When I walked over to The Root Cellar today to replenish my supply of locally grown tomatoes, I came upon a curiosity: a short, squat, pale green vegetable with little nubs surrounding the edge. Upon inquiring, I was informed that this was a patty pan squash, and that it would be delicious diced and sautéed in olive oil with garlic.
Raw, the squash was moist and springy and had a dull, watery flavor. I sliced it into small cubes, which I then placed into a hot frying pan with olive oil, fresh grated garlic, salt and pepper.
Patty pan squash cooks quickly, and after about five minutes it appeared lightly browned and ready to consume. The first bite revealed a pleasant texture; while many squashes will become mushy when cooked, the cubes of patty pan still had a bit of a crunch, while the outsides had been softened. The salt helped to draw out the flavors, which were of a slightly bitter nuttiness. The bitterness, while not overt, did take some getting used to, but it was not by any means a deal-breaker. The garlic flavor absorbed into the spongy squash beautifully, mingling with the pepper to give the whole thing a nice kick. It all made for a rather satisfying snack.
Patty pan squash can also be hollowed out and stuffed. The whole thing must first be simmered for about ten minutes, until the squash is softened. Next, cut off the top and use a spoon or melon baller to hollow out the inside. Patty pan squash can be stuffed with anything: beans, rice, vegetables, meat, cheese, or whatever else you can think of. The whole thing should then be covered with foil and baked for fifteen minutes or so. The joy of cooking is in the experimentation, and nothing is quite as satisfying as coming up with a delicious and unique concoction.
Photo: Allan Day