I wish I’d been around when humans got down to the business of naming things. I’d definitely be pretty psyched to have been the one to point at a scurrying gray rodent with an endearingly bushy tail and say, “We should call that a ‘squirrel’ from now on.” And speaking of awesome names, heirloom vegetables might just be one of the deepest wellsprings of hilarious, beautiful and downright odd monikers known to man. In the tomato family alone, there’s “Chocolate Stripes,” “Mortgage Lifter,” “Pink Oxheart,” “Brandywine,” “Big Rainbow,” “Enchantment,” “German Johnson,” and “Grandma’s Recliner.” No wait, that last one was made up by Molly and Matt of Spilled Milk, one of my very favorite podcasts.
Take pattypan squash. It’s hard to say without a hint of a smile, right? These flower-shaped beauties are also known as scallop squash, which describes the elegant curves of their edges. (Cue John Legend song here.) Come to think of it, that tune could very well have been written about heirloom veggies: all your perfect imperfections… Anyway, according to rareseeds.com, pattypan is “a very ancient native American heirloom squash, grown by the northern Indians for hundreds of years.” So thank you northern Indians, for cultivating this delicious fruit we still enjoy today.
The pattypans we got in our box this week were about fist size, perfect for stuffing with goodness to preserve their unique geometry and create a hot-lookin’ main dish. To stuff a pattypan squash, treat it like a pumpkin destined for jack o’ lantern status: saw out the top of the squash with a paring knife by aiming the blade at about a 45 degree angle down into the flesh and cut in a circle; you should wind up with a cone shape when you pull off the top. Then using a metal spoon, scrape out the seeds and some of the flesh of the pattypan, making a decent sized compartment for whatever you’d like to stuff inside.
My creation was born of what dwelt in the fridge: collard greens, red Russian kale, cream cheese, and cremini mushrooms. You can stuff yours with just about anything; grains, greens, and/or cheese work especially well. Here’s my recipe:
Smoky ‘Shroom-and-Kale-Stuffed Pattypan Squash
2 large Pattypan squash, tops removed and insides hollowed as described above
2 Tbsp olive oil, divided
2 cloves garlic, minced
5 collard green leaves, ribs removed and shredded
5 red Russian kale leaves, ribs removed and shredded
8 whole cremini mushrooms, diced
¼ cup cream cheese
smoked paprika, cayenne pepper, and salt to taste
In a medium sauté pan, heat 1 tablespoon of the olive oil over medium heat. Add garlic and sauté for a brief minute before adding the shredded greens. Reduce the heat slightly and cook the greens until bright green and tender, adding water to deglaze the pan as needed, as you don’t want the garlic or the greens to brown or burn. Remove greens from the pan to a small bowl and set aside.
Using the same pan over medium heat, add the second tablespoon of olive oil. Add the diced mushrooms to the pan and stir to coat with oil. Once the mushrooms are tender and glossy, lower the heat and add the cream cheese, stirring to encourage melting. Add smoked paprika, cayenne and salt, tasting the mixture with each addition. (Don’t be shy with your spices, the cream cheese tempers the heat quite nicely.) Add the cooked greens back to the pan and mix all ingredients (except squash) until uniformly incorporated, then remove filling mixture from heat.
Using a spoon, stuff the kale and mushroom mixture into the squashes, pushing down on the filling with the back of the spoon to make room for more goodness. Overstuff so some filling is visible coming out of the squash, then place the little caps on top. Cover the outside of the squash with a light sheen of olive oil to prevent scorching.
Bake stuffed squash in a 400°F oven for about 20 minutes or until thickest part of squash can be pierced with a fork without much difficulty (but is not totally mushy.)
Serve warm alongside a simple green salad and sliced fruit of the season.