Apparently I can’t stop blogging about squash, but I had an amazing squash revelation that I need to share with you. It was the most inspiring culinary moment I have had all summer.
A couple of weeks ago my family and I drove out to Hazzard Free Farm, located in the small town of Pecatonica, just west of Rockford. In case you didn’t know, we use this farm to supply the bounty of beautiful produce for our monthly Farm to Table classes.
Andy Hazzard, the hardest working person I know, graciously opens her farm to the public on Saturdays. We are always up for a road trip, especially to visit a farm. Any opportunity for the kids to run wild in open fields is a good reason to drive for 2 hours.
Hogan, the very friendly, carrot-eating dog, was the first to greet us, followed by Andy and Chad. They took us up and down the rows of impressive produce and we learned a lot along the way. We were completely in awe with the incredibly sweet multitude of variously colored cherry tomatoes. Oh man, were they delicious. The kids were popping them into their mouths like it was candy.
I look over across the field and my hubs, Mike, is carrying a massive yellow summer squash that Chad had given him. It must have weighed 7 pounds. Normally I would never attempt to cook with a squash that big due to its lack of flavor, but Chad suggested we carve out the middle so it looks like a canoe, stuff it and then bake it. We went home with a bunch of produce to use for the stuffing, and we felt ready for the challenge.
The next day we embarked on our mission and this is how it went down:
- Mike prepared our charcoal grill and set it up for indirect cooking. This means the hot coals are only on one side of the grill, which allows for low and slow cooking.
- We cut the top of the squash off and, using a spoon, scooped out the flesh and seeds. (We grated the top part of the squash and incorporated it into zucchini muffins a few days later).
- In a large sauté pan we heated a few tablespoons of olive oil and sautéed a large amount of Tropea onions, followed by a generous amount of garlic.
- In went several grated carrots, ranging in color from orange and purple to white and yellow. We sautéed the carrots until they were softened and then we folded in some spinach, which we gently wilted. At this point the pan came off the heat.
- We added just enough tomato sauce to help bind the filling, folded in a copious amount of grated Parmesan cheese and fresh basil. Lastly the filling was seasoned with salt and pepper.
- The filling was spooned into the squash canoe and then transferred to the cooler side of the grill. After about 45 minutes the squash shell had softened and the filling was bubbling.
- The last thing to do was to drape sliced provolone cheese over the top and wait for it to melt.
This was the best meal I had all summer! There were many factors that made this meal unforgettable, but it all started with Andy and Chad and their generosity. To get a feel for how passionate Andy is about her work check out this video. If you would like a first-hand opportunity to work with Andy’s produce, sign up for the Farm to Table class.