It’s summer. It’s hot. You may not feel like cooking. Especially in the heat of the day.
But people are still going to stop by aren’t they? I have friends coming by this afternoon. We plan to beat the heat by laying low by the pool. I would not really call this sort of event entertaining because everybody will probably have his or her noses tucked inside a book. But I am still going to have to feed them aren’t I?
So this morning I walked down to the Hollywood Farmers Market. I needed to do Market Matters post and I needed to put together a light lunch for my friends.
I picked up these sweet little summer squash. They are a bit bigger than a golf ball. But not quite as big as a tennis ball. Look how round and perfect they are. They are a great jumping off place for the light poolside lunch I have planned. Stuffed Summer Squash di Alici.
But just because my lunch needs to be light and easy to make ahead does not mean it can’t be big on flavor.
So I am going to stuff these squash with the big bold flavors of the Amalfi coast. When I think Amalfi coast I think winding seaside highways snaking drunkenly through the hills and valleys hugging Italy’s southwest seaside. But, I also think anchovies. So you can bet these stuffed squash will feature anchovies and Colaturo di Alici in a big way.
Colatura di Alici is like an Italian fish sauce. Similar to the concoction that transforms Thai cooking into fabled lore.
It is still made much as it was in Roman times. Sardines, anchovies or pesce azzuro are left in wooden vats to decompose.
The subsequent concentrated fish oil is filtered and bottled.
I will start by cutting off a little lid and hollowing out each of my summer squash. For 4 people use 6 or 8 squash, depending on size. The interior flesh I will sautÃ© in olive oil with shallots, plenty of garlic, 1 teaspoon of red pepper flakes (maybe more) and 8 to 10 anchovies.
If you can find salt-packed as opposed to oil-packed anchovies try and get them. They usually come in an intimidatingly large can. But they keep forever in the salt so there is no need to worry about them. Plus you never have to wake up in a cold sweat in the middle of the night terrified that there are no good anchovies in the house. The can is that big. It will last months (if not years)!
The salt-packed variety needs to be soaked to remove the salt and reconstitute them somewhat. I often do this in milk. But I am not sure why… I must have read it somewhere or maybe learned that tip on my travels (Croatia??). Because it’s something I do with out giving it much thought.
Anyway the anchovies will cook down and practically disintegrate into the vegetables. To this mixture I add chopped parsley and freshly toasted coarse breadcrumbs. Take the time of starting with a few slices of good rustic bread (crusts and all), chop them up and pulse them a few times in a food processor before drizzling them in olive oil. Then spread them onto a lined baking sheet and bake at 350 degrees F, 6-7 minutes until toasty golden brown.
Once the breadcrumbs are mixed into the anchovy mixture add the 1-teaspoon or so of the Colatura di Alici. Taste and adjust for seasoning. It probably won’t need salt, but you may want to add additional red or black pepper.
Next mix in about 1-cup ricotta and 1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese.
Scoop this mixture back into the hollowed out squash. Pack the mixture in tightly and mound the squash a good amount too. Sprinkle the remaining Parmesan evenly across the tops of all the stuffed squash, and put the top back on at a rakish angle (optional). Then bake them about 30 minutes in a pre-heated 350 degree F oven until browned and bubbly.
I baked them hours before my friends got here, then set them aside at room temperature.
This way when someone finally peeks their head up from their book and says. Is anybody else hungry? Won’t I look like some kind of genius when I run into the kitchen and come back with a big platter of tossed greens and 6 or 7 of these delicious stuffed squash perched on top. All this lunch needs is a good drizzle of olive oil and as much fresh squeezed lemon as you’d like.
And, while we are at it maybe some wine. Click here or on the wine notes box above to read about the pairing from my brother Grant!
“Oh Garcon!” Grant hates it when I call him Garcon…
SERIOUS FUN FOOD