My husband is spending a few weeks in Alaska, near the Arctic Circle. This can only mean one thing: while he subsists on lichens, dwarf shrubs and small tundra mammals, I am left back in Washington to single handedly hold down the farm share fort.
Even our 6 year old has been put to work stringing beans and picking the slugs off heads of cabbage while I spin around the kitchen in a pickling, casserole making, cherry pitting frenzy (it’s sour cherry week for those of you in the mid Atlantic BTW, so get out there or you’ll miss another year. If you don’t have time to make a pie now, wash them , pit them and freeze them for later on).
To say that our vegetable bin runneth over is only the tip of the iceberg. Last week was cucumber and cabbage week – including brown Poona Kheera cucumbers, Armenian serpent cucumbers and regular green slicers. Last week also included an explosion of summer squashes – early crookneck, straightneck, yellow scallop and dark green zucchini among other varieties plus a few large heads of cabbage.
The cabbage and cucumbers were easy. What I couldn’t use up in chopped vegetable salads and slaws I pickled, then gave half the pickles away. Pickling is not hard – the vegetables don’t last as long as they would if you had fermented them – but it takes very little time and will last in the fridge about a week or so.
The summer squash was a lot more difficult because, well, I really hate squash. It’s okay raw but I can barely tolerate it when it’s cooked, even when disguised in a ratatouille. To me it’s like trying to choke down a big mouthful of pond slime, even when grilled or roasted. So, using a Paula Deen recipe as a jumping off point, I created a summer squash casserole using ingredients I had on hand. The cheese gives the squash the richness and body it lacks and the toasted breadcrumbs provide a much needed crunchy texture. A real triumph.
Before I move on to the recipes, a quick word about what we’re pouring a lot of this summer. As people in Provence have known for years – rosés are delicious and just the ticket for these warm summer nights. I for one honestly crave the pink stuff, especially this time of year. Ranging from just barely blushing to a sassy, almost-but-not-quite red, it’s not that Sutter Home White Zinfandel you so unfortunately drank in college. For one thing, it’s dry. Rosés are made mostly with red-wine grapes, pressed gently, and allowed to pick up just a bit of color from the grape skins. They can be light or more substantial, but they can be served with anything you’d serve a white wine with. Here are a few suggestions from our portfolio:
Cave la Vinsobraise Côtes du Rhône Rosé 2009 ($12): A refreshing wine with a light strawberry/currant flavor profile, some citrus, and a clean, satisfying finish. A classic rose!
Domaine de Mairan Rosé ($11): made from 70% Grenache and 30% Merlot, and it’s fruity yet slightly acidic, perfect for the summertime (and anytime you need a little summer). The Merlot makes this rosé fruitier than some in other parts of France, and even the Grenache is less earthy than you might expect because of the particular climates and soils of the Languedoc region.
Château de Clapier Rose ($12): This rose has been mentioned in the Guide Hachette as being of excellent quality and well-balanced with a floral nose, a taste of citrus and a nice bit of acidity at the finish.
Now, on to the recipes. Tom and I have 24 cases of wine to deliver to the Building Museum tomorrow – so I think tonight I’ll need the fortification of a cheesy squash casserole with a couple glasses of rosé !
6 cups thinly sliced vegetables (I used cucumber, sliced with a mandoline)
2 cups thinly sliced green onions (can use regular, I had green onions coming out of my ears)
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 1/2 cups cider vinegar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon mustard seed
1/2 teaspoon celery seed
1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
Place veggies and onions in a large bowl; set aside. Combine remaining ingredients in a saucepan; bring to a boil. Cook and stir just until the sugar is dissolved. Pour over cucumber mixture; cool. Cover tightly and refrigerate for at least 24 hours before serving.
Cheesy Squash Casserole
6 cups thinly sliced summer squash (many recipes tell you to parboil the squash. I did not. I washed it and sliced it with a mandoline, very thinly. I think this helped it to retain some texture)
1 cup green onions, chopped
2 or 3 garlic scapes, minced (can use garlic cloves)
1/4 cup fresh parsley, chopped
1/2 stick butter
3/4 cup sharp cheese (feta, goat or cheddar would all work well)
Salt and pepper
1 cup cracker or panko breadcrumbs, or enough to cover casserole
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Brown onion, garlic, and parsley in 2 tablespoons butter seasoned with salt and pepper. Add squash and cook 2 to 3 minutes more, stirring. Remove from heat, drain mixture in a colander for a few minutes. In a large bowl, beat egg and add cheese and veggie mixture, allowing it to absorb. Season with salt and pepper.
Place in casserole dish or baking pan. Cover top with crumbs and dot with remaining butter. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, until the crumbs brown.