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
olive oil
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.


Melissa said...

Hi Cathy,
Wow, that is right up my alley! Sadly, Summer Squash is just not found out 'my way'. What do you think about using Zucchini? You really have a great blog!

Cathy said...

Hi Melissa - thanks so much! I would think zucchini would be perfect for this. That's interesting that you can't get summer squash - I always figured whereever there's zucchini, there's summer squash. Do you think yellow squash is just an American thing?

Alice said...

Wow, this looks really good, Cathy. I love the name, too! You should have seen me with my two pounds of baby beets from the Farmer's Market last weekend! I did get through them, but it was definitely pretty beetful around here for awhile! :)

Cathy said...

Hi Alice - thanks! Are we going to hear something about how you used all those baby beets?

Nupur said...

Cathy, I did the same thing last weekend...greedily bought summer squash at the Farmers Market and was wondering what to do with it...thanks for supplying me with a great idea!

Cathy said...

Hi Nupur! Honestly, I don't often get very creative with my vegetables - but it's fun to do it once in a while! Usually, I just boil or steam them. But this time of year when everything is so fresh and good, they taste pretty great all on their own.

Grommie said...

Hi Cathy. I'm glad you came by my blog because it directed my to yours! This recipe looks delicious and it's sort of the way I like to cook... throw a little of everything in and have it turn out great! (of course, not everything turns out great, you know! hehe)

Cathy said...

Hi Grommie - welcome! It is fun to cook sort of spontaneously... I don't do it often enough. And yes, I've certainly had my share of failures - several times I've experimented with cookie recipes and that has never worked out!

Melissa said...

I finally found some yellow squash, not the crook neck kind, but yellow!
I made your dish last night......very much worth the wait. Yum!

Cathy said...

Hi Melissa - I'm so glad you enjoyed it - thanks for letting me know! I rarely see the crook neck variety even around here, though I go for it when I do.

class-factotum said...

I am excited to have found this recipe. I have been getting monster (5 lbs) zucchini and summer squash from my garden and my husband is threatening to strike if I make one more casserole. But when he saw this recipe, he was excited.