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Smoky ‘Shroom-and-Kale-Stuffed Pattypan Squash

I wish I'd been around when humans got down to the business of naming things.  I’d definitely be pretty psyched to have been the one to point at a scurrying gray rodent with an endearingly bushy tail and say, “We should call that a ‘squirrel’ from now on.” And speaking of awesome names, heirloom vegetables might just be one of the deepest wellsprings of hilarious, beautiful and downright odd monikers known to man.  In the tomato family alone, there’s “Chocolate Stripes,” “Mortgage Lifter,” “Pink Oxheart,” “Brandywine,” "Big Rainbow," "Enchantment," "German Johnson," and “Grandma’s Recliner.” No wait, that last one was made up by Molly and Matt of Spilled Milk, one of my very favorite podcasts.

Take pattypan squash.  It’s hard to say without a hint of a smile, right? These flower-shaped beauties are also known as scallop squash, which describes the elegant curves of their edges.  (Cue John Legend song here.)  Come to think of it, that tune could very well have been written about heirloom veggies: all your perfect imperfections… Anyway, according to rareseeds.com, pattypan is “a very ancient native American heirloom squash, grown by the northern Indians for hundreds of years.”  So thank you northern Indians, for cultivating this delicious fruit we still enjoy today.

beautifulveggies

The pattypans we got in our box this week were about fist size, perfect for stuffing with goodness to preserve their unique geometry and create a hot-lookin’ main dish.  To stuff a pattypan squash, treat it like a pumpkin destined for jack o’ lantern status: saw out the top of the squash with a paring knife by aiming the blade at about a 45 degree angle down into the flesh and cut in a circle; you should wind up with a cone shape when you pull off the top. Then using a metal spoon, scrape out the seeds and some of the flesh of the pattypan, making a decent sized compartment for whatever you’d like to stuff inside.

 
hollowsquash
 

My creation was born of what dwelt in the fridge: collard greens, red Russian kale, cream cheese, and cremini mushrooms.  You can stuff yours with just about anything; grains, greens, and/or cheese work especially well.  Here’s my recipe:

Smoky ‘Shroom-and-Kale-Stuffed Pattypan Squash

Ingredients:

stuffedsquash
  • 2 large pattypan squash, tops removed and insides hollowed as described above
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil, divide
  • 2 cloves garlic, mince
  • 5 collard green leaves, ribs removed, shredded
  • 5 red Russian kale leaves, ribs removed, shredded
  • 8 whole cremini mushrooms, dice
  • ¼ cup cream cheese
  • smoked paprika, cayenne pepper, and salt to taste

Method:

  1. In a medium sauté pan, heat 1 tablespoon of the olive oil over medium heat.  Add garlic and sauté for a brief minute before adding the shredded greens.  Reduce the heat slightly and cook the greens until bright green and tender, adding water to deglaze the pan as needed, as you don’t want the garlic or the greens to brown or burn.  Remove greens from the pan to a small bowl and set aside.

  2. Using the same pan over medium heat, add the second tablespoon of olive oil.  Add the diced mushrooms to the pan and stir to coat with oil.  Once the mushrooms are tender and glossy, lower the heat and add the cream cheese, stirring to encourage melting.

  3. Add smoked paprika, cayenne and salt, tasting the mixture with each addition. (Don’t be shy with your spices, the cream cheese tempers the heat quite nicely.) Add the cooked greens back to the pan and mix all ingredients until uniformly incorporated, then remove filling mixture from heat.

  4. Using a spoon, stuff the kale and mushroom mixture into the squashes, pushing down on the filling with the back of the spoon to make room for more goodness.  Overstuff so some filling is visible coming out of the squash, then place the little caps on top. Cover the outside of the squash with a light sheen of olive oil to prevent scorching.

  5. Bake stuffed squash in a 400°F oven for about 20 minutes or until thickest part of squash can be pierced with a fork without much difficulty (but is not totally mushy).

  6. Serve warm alongside a simple green salad and sliced fruit of the season.

Method:

  1. In a medium sauté pan, heat 1 tablespoon of the olive oil over medium heat.  Add garlic and sauté for a brief minute before adding the shredded greens.  Reduce the heat slightly and cook the greens until bright green and tender, adding water to deglaze the pan as needed, as you don’t want the garlic or the greens to brown or burn.  Remove greens from the pan to a small bowl and set aside.

  2. Using the same pan over medium heat, add the second tablespoon of olive oil.  Add the diced mushrooms to the pan and stir to coat with oil.  Once the mushrooms are tender and glossy, lower the heat and add the cream cheese, stirring to encourage melting.

  3. Add smoked paprika, cayenne and salt, tasting the mixture with each addition. (Don’t be shy with your spices, the cream cheese tempers the heat quite nicely.) Add the cooked greens back to the pan and mix all ingredients until uniformly incorporated, then remove filling mixture from heat.

  4. Using a spoon, stuff the kale and mushroom mixture into the squashes, pushing down on the filling with the back of the spoon to make room for more goodness.  Overstuff so some filling is visible coming out of the squash, then place the little caps on top. Cover the outside of the squash with a light sheen of olive oil to prevent scorching.

  5. Bake stuffed squash in a 400°F oven for about 20 minutes or until thickest part of squash can be pierced with a fork without much difficulty (but is not totally mushy).

  6. Serve warm alongside a simple green salad and sliced fruit of the season.
 
stuffedsquash2
 
 
cutelittlestuffedsquashies
 

Roasted Baby Beets and Tempeh with Garlicky Beet Greens and Brown Rice

Sometime an ingredient just speaks to me.  I’m not sure whether I was born with this gift or if I’ve watched too many food shows and browsed too many cookbooks.  Like seashells on the surf, ideas for meals surface in my mind and evolve throughout the day until evening, when they’re realized into dinner. 

This particular CSA-inspired dish was especially fun to concoct. In the produce box last week, we received a bunch of beet greens, with adorable tiny beets attached.  The farmer’s newsletter shared that a single beet seed can contain anywhere from one to eight embryos, each of which will grow into a beet plant.  And when there are many little beet plants sprouting in one small hole, they have to compete for nutrients and you wind up with baby beets!  These darlings were totally tender and delicious, which is great since they were way too small to peel.  And while beet roots are definitely getting a lot of culinary play right now, fresh beet greens are super tasty as well: earthy and faintly sweet with a similar flavor profile and texture to Swiss chard, but with slightly less bitterness. 

beetsandgreens

So here’s the basic formula: I threw short grain brown rice in the rice cooker an hour before dinner, then marinated ¼ inch thin strips of tempeh in a mixture of ketchup, sesame oil, tamari (gluten free soy sauce), lime juice, powered ginger and garlic, coriander, and cumin. While the rice cooked and the tempeh marinated, I washed and trimmed the baby beets and their greens. I set the oven to 450°F and pulled the tempeh from the fridge, laying it on a foiled lined baking sheet next to the oil slathered beets, which went into the oven for about 20 minutes, getting flipped and turned halfway through.  Meanwhile, I sautéed the beet greens in garlic and olive oil until just tender and bright green.

This dish is a feast for the eyes as well as the stomach: for each diner, layer salted brown rice in the bottom of a shallow bowl and top with sautéed beet greens.  Next lay down 4-5 strips of golden brown tempeh and nestle 4-5 baby beets (or chopped large beets) atop it all.  Finish with a hefty dollop of pesto, made with any herbs or greens you have around the house.  I try to make a big jar of pesto right when I pick up our produce and then use it all week long for eggs, pasta salad, sandwiches and of course, to add flavor and color to pretty dishes like this one. 

beetsandtempeh

There you have it: a whole foods based meal with color, flavor, and an array of nutrients.  This basic idea can be interpreted in so many different varieties, changing up the beet greens for spinach, kale or chard, and the tempeh for tofu, chicken, eggs, or fish.  The beets of course could be any seasonal veggie that lends itself well to roasting.  Play around and have fun with your dinners! Look for inspiration and begin brainstorming throughout the day and by the time you’re getting asked “what’s for dinner?” you may find you already have a pretty solid plan.


Collard Greens and Chicken Chorizo Tacos

"The cheese stands alone." I always felt kinda bad for the cheese. And sometimes I feel bad for the greens too, because they too often stand alone as a side dish, a supporting act. Collard greens in particular have been pigeonholed into the token green(ish) food on our plates of barbeque pulled pork and mac n' cheese. Well, no more! Today, collards get to grab a partner, do-si-do, and star in the show. 

collardgreens

Collard greens are thick, some might even called them tough.  They're typically cooked for a long time, with some kind of fatty animal product, like bacon or ham hocks, during which they lose much of their beautiful dark green color and come out of the pot bearing more of a putrid olive shade. 

When I got a bunch of collards in my CSA box last week, I vowed to give them the treatment they deserved.  And I came up with this quick and tasty recipe for collard greens and chicken chorizo tacos. 

collard green and chorizo

Collard Greens and Chicken Chorizo Tacos

Ingredients:

1/2 lb. humanely raised ground chicken chorizo

1 bunch (about 4 large leaves) collard greens, stems removed and medium-chopped

2-3 cloves garlic, roughly chopped

2 Tbsp. taco seasoning

1/4 cup tomato sauce

4 soft corn tortillas

For topping:

thinly sliced scallions (green onions)

avocado

charred tomato salsa

sliced limes


Method:

Heat a saute pan over medium heat.  Add the chorizo and cook, stirring occasionally to break up the meat.  Add the garlic and the chopped collards.  If the pan seems a little dry (this will depend on how much fat is in your chorizo), stream in some olive oil to allow the greens to saute without charring.

Continue to cook the collards and chorizo together until the chicken is no longer pink and the greens have wilted and turned dark green in color.  Taste a piece of the greens, paying attention to how they chew: you want some texture remaining but not the raw roughness they started with.  If you like how things are going here, add the taco seasoning and tomato sauce, stirring to incorporate.  Cook a few more minutes over medium low heat to allow the flavors to meld.

Meanwhile, heat your tortillas over a stove flame or in the microwave wrapped in damp paper towel, then serve the tacos immediately, topping the collard and chorizo mixture with salsa, avocado, green onions, and a squeeze of lime.

collard greens and chicken chorizo tacos