The Green Acquaintance
It all started with the figs. I had never eaten a fresh fig, before that sunny saturday morning at the Farmer’s market. It was not like I’d never eaten figs before. I had!- But only the dried fruit- with their pruny texture and sticky, jammy taste. I love dried figs. So, in my ignorance, I assumed that a fresh fig could hardly better the taste of its dried self. I imagined fresh figs would taste milky and green, for some reason. And then.. I ate one. I’d like to say that the sun broke forth from between the clouds and the birds started chirping. But the sun was already shining (very forcefully, in fact), and I don’t recalling hearing any birds-singing or otherwise employed. As must be obvious by now, I became obsessed with fresh figs. Cutting them open, photographing them and ofcourse eating them. What I found very difficult to do was to actually describe their taste. There is something so delightfully ‘figgy’ about fresh figs that no other description quite fits. It tastes exactly like a fresh version of the dried figs (Surprise!). However, this post is not about figs (wonderful though they are). Having had a positive experience with trying a new ‘food’, I decided to use that postivity to fuel my foray into the arms (or stems and leaves?) of untried green vegetables.
Which brought me to my new resolution of buying a new-to-me vegetable (preferably green and/or nutritious) every week at the Farmer’s Market. And so entered, Pattypan Squash. A pattypan squash looks exactly like the UFOs we used to draw as kids-round, with scalloped edges. But these come in various shades of green and yellow. The ones I bought were mostly green.
The first time I cooked them, I decided not to add any ground spices as I wanted to taste the actual vegetable. In order to keep the dish intersting, I decided to use the fresh herbs I’d bought at the farmer’s market- mint and thyme. I have to admit, thyme was a herb I’d never used in my cooking before. It smelled a lot like fennel seeds/saunf, so I thought it would add a depth to the dish, which would be balanced by the sweet brightness of the mint (Do I sound like I’ve been watching too much of Food Network? Because I have). This dish is so simple, yet flexible that it is hardly a recipe. And since I’m too much of a ‘taste as you go’ cook, excuse my loose instructions.
Herby Veggie Medley – starring Pattypan Squash
You will need:
some oil – 1/2- 1 Tbsp (I used olive oil)
3 pattypan squashes (but, ofcourse)
1 medium yellow onion-chopped
2 red bell peppers/capsicum- chopped coarsely or sliced into thin strips
handful (or more) of baby spinach
cumin seeds – 1/2 tsp (optional)
2 green serrano/Mexican/Indian chillies – chopped coarsely (optional)
Salt to taste
1. slice the patty pan squash into slices along the scallops. The thinner the slices, the faster they’ll cook (I seem to be spouting too many cliches today).
2. Heat the oil. Add cumin seeds (You can skip the seeds- I always add some to the oil, so I can tell when the oil’s hot enough). When the cumin seeds begin to sizzle, add the onions and chillies.
3. Saute the onions until they begin to brown. Once they do, add the squash.
4. When the squash begins to soften add the red bell papers.Add salt
5. Add the thyme
6. Once the squash is almost cooked (taste one- they should be soft with a slight crunch), add the spinach. Taste the dish
7. Add the chopped mint and saute for a few minutes. At this point, taste the dish again. The taste of the mint should be slightly stronger than the thyme. This way, the sweetness of the bell peppers comes through.
8. Garnish with more mint and thyme and serve.
We ate this dish with a Tomato Rasam the first time and a simple Dal the second time (Yes- I made this twice within the same week).
Verdict: The pattypan squash is a very addictive vegetable. It is so easy to prep and cook that I find myself adding it to everything. I even added it to a Limey Tomato Dal. There is something very rustic and honest about its taste and I love the ‘bite’ it adds to any dish. I can imagine it would make a wonderful addition to a Ratatouille.
Future Directions (Can you tell I’ve been working too hard on an academic paper?): I would love to stuff these squashes with an herby, cheesy mixture and bake/roast them. I also want to try cooking them with spring onions and garlic.
This Week’s Green Vegetable : ridge luffa/ ridge gourd, Thori (in Hindi), Sin Qua (in Spanish) [have probably eaten this before, but never cooked it]. Any interesting recipe suggestions?
Pictures by me