In Mississippi, and most of the deep south, summer usually starts in May. While the rest of the world gets to continue enjoying their cardigans and cool breezes and warm soups, Mississippi residents are living in the early stages of a 3-4 month sauna. May (literally) melts into June. The hotter days mean lots of fun things like vacations, watermelons, lemonade, sandy beaches, fresh blueberries, popsicles, the list goes on. I love the food that comes with summer; it means the smell of fresh basil, juicy ripe tomatoes, cold sweet watermelons! The local markets, and my front yard, have been a veritable explosion of abundant produce.
Sigh. That brings us to summer squash. Yellow squash, green zucchini, however it is known to you, I’ve never really cared for it. My working memories of the summer gourd include pan fried disks of under-salted mushiness. Not a lot of flavor, kind of watery, seedy (as in, lots of seeds). I’m usually not inclined to the first world eating problem that is texture aversions, but with summer squash, it is very real. The sogginess! *shudder* But it grows so well in our garden in the warm moisture-thick climate we live in. So well, that new blossoms burst forth every day. Yellow and green pods grow inches overnight. The leaves are so thick and tall, you could easily lose a toddler in them if you’re not watching. Something this prolific needs to be given to chance to be eaten!
So my summer eating venture (challenge! said in that voice) has been to find ways of cooking squash that actually taste good and, well, don’t make me gag. Plus eating seasonally, that’s a thing these days, right?
Last summer, I tried lots of zucchini bread. Some people can make this delicious, but I had a lot of failures. Many loaves and dozens of muffins, all inedible failures. Then I tried zucchini fritters, because I thought mashing zucchini together and frying it would make me like it, and no. Just no. 0-2.
Recently, however, I stumbled across this recipe and it sounded so promising. It has lots of my favorite things, like potatoes and parmesan and thyme. I made a few changes when I baked it, and the result was mind-blowingly delicious. We were a threesome for dinner that night (read: me and two hulking males who inhale whatever’s not nailed down), and every last bite was gone. It makes two 9-inch pans, one of which I wrapped and froze for a later date.
We also had this slaw, which was really, really good and a nice crisp addition for the hotter days. It made a lot, and I’ll be eating it for lunch for the rest of the week:
Zucchini and Potato Torte
Adapted from The Smitten Kitchen
Makes 3-4 servings, per pan, as a main dish, 6-8 per pan as a side dish with a hearty salad.
15 ounces yellow summer squash (about 2 medium) or green summer squash, or a combination of both, cut into 1/8 inch thick rounds
2 pounds potatoes (I used a combo of new red and Yukon Gold) cut into 1/8 inch thick rounds
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves
1 1/2 teaspoons salt, plus more to taste
3/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/3 cup of pesto, thinned with 3 tablespoons of olive oil.
2 medium shallots, sliced thin
Preheat your oven to 400°F.** Grease two 9-inch cake pans.
In a medium bowl, toss the shallots, flour, cheese, thyme, salt and pepper.
Layer the bottom of both pans with one layer of potatoes. It’s ok if they overlap a little. Then add a layer of squash and a drizzle of olive oil (to both pans, you get the picture). Add a thin layer of cheese mixture. Add another layer of potatoes. Then add a thin layer of pesto. Add another layer of squash. Splash of olive oil, layer of potatoes. Finish with cheese. Sprinkle with more salt and a few more grounds of pepper, if that’s your thing (its mine).
From here you can wrap one with plastic wrap then foil and freeze it (what I did) and bake the other. They can both be baked at the same time, though! Wrap your pan(s) in foil and bake for 35 minutes. Remove the foil, and bake for another 20 minutes. Your toppings should be nicely browned and a little crispy on the edges, and the potatoes very tender. When baking the frozen torte, bake straight from the freezer but allow more baking time under the foil and then after you remove it.
I’m sure you’re supposed to let this cool for (maybe) 10-15 minutes before eating it, but we never got that far.
**in Deb’s original recipe, she had her oven at 375. My oven must not be as efficient, so after making this a couple of times 400 is a much better temp. Know your own oven, and know what works for you!
I’ll be honest here, I didn’t really measure the dressing ingredients. This is my best guess, but play with the ingredients to your own taste. I had a little over a cup of dressing, and that coated the slaw well enough without drowning it.
1/2 head of a medium red cabbage, roughly chopped
1/2 head of a huge green cabbage, roughly chopped
2 handfulls of raisins
2 handfuls of sliced almonds
3 tablespoons of rice vinegar
2 tablespoons of red wine vinegar
3 tablespoons of dijon mustard
Juice of 1 lemon
3 tablespoons of olive oil
1 tablespoon maple syrup
3 tablespoons mayonasse
pinch of salt
Toss the first 4 ingredients in a large bowl. Whisk the remaining ingredients together until smooth, adjust for taste. Pour over the cabbage mixture and toss until coated well. Serve and enjoy!