Saturday, July 30, 2005
Yellow Squash Summer Cake
When I go to the farmer's market, I almost always buy more produce than I can consume in a week. The variety, the quality, the seasonality, and the fact that the market is just once a week put me in this "last chance" mode where I buy things because they appeal to me, but give little thought to how they will be used. So it was last weekend when I bought a pound of beautiful baby summer squash.
As you might have guessed, a week later they were still in my refrigerator. I'm going to be out of town for a few days later in the week, so I decided that this weekend I would stay home from the farmer's market and try to use what I have on hand. My goal this evening was to use up that summer squash and some ricotta cheese. I did run to the grocery store to buy some basil, but that and the shallot I sort of arbitrarily decided to throw in were the only ingredients I didn't have on hand.
Why "summer cake"? Well, it sort of looks like a cake, though it probably bears more resemblance to a quiche or gratin. But it has no crust and is firmer and more uniform in texture than a gratin, and... well... it needed a name. So why not "summer cake"?
I was very happy with how the summer cake turned out. It's not at all heavy and the tomato sauce complements it nicely. It may seem a crime to grate up all those baby summer squashes for something like this, but the smaller squashes are firmer and have more yellow. As a result the cake had better color and texture. I'm sure it would still be very good with larger squash, though. In fact, you could go in many directions with this - changing the vegetables, herbs, and/or cheeses.
Yellow Squash Summer Cake
for the summer cake:
1 lb yellow squash
1 small to medium onion, diced
2 sections of shallot, chopped
3 large eggs
1 cup ricotta cheese (I used part skim ricotta)
1/2 cup milk (I used skim milk)
1/3 cup grated Pecorino Pepato (only because I happened to have it and it was already grated - I originally planned to use Parmesan)
1/4 tsp salt
1 cup fresh whole grain bread crumbs (I used spelt bread)
1 - 2 tbs chopped basil leaves
for the sauce:
1/2 medium onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, chopped
3 tbs olive oil
28 oz can of tomatoes in puree
pinch of red pepper flakes
Preheat oven to 375 F
Butter a 10" round quiche or pie plate (I think a 9" square pan would probably work as well). Coat with 2 or 3 tbs of the bread crumbs. Coarsely grate yellow squash and set aside. Sauté the onion and shallot in a little olive oil over medium heat until starting to brown. Set aside to cool. Lightly beat eggs in a large bowl with a whisk. Add ricotta and stir with whisk until smooth. Whisk in milk. Add salt, cheese and remaining bread crumbs and whisk again. Place grated squash in a clean kitchen towel and twist to wring out excess moisture. Add squash, onions and shallots to egg mixture and stir with a large spoon to combine. Scrape mixture into baking dish and place on middle rack of preheated oven. Bake for 35 - 40 minutes, or until starting to brown around the edge and firm in the middle. Allow to cool for a few minutes before slicing.
Meanwhile, make the tomato sauce. Sauté the onion and garlic in the olive oil until translucent (use the same pan you used earlier to sauté the onions and shallots in - you don't even need to rinse it out). Coarsely cut up the tomatoes (I cut out a little bit around the stem and then cut each plum tomato crosswise into four to six slices) and add them and the juices/puree to the pan along with the salt, red pepper flakes, and some chopped basil (reserve a few basil leaves to add later). Bring to a simmer and then reduce heat to medium low. Simmer about 30 minutes until thickened. Tear a few more basil leaves into pieces and stir into the sauce.