Thursday, September 16, 2010

S is for Squash (sort of) and Saffron

When I see an unusual fruit or vegetable at the farmers market, on impulse I have to stop and ask "What is that?" The next thing I do, almost before the farmer can answer, is buy it and being to figure out how to cook it. Maybe I should get out more, get a social life, just get a life ... but this is my version of fun. Hey, I have a kid, I used to get out more.

This is a cucuzzi, an Italian variety of edible gourd. Not a true squash. It tastes like zucchini and cucumber blended. The texture is a bit drier than zucchini, and you can certainly use zucchini in the following recipe, it works even better actually. But, how else was I going to cook a giant s-shaped gourd?

Squash and Tomato Gratin
1/3 cup basmati rice
pinch saffron
2/3 cups water
1/2 tsp. sweet paprika
1 tsp. coriander
1/8 tsp. ground anise

2 eggs
1/2 cup crumbled feta

2 lbs. cherry tomatoes or diced heirloom tomatoes, halved
1/2 large onion, diced
1 tbs. fresh oregano
3 medium zucchini or one cucuzzi, sliced 1/4 inch thick
2 tbs. olive oil
salt and pepper to taste

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

Place the ingredients rice through anise into a sauce pan and bring to a boil. Turn heat down and simmer about 20-30 minutes until the rice is done. Fluff with a fork to blend the spices. Set aside to cool.

While the rice simmers, spray two baking sheets with cooking spray. On one, add the tomatoes, oregano, onion and 1 tbs. olive oil. Season with salt and pepper. Spread out to an even layer. On the other baking sheet, toss the zucchini (or cucuzzi) with the remaining 1 tbs. of olive oil and lay out the squash slices in an even layer. Roast the vegetables in the oven, tomatoes on the top rack, about 10-15 minutes until edges are just golden.

Add the two eggs and all but 2 tbs. of the feta cheese to the cooled rice mixture. Assemble gratin in a 9x13 casserole dish by building one layer of zucchini, then a layer of rice. Next layer of zucchini, then rice. For the top layer, add the tomatoes and the reserved feta cheese. Bake in the oven for 30 minutes.

When done, it sort of looks like this. Which is a mess. Casseroles are tough to make pretty, right? It's a bunch of stuff together in one baking dish. It tastes good and it makes a nice one-dish meatless main.

1 comment:

Maya said...

Great stuff! I keep learning new things every time I come back to your blog.