Monday, August 25, 2008

Summer Sides

Fall is looming, even if the temperatures don't show it. Labor day is literally around the corner and my enormous maple tree is flecked with orange, gearing up for its big show (and making me dread all of the raking to come). But at the Farmer's Market, and in my little kitchen, it's still pure summer.

I've never been one to curse the heat and pray for the relief of fall. Fall, while very lovely, always makes me a bit melancholy. I think it's because no matter how gorgeous fall is, winter is around the corner. And I hate winter, even the mild winter we have in East Tennessee. If I had my way it would be winter just for 6 weeks around Christmas and New Year's Eve, then Spring would takeover.
One of my favorite post-Farmer's Market activities is shelling beans. Tedious to some, I find it very relaxing, and of course it helps that fresh shelled beans are truly delectable--a seasonal treat not to be missed. These lovely beans are Purple Hull Peas, and they are tender and flavorful. They hardly require a recipe, just shell, cover with water, and simmer until they are as tender as you prefer. Since I was making a Very Southern Sunday Dinner I dropped in a couple of slices of salt pork and a vegetable boullion cube. The salt pork has a clean, porky flavor but doesn't add smoke. And the boullion, while not very fancy, is how Chris' grandmother cooked her peas and they were always so delicious.

I also picked up some very perfect zucchini. I know this is about the time when people start to feel overwhelmed by their squash and zucchini harvests but I just LOVE zucchini. I probably have a dozen favorite ways to make it, though this is a new favorite. The inspiration came from my friend Jessica highly recommending this squash recipe. It looked like comforting goodness, but I like my squash to have a bit more texture to it. Also, I just had zucchini, no yellow squash, so I had some meddling to do.

Zucchini Casserole
serves 4
salting the zucchini while sauteeing helps draw out the moisture, avoiding a soggy casserole.

2 large zucchini, chunked
Vegetable oil
1 small onion, chopped
2 tablespoons butter
1/4 cup sour cream
kosher salt and fresh pepper
1/2 cup grated cheddar cheese
1/2 cup crushed saltine crackers tossed with 1 tbsp melted butter
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Heat a splash of vegetable oil over medium heat. Add zucchini and a generous pinch of salt and saute until beginning to soften. Dump zucchini into a sieve and let drain for 10 minutes, pressing gently with the back of a wooden spoon on occasion.

Wipe out your skillet and melt the butter over medium heat. Saute the onion in butter for 5 minutes. Remove from pan and mix all ingredients together except cracker crumbs. Pour mixture into a buttered casserole dish and top with cracker crumbs. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes.


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