stuffed rond de nice squash

Do you RTFR? I used to. I would run through every word of a recipe, then reread it twice to really get in under my skin, create a shopping list and mentally time the dish so I’d know exactly when it would be ready. I’d prep ingredients and place them in little bowls along a spotless mise. We never ate dinner at 10 p.m.

Okay, fine–perhaps I am looking back at my earlier cooking endeavors through a thick pane of rose-colored glasses, because my husband over there actually remembers the umpteen thousand times that he’s had to run back to the store because I forgot we were out of flour or olive oil, and his business analyst mind, it is more time efficient for the sous-chef to step out of the kitchen. He knows my mise is a mess, but he’d never sell me out. He also is all-too-aware that “I’m going to cook tonight!” means “better buy some fruit and maybe a baguette at the store to hold me over until at least 9 p.m.”

draining the squash

Yet, never has my absence of RTFR been as bad as it has been lately. In nearly every recipe I have cooked lately, I have hit a step that makes me go “d’oh!” from the “take wood chips that have been soaking for 30 or more minutes” to the “take peeled, cooled and chopped tomatoes.” Worse, I always get pissy and oppositional with it — “well, you should have said that earlier” — which of course, it did.

But last night was a classic, because not only had I completely missed a major part of a recipe, that part? It was in the title. But really, who the heck oil-poaches a summer squash? I sure wasn’t going to. My supply of olive oil, lack of desire to eat ten thousand calories and the price of a bottle of the good stuff aside, I just didn’t see the point. But what had drawn me to the recipe–a sausage, onion and fresh breadcrumb filling–didn’t hinge on the poaching so I decided to do something radical and bake them instead.

making the stuffin' stuffy, stuffy

I also made a few adjustments, the first of which was prayer. I actually bought three of these round squash at the Greenmarket nearly 10 days earlier, and hoped against hope that they’d make it until I had time to cook with them. To this I say, hooray for farm fresh produce because they were alive and kicking, though not exactly happy with my evil, surgical plans for them. Such is the life of a squash, I suppose.

My other changes were just to adjust it to personal taste, including a couple tablespoons of tomato paste and a minced clove of garlic in the filling. I think some extra herbs, such as thyme, would have also been excellent in the filling, but otherwise I’d make it again in a heartbeat.

damn ye, harsh shadows gutted

One more thing, although it is a little goofy: as I scooped the squash guts out of them, I was hit with the most uncanny smell: fall. I know how ridiculous this sounds, but they smelled exactly like the inside of an acorn or butternut squash. In my mind, summer and winter squash have never had anything in common besides a name; they cook and taste so differently, I never consider their molecular overlap. But these guys really smelled like fall cooking, and it got me thinking about the apple butter in the fridge from Elise, and leaf-peeping and silly pumpkins (via NotMartha), and well, I can’t wait.

One year ago: Punishments (Punitions)

Stuffed Rond de Nice Squash Poached in Olive Oil
Adapted from Daniel Patterson, of Coi in San Francisco, via the New York Times, 8/19/07

Serves 6

2 1/2 pounds rond de Nice squash (about 6), (large zucchini, either cut in half lengthwise or cut into pieces 2-inches tall and scooped out, may be substituted for rond de Nice.)
1 tablespoon, olive oil
1 onion, minced
1 clove of garlic, minced (optional)
1/3 pound loose mild Italian sausage
2 to 3 tablespoons tomato paste (optional)
1/2 cup breadcrumbs
2 tablespoons chopped parsley
Freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme (optional)

If poaching in oil:
1 sprig rosemary
1/2 bunch of thyme
20 whole black peppercorns
1 head garlic, cut in half
2 to 3 1/2 cups olive oil

1. Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Cut a small slice from the bottom of a rond de Nice squash so that it sits flat. Cut the top, about 2-inches from the stem end, leaving a nice wide hole. Using a spoon, scoop out the insides, leaving a 1/4-inch thick wall of squash on all sides. Trim the top of the squash. Set the squash flesh aside. Repeat with the remaining squash. Season the inside of each squash with salt and turn upside down onto a plate. (The salt will draw out the moisture.)

2. In a large saucepan, heat 1 tablespoon of the olive oil over low heat. Add the onion, garlic (optional) and a pinch of salt and cook until tender. Add the sausage, raise the heat to medium, and cook, stirring often to break up the sausage, until it is no longer pink.

3. Finely chop the reserved squash flesh and add it to the onion-sausage mixture with some salt. Cook uncovered, stirring occasionally, until the squash is tender, about 5 minutes. Add the tomato paste, if using, and cook for one minute longer.

4. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the mixture to a mixing bowl, leaving the excess liquid in the pot. Stir in the breadcrumbs and parsley and season to taste with salt and black pepper.

5. Turn the squash right-side up and stuff them with the squash-sausage filling. If poaching in olive oil, place in a pot fitted with a lid and just large enough to hold them snug. Pour the 2 to 3 1/2 cups olive oil into the pan around the squash, enough to rise just to the top. Add the rosemary, thyme, peppercorns and garlic and cover. If baking without olive oil, spread a teaspoon or two of olive oil at the bottom of a baking dish big enough to hold the squash snug, place them inside, and cover the dish. For both, cook in the oven until the squash is tender when pierced with a knife, about 45 to 60 minutes.

The squash can be served immediately or cooled, in or out of the oil, and reheated later.

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30 comments on stuffed rond de nice squash

  1. deb

    Matt, your ears must be ringing because this weekend, Elise showed me a really simple camera trick she’d culled from your advice and it turns out that little +/- button on my Rebel? It actually does something. We’ve had it for over two years. I never knew.

  2. Fall? You’re announcing fall already? How could you. I’ve not been giving fall food a thought yet (though I’ll admit I’m yearning for sweaters).

  3. Does the trick work for Nikons?? Does it? Have I read my Nikon manual?? Um, no. Has my boyfriend pointed that out to me, um, a few times? Why, yes, he has. His analytical mind must understand as per instructions, whereas me, I just like to “wing it”. I think I also have that button, but NO idea what it does. I’ve announced fall with you – I’ve been making fall food lately and it’s been great! Apple butter is one of my all time favorite things. And finally, on the instructions – I’m awful at it, truly awful. This would probably explain my plum cake failure, my WTF face when I finally read the entire instructions of Heidi’s 1000 layer lasagna, and so on. I actually like the baking idea better – and didn’t clip the recipe only because of the massive amts of oil in it… this is a great solution though!

  4. Bless you! I’m getting so antsy for fall and Christmas that I can hardly stand it. What’s WRONG with me? Thank you for letting me know that I’m not alone.

  5. seems these little gems are the vegetable du jour: i recently cooked up a batch, tartine gourmande another, here a lovely delicious example too. autumn? perhaps :)

  6. Bettina

    ah, my predicament exactly. i’m a very bad RTFR-er. the lady’s bound to go to the store at least once after we’ve already hit it for prep ingredients. i don’t know why i can’t ever remember that we’ve run out of olive oil, or that i threw out X because it wilted or expired. ditto on the dinner at 9 pm.

    and your squash, it looks divine! i do like your modified recipe better than the oil-poached one.

  7. I frequently forget the manual, I’m ashamed to admit.

    But your squash look delicious. Although I’m wary of the “oil poaching.” Geez, why not just deep fry them for a less oil laden effect. Holy. (I would give them a good glug of olive oil on their own, but 3 cups of it and I could have just bought lobster).

  8. deb

    I forgot to mention that I actually DID eat something oil-poached, an egg at Tia Pol in Chelsea a few weeks ago, mostly because I cannot say no to 1) anything poached or 2) anything, really, at all at that tapas place and … eh? I don’t get it. It wasn’t bad but it wasn’t transcendent, and when I eat a few tablespoons of olive oil, I really want something really transcendent.

    That said, I look forward to the dish that will make me “get it” so if anyone poaches this, or anything else in olive oil and it blows their mind, let me know.

  9. I hear you about fall – I am so ready. We’ve done the beach thing and the it’s too hot to move thing, and now I want to put on a sweater and go kick some leaves and drink hot tea and bake something with pumpkin in it. Come on, fall!

  10. Sue

    Ha! I know exactly how you feel – just sent the husband to the store awhile ago as I am making pesto with my leftover basil crop… and at the key moment discovered that I have only a dribble of decent olive oil! Oops. Off to the store again. I wonder if I was like this when single or if a husband is sort of an errand running appliance that I have become acustomed to. Sort of like a food processor…me lazy, no? Poor guy.

    By the by, the squash looks lovely – I want Fall to be here already!

  11. I totally RTFR, I read the recipe until it’s practically memorized. Then again, most of the time all I’m doing is reading the recipe, because there’s barely a prayer of my getting around to actually making all the recipes I want to try.

  12. I can’t believe your neighbors aren’t beating down your door or hiding in the hallways waiting to pounce when the door is opened. Surely the smells coming from your apartment would inspire Crazy Nut Job Neighbor Syndrome. Your photos make my mouth water; I couldn’t imagine if I had to smell them coming from next door everyday. Great job, Deb. And I’m glad you enjoyed your trip to Napa. :o)

  13. I think this would make a great take-along picnic dish, as it’s surely delicious at room temperature. I wouldn’t bother with oil-poaching anything, especially not these lovely little squash that take so well to steaming or baking.

  14. Patrice

    I was so thrilled to see this recipe!! This year I planted what was labeled zucchini squash, but turned out these round squash with very thick skins. They seemed more like a winter squash to me, but I had no idea what they were. Now I know!!! Thank you! We’ve loved them and have cooked them every way imaginable. Now I will try this with my Rond de Nice squash.

  15. ann

    Oil poached squash are godliness incarnate. That’s how they eat them in Croatia, and they’re amazing. I’ll bring you a giant jug of cheap lebanese extra virgin olive oil from the bodega around the corner from our place the next time you need it, if you feed me of course ;-)
    wait ’til fall’s really here and try it, you’ll love it!

  16. i so so so relate. my ms is a mess too. and i do RTFR. i really do – and still… but i am 46 now. so there. enough said. i’ve replaced the importance of a steel trap memory with a very loving man who doesn’t mind taking the drive…

  17. Jim

    Augh, I just got done reading wikipedia and now I’m looking at it again! Fortunately this recipe and write-up is delicious-lookin’ enough to keep my attention. I’ve never been a squash guy, but your use of them here really intrigues me, so I think I’ll keep this one filed!

  18. eliza

    We’re growing these in the garden and making a variation on this as we speak. We dont have enough round zukes, so we’re subbing with baby pumpkins. We eat lots of baby green pumpkins here :-) Thanks for the reference!

  19. Ginger

    I made this recipe last night using rhond de nice squash from my garden and it was delicious! I used an Apple Chicken Sausage and added pine nuts. I thought maybe next time I might try adding rice or orzo. I am up to my eyeballs in squash right now in my garden. Thanks for the inspiration!

  20. Elizabeth

    I’ve made this every summer for several years now. Made the dish this year with Spanish chorizo because it was what I had and it was even better! Cut back onion a bit and omitted garlic to allow for the extra spices in the sausage, and cut back on the sausage as it was already cooked. Truly delicious.