If you have a garden and you're anything like me, you've walked out and found that there is an obnoxiously large squash or zucchini (or five). You know the drill: squash picked when it's 3 to 5 inches long is the most tender, perfect for grilling up in a minute or two with steaks, and if they get too much bigger they're tough and useless. Right?
Actually, I only got a couple of specimens in the "good" range, this summer; travel and school and illness meant I wound up keeping very poor track of squash growing progress. I did a crazy harvest yesterday in the tomato and pepper patches (even discovered some okra!), and the summer squashes I picked a few days earlier were giving me accusing looks. We'll wind up in the compost heap, they despaired.
So to use up not only the massive harvest of tomatoes and peppers I found myself with, but also the squash, I turned to that brilliant series of tubes, the intarwebs. Apparently, humongous squashes can be stuffed, and to excellent results. Not satisfied with any of the recipes I was finding, I developed my own. It was delicious. A little time-consuming; all told, about an hour of work to put together. But it was so, so very worth it.
Incidentally, I had intended to use leeks in place of the onion I used, but I spaced it. I had also intended to use cream cheese (I love cream cheese on pizza, and this has many similar flavors), but there wasn't room. Your mileage may vary.
Erica's Stuffed Squash
Serves 6 (in my family) to 12 (on TV). (We have lots of leftovers.)
- Large stock pot
- Large skillet
- Baking pan
- Food processor (I use a Magic Bullet and, marketing methods aside, I love it. No other tool I have in my kitchen sees the kind of use this thing does, aside from perhaps my standard issue knives.)
- Sundry implements of cutting, scooping, and serving
- 2 Gigantic garden summer squash/zucchini
- 1 tube of bulk sausage (I used Jimmy Dean's extra bold)
- 8oz container sliced mushrooms
- 5-6 small-to-medium tomatoes (from the garden)
- 2-3 small-to-medium bell peppers from the garden
- 1 medium onion
- 1 loaf asiago ciabatta
- fresh oregano and basil
- kosher salt
- 3 cups or so of any acceptably Italian cheese, shredded (I used a blend of mozarella, provolone, and asiago)
- Blanch the squash. To do so, bring water to a boil, then drop the squash in. For your little teeny "picked-at-the-right-stage-for-eating" squashes, this takes 5-8 minutes. For gigantic "oops-I-let-the-garden-go-a-few-days" squashes, it takes 10-15. The big ones are better for this, anyway.
- Start the stuffing on the stove while the squash is blanching. Empty your tube-o-sausage into the skillet over medium heat. Run the onion in the food processor to whatever consistency you like (I like mine very small for this recipe; plenty of texture elsewhere) then add to the pan. Repeat this with your tomatoes, peppers, and basil. Add your mushrooms and oregano whole (leaves for the oregano). Add a bit of kosher salt, then let that cook for a bit.
- Now's a good time to pre-heat the oven to 400F (about 205C).
- Pull the squashes from the stock pot. Split them, length-wise. Scoop out all the seeds; discard. Continue scooping the flesh out, carefully, and set that aside in a bowl. You want to have a squash-shell remaining.
- Arrange the shells in your baking pan. You may have to cut them down to fit. Rip some pieces of the ciabatta bread and put in the bottom of the shells. This will help to catch the juices and make this dish less messy. (Plus it tastes awesome.) Add the sausage stuffing on top of this. Be liberal with the amount of "sauce" (mostly tomato juice) you use, but conserve some.
- Take the squash flesh you set aside and put it in the food processor with the conserved tomato juice. Puree. Layer this sauce over the top of the sausage stuffing. Top with cheese. Use all of it. Yes. All of it.
- Put in the oven for 15 minutes. After 15 minutes, remove. Allow to cool for a few minutes. There are two serving options: with shell or without. I like it both ways - the shell is edible and tasty. If without, I recommend cutting a slice of bread and eating it on that as an open-faced sandwich. Yum.