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Heirloom Summer Squash

Delicata squash
Delicata squash. Photo by Suzie's Farm via Flickr (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

About ten years ago heirloom tomatoes burst upon the scene and ever since then our salads and dinner plates have benefitted from their variety and uniqueness. But tomatoes aren't the only vegetable that has restored its venerable ancestors. Chef Jerry Pellegrino is pleased to present a whole bevy of heirloom summer squash.

Jerry is particularly fond of Lungo Bianco, Cocozelle, Crookneck and Delicata squash. Many of these are not hard to find at the farmers market. Once you bring them home, here are some cooking ideas.

Italian Tomato & Lungo Bianco Squash Soup

Ingredients

3 cups whole canned tomatoes, crushed by hand

2 cups tomato juice

Chicken stock as needed

10 cloves of garlic, sliced

1 small yellow onion, chopped into ¼ inch dice

3 tablespoons olive oil

1 lb. Lungo Bianco Squash cut into ½ inch cubes

1 lemon, zested and juiced

1 cup dry white wine

Salt, crushed red pepper flakes and fresh ground black pepper to taste

In a large sauté pan set over medium high, heat the oil until just smoking.

Add the onions, Lungo Bianco squash and garlic and cook with constant stirring until the onions become translucent, about 5 minutes

Add the lemon juice, zest and white wine and reduce the liquid until only about two tablespoons are left.

Add the tomatoes and tomato juice and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for 20 minutes with occasional stirring.

Using the chicken stock, adjust the thickness of the soup to your liking.

Season with salt, crushed red pepper flakes and fresh ground black pepper to taste. Serve with good extra virgin olive oil and grated Parmesan cheese.

Cocozelle Squash Caponata

Ingredients

2 lbs. of Cocozelle Summer Squash cut into ½ inch cubes

1 tablespoon granulated sugar

3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

Kosher salt

1 tablespoon fresh oregano

3 tablespoons red wine vinegar

2 heaping tablespoons golden raisins

1 medium onion, peeled and finely chopped

2 cloves garlic, peeled and grated

1 cup canned San Marzano whole plum tomatoes, drained of their liquid and broken into small pieces

3 medium-size stalks celery, cut into thin rounds

1 tablespoon capers, drained

12 green olives, pitted and roughly chopped

In a small bowl, combine the red wine vinegar and the raisins. Set aside. Heat a medium skillet and add the olive oil. When it begins to smoke lightly, add the onions and garlic. Season with salt and cook until they are translucent, 2 to 3 minutes. Add the oregano, squash and celery and cook until tender, about 10 minutes. Add the tomatoes, raisins with the vinegar, capers, and olives and cook until heated through, an additional 5 minutes. The caponata can either be served warm as a side dish or refrigerated and served cold with bread as a bruschetta.

Crookneck Summer Squash Casserole

2 medium yellow crookneck summer squash

1 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more to taste

1 small onion

Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

1 large egg

1 teaspoon sugar

3/4 cup shredded Cheddar cheese, divided

1/2 cup mayonnaise

4 tablespoons butter, melted, divided, plus more for the casserole dish

1 cup finely ground fresh breadcrumbs

Preheat the oven to 350 F.

Slice the summer squash and place it in a medium saucepan (no need to peel or remove the seeds). Cover the squash with water and add 1 teaspoon of salt. Place the pan over high heat and bring the squash to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium-low and cover the pan; continue to cook until tender, or for about 10 to 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, peel and finely dice the onion.

Drain the squash thoroughly; return it to the saucepan, and mash it. Taste the squash and add salt and pepper, as desired.

In a bowl, whisk the egg and sugar lightly. Add the mayonnaise, chopped onion, 1/2 cup of the cheddar cheese, and 2 tablespoons of the melted butter. Stir to blend thoroughly.

Stir the mashed squash into the egg and mayonnaise mixture.

Butter a 1-quart casserole or baking dish. Spoon the mixture into the prepared casserole.

Top the casserole with the remaining 1/4 cup of shredded cheese.

Toss the breadcrumbs with the remaining 2 tablespoons of melted butter and then sprinkle them over the casserole.

Bake for 30 minutes, or until bubbly and lightly browned.

Serve squash casserole hot.

Al Spoler, well known to WYPR listeners as the wine-loving co-host of "Cellar Notes" has had a long-standing parallel interest in cooking as well. Al has said, the moment he started getting serious about Sunday night dinners was the same moment he started getting serious about wine. Over the years, he has benefited greatly from being a member of the Cork and Fork Society of Baltimore, a gentlemen's dining club that serves black tie meals cooked by the members themselves who are some of Baltimore's most accomplished amateur cooks.
Executive Chef Jerry Pellegrino of Corks restaurant is fascinated by food and wine, and the way they work in harmony on the palate. His understanding of the two goes all the way to the molecular level, drawing on his advanced education in molecular biology. His cuisine is simple and surprising, pairing unexpected ingredients together to work with Corks' extensive wine offerings.