cold water. Bring to a boil, turn heat down and cook on low heat until water is entirely absorbed.
While quinoa is cooking, place squash in cold water and bring to a boil. We didn’t have a pot big enough (these squash were absurdly large) so we used the largest pot we had and boiled one half of the massive squash-rods and then the other. It worked, but a larger pot would have been useful. Boil for 10 minutes, or until squash is tender. Do not overcook, since this will be baked later.
Meanwhile, begin preparing the filling. In fry pan, heat oil. First add onions, cook until translucent. Then add garlic, herbs, salt, black pepper, and finally bell peppers. Cook to your liking, but similar to the squash take care not to overcook, since this will be baked as well. Let this mix of goodies cool a bit.
Pre-heat the oven to 375 degrees F (this is what we did, but you could consider cranking it up to 425 F and just keeping an eye on things). Wipe the sweat off your brow, and re-adjust your sweatband, maybe changing it out if it is saturated.
Once the squash has boiled, slice the two giant bludgeons in half and remove the insides into a bowl, making the squash into little boats. Mix the inside of the squash with the vegetable fillings once it has cooled, and add the tomatoes, egg and quinoa – mix thoroughly. Butter a baking tray and set the halved, hollowed-out squash in the tray. Scoop the yummy filling into the squash boats. Sprinkle breadcrumbs and layer fresh sliced mozzarella.
Place in oven for 20 minutes, or until cheese has turned a slight golden-brown. In the meantime, take a cold shower, especially if you have guests over. Remove, let cool for 10 minutes and,
Since we strayed further than squash plants run from the original recipe – such as by using quinoa instead of ground beef, among others – we encourage you to do the same. To be honest, ours didn’t turn out as supremely delicious as we had hoped. To improve this, next time I would mix Parmesan cheese with the breadcrumbs, and drizzle some olive oil over the squash boats before baking. We also talked about mixing Gorgonzola cheese in the filling (for those that are into the funky cheese, which I am). You could also consider a kind of spinach, olive, and feta filling. A green of some sort (kale, chard, or mustards) would have enhanced the texture the filling too. OR how about a Mexican theme? Or Thai coconut rice and veggies? I see endless possibilities with these cucurbit calabash clubs.