Squash this recipe as flat as a pancake

A few farmers markets are open right up to Thanksgiving, including the Original Farmers Night Market in South Fayette, which is open tomorrow, Monday and Wednesday, Thanksgiving Eve. The Farmers@Firehouse Market in the Strip District is open this Saturday morning for the last time this season. My buddy there, Virginia Phillips, notes that the market has plenty of heritage squashes.

"So you don't have to invest in 10 pounds at a time," she says, Pucker Brush Farm's Pam Bryan is selling slices of various varieties, as well as 11/2-pound bags of cooked and ready to use mixed squash: Musquee de Provence, Boston Marrow and butternut ($3.50). Just thaw and use for pie or soup.

-- Bob Batz Jr.

Winter Squash 'Pancake' with Smoked Mozzarella and Sage

PG tested

Use any dense squash for this dish. The Sage Oil is a an option for a luxurious drizzle, but it's awfully good without.

-- Virginia Phillips

  • 1 butternut, Blue Hubbard, Boston Marrow, Musquee de Provence or Buttercup squash, 2 to 3 pounds.
  • Sea salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter or Sage Oil
  • 10 large sage leaves
  • 4-ounce ball of smoked mozzarella (or plain)
  • 3 tablespoons parsley leaves
  • 1 garlic clove

Bake the squash: Preheat the oven to 375 degrees or whatever temperature is convenient if you are using the oven for something else. Cut the squash in half (if a very hard and large squash, you can bake it 20 minutes whole to soften the skin a bit, or, drop it on a hard surface to crack it in half--it works!) Scoop out the seeds and strings, brush the cut surface with oil, and place cut side down on a sheet pan. Bake until very soft when pressed with a finger, about 40 minutes, though the time depends on the size. Now you'll be able to scoop out the tender cooked center. Whip it with a fork to smooth it out. Season with a little salt and pepper to taste.

Melt the butter or heat the oil in a medium nonstick skillet (a black iron skillet works well too, holds heat to serve from). Add the sage leaves and cook over medium heat for a minute or two to flavor the butter. Leaving the leaves in the pan, add the squash and smooth it out. Cook for 15 minutes, then give it a scrape with a spatula, detaching the browned undersides and pressing a new layer to the bottom of the pan. Continue in this manner as long as you have time for. The more it browns the better it will be. (Scraping and folding in 3 times seemed plenty for me.)

While the squash is browning, thickly slice the cheese and chop the parsley and garlic together. Just before serving, pat the squash evenly in the pan once more, lay the cheese over the top, then cover and cook for a few minutes longer for the cheese to soften. Remove the lid, add the parsley-garlic mixture, drizzle on Sage Oil if using, and serve right from the pan. Or prepare ahead, reheat in the pan on low or scrape into serving dish and microwave. Add the cheese, parsley and garlic when you are ready to preheat. Another time, vary things by substituting creamy blue cheese and toasted walnuts for smoked mozzarella cheese.

Sage Oil

PG tested

Good, too, on sweet potatoes, potatoes and white beans.

  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 24 sage leaves
  • 1/3 cup olive oil

Melt the butter in a small skillet over medium heat until it turns pale gold and smells pleasantly nutty. Skim off any foam, add the sage leaves, and let them sizzle for a minute or so. Pour in the oil, reduce the heat to low, and cook for 10 minutes. Pour through a strainer.

Makes 1/3 cup.

-- "Local Flavors" by Deborah Madison (Broadway, 2002)


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