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Zucca violino for Thanksgiving


Maureen B. Fant
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We had lunch a couple of weeks ago at the Locanda della Tamerice near Ferrara -- fabulous, but that is another story -- and tasted a squash that was so wonderful that we asked what it was and after lunch went straight to the nearby farm stand that it had come from and bought one to take home to Rome for our Thanksgiving dinner, in lieu of sweet potatoes (anybody want to address the topic of patate dolci too?).

Now, if I make a mess of it, I can't run out and buy another, so any suggestions from you northerners? It is not that large, as these things go, about the size of a very small baby, and, of course, hard as a rock.

I cannot find how to post a picture (imagegullet won't load), but it's sort of hourglass-shaped (violin, appunto) and has bumps all over.

Many thanks for any tips.

Maureen B. Fant
www.maureenbfant.com

www.elifanttours.com

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Stuffed?  Or would that interfere with the flavor you think?

Stuffed with what? And how? It's a single big squash, not individuals, like acorn. I wouldn't even know how to cut it in half. And yes, if I dragged a squash on the train from Ferrara to Rome because of its superior flavor, I would not like to add anything that would compete. One option is purè but I think we're also having mashed potatoes, and that is too much mush. Something sort of scalloped and baked would be nice.

Maureen B. Fant
www.maureenbfant.com

www.elifanttours.com

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If it's that big you can probably do several things with it. Use one end as a "bowl" and stuff it with breadcrumbs, cheese, porcini, herbs. Roast off another part of it like jackal suggests. Make gnocchi out of more of it, custards, etc.

Is it normal for them to be so big, and do they get bland if they're so big?

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I am in love with all squash and pumpkin at the moment and on my blog have gnocchi, soup and grilled marinated slices ( sicilian style) with garlic, EVO and mint!

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I am in love with all squash and pumpkin at the moment and on my blog have gnocchi, soup and grilled marinated slices ( sicilian style) with garlic, EVO and mint!

At the moment, I am only in love with the incredibly flavorful squashes of Emilia-Romagna. The zucche we get here in Rome are usually rather watery and need to be put under salt like an eggplant.

We went to this fabulous restaurant outside Ferrara and tasted this particular squash, which we asked about and then bought one nearby. I don't want to do anything to disguise the flavor. I wouldn’t add anything but butter and parmigiano. I bought it to serve at Thanksgiving dinner in lieu of sweet potatoes. If anything, my zucca is small for the purpose even though it is definitely larger than anything else in my kitchen at the moment (the turkey will be larger, however).

I am imagining pieces of squash in a baking dish, possibly with some bread crumbs or parmigiano on top, but don't know where to start. Most local recipes are for purè or risotto or sweets. I picked up this booklet from Ostellato (where we bought the zucca) published for the zucca festival, and it contains a pasticcio di zucca e patate, which is on the right track, but contains emmenthal and sesame seeds in addition to ricotta, panna, and eggs, so it doesn’t have much credibility. Also, it starts with polpa di zucca, not a hard-as-granite whole squash.

No gnocchi for Thanksgiving! I have a good soup recipe in my book, from Agata Parisella, but I really want to serve this squash as a veg next to my grandmother's creamed spinach. A friend is bringing the potatoes.

Maureen B. Fant
www.maureenbfant.com

www.elifanttours.com

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I've been making Provençal Pumpkin Gratin for several years with your type of pumpkin. I could swear that I originally got the recipe here on eGullet, but I can't seem to find it. There is a mention of this dish here: Provencal Pumpkin Gratin The recipe is simple:

2lbs squash, peeled and diced

8 garlic cloves, minced (use fewer cloves if you want more of the squash flavor)

1/2c minced parsely

salt and pepper, to taste

4T flour

1/3c olive oil

Toss the squash together with the garlic, parsley and flour until the cubes are coated. Oil a gratin dish and fill with the squash. Drizzle with more olive oil. Bake at 325F for 2 to 2-1/2 hours, until the squash is soft and has a nice brown crust.

It's one of my favorite dishes.

April

One cantaloupe is ripe and lush/Another's green, another's mush/I'd buy a lot more cantaloupe/ If I possessed a fluoroscope. Ogden Nash

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I've been making Provençal Pumpkin Gratin for several years with your type of pumpkin.  I could swear that I originally got the recipe here on eGullet, but I can't seem to find it.  There is a mention of this dish here: Provencal Pumpkin Gratin  The recipe is simple:

2lbs squash, peeled and diced

8 garlic cloves, minced (use fewer cloves if you want more of the squash flavor)

1/2c minced parsely

salt and pepper, to taste

4T flour

1/3c olive oil

Toss the squash together with the garlic, parsley and flour until the cubes are coated.  Oil a gratin dish and fill with the squash.  Drizzle with more olive oil.  Bake at 325F for 2 to 2-1/2 hours, until the squash is soft and has a nice brown crust.

It's one of my favorite dishes.

April

That sounds like a winner, but I would incline toward eliminating all the garlic. This is for Thanksgiving and a Provençal flavor is not the thing (when I do these things in Italy I get very traditional). Now, do we think I could do any part of this ahead, such as dicing the squash? If it actually needs a wood saw, I'd just as soon Franco did it today or tomorrow :biggrin:

Maureen B. Fant
www.maureenbfant.com

www.elifanttours.com

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my vegetble lady just told me to layer squash with sage and fried carducci. the shoots from artichokes... prepared like cardoons... and then baked.

Interesting but specific ingredients and the way cardune are prepared is missing in your recommendation. Besides it would be hard to find the same cardune (I call thenm cardos) here and there isn't the world even when my neigbours would collect some wild in the paddocks competing with other nationalities. Wow! they were prickly.

Sage is kind of weed otherwise known as Salvia I personally like the young shoots for my sauces excellent.

Finally. what do you do to the artichokes shoots do you fry them when they are parboiled?

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That sounds like a winner, but I would incline toward eliminating all the garlic. This is for Thanksgiving and a Provençal flavor is not the thing (when I do these things in Italy I get very traditional). Now, do we think I could do any part of this ahead, such as dicing the squash? If it actually needs a wood saw, I'd just as soon Franco did it today or tomorrow  :biggrin:

I think that prepping the squash ahead of time sounds like a great idea. I think I'll try it out myself. It does require a sturdy chef's knife and a strong arm to peel and cut up the squash, so you should give Franco time to recover. :biggrin:

April

One cantaloupe is ripe and lush/Another's green, another's mush/I'd buy a lot more cantaloupe/ If I possessed a fluoroscope. Ogden Nash

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my vegetble lady just told me to layer squash with sage and fried carducci. the shoots from artichokes... prepared like cardoons... and then baked.

Interesting but specific ingredients and the way cardune are prepared is missing in your recommendation. Besides it would be hard to find the same cardune (I call thenm cardos) here and there isn't the world even when my neigbours would collect some wild in the paddocks competing with other nationalities. Wow! they were prickly.

Sage is kind of weed otherwise known as Salvia I personally like the young shoots for my sauces excellent.

Finally. what do you do to the artichokes shoots do you fry them when they are parboiled?

Italians parboil the cardoon stalks ( artichoke shoots are done the same) no leaves!

then floured and fried.

SAge is also salvia here not a weed, but an herb. we have very large leaved sage which is also fabulous battered and fried and served with prosecco.

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my vegetble lady just told me to layer squash with sage and fried carducci. the shoots from artichokes... prepared like cardoons... and then baked.

Interesting but specific ingredients and the way cardune are prepared is missing in your recommendation. Besides it would be hard to find the same cardune (I call thenm cardos) here and there isn't the world even when my neigbours would collect some wild in the paddocks competing with other nationalities. Wow! they were prickly.

Sage is kind of weed otherwise known as Salvia I personally like the young shoots for my sauces excellent.

Finally. what do you do to the artichokes shoots do you fry them when they are parboiled?

Italians parboil the cardoon stalks ( artichoke shoots are done the same) no leaves!

then floured and fried.

SAge is also salvia here not a weed, but an herb. we have very large leaved sage which is also fabulous battered and fried and served with prosecco.

This is interesting terminology. Carciofi and cardi, i.e., artichokes and cardoons, are related somehow, and here their names seem to be fusing. Also their recipes. I'm not even sure I know what you mean by artichoke shoots. You mean the stuff that grows laterally off the stem that we usually throw away?

As for salvia, yes, of course, it is sage, the domestic herb, but I recently heard of something known in English as salvia, but can't remember what.

And back to my squash (sorry): if I can get it peeled and cut up (or vice versa) tomorrow, can I keep it in a plastic bag till Thursday? or what should I do? Looking at it again, I am afraid it's too small for all the guests. I love April's recipe, so maybe I should slice some potatoes to put underneath the squash. Or just dole out a spoonful to everybody and not pass the dish...

Maureen B. Fant
www.maureenbfant.com

www.elifanttours.com

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This is interesting terminology. Carciofi and cardi, i.e., artichokes and cardoons, are related somehow, and here their names seem to be fusing. Also their recipes. I'm not even sure I know what you mean by artichoke shoots. You mean the stuff that grows laterally off the stem that we usually throw away?

As for salvia, yes, of course, it is sage, the domestic herb, but I recently heard of something known in English as salvia, but can't remember what.

And back to my squash (sorry): if I can get it peeled and cut up (or vice versa) tomorrow, can I keep it in a plastic bag till Thursday? or what should I do? Looking at it again, I am afraid it's too small for all the guests. I love April's recipe, so maybe I should slice some potatoes to put underneath the squash. Or just dole out a spoonful to everybody and not pass the dish...

Artichokes and cardoons belong to the genus Cynara. They are probably descended from the same wild thistle. The plants look similar in any event, and that may be reflected by the similar Italian names. I'm assuming that the artichoke stalks that divina is referring to are the thick midribs of each leaf. These are the parts of cardoons that are eaten.

The genus Salvia contains many different species of plants. Here in the U.S., Salvias grown for ornamental uses are generally called "salvias". Salvia officinalis is the plant used in cooking, and is usually referred to as "sage" or "common garden sage".

I make wild interpretations of the squash recipe all the time. I have mixed in any of the following: cubed carrots (last week it was purple carrots), parsnips, turnips, sweet potatoes, radishes and beetroot. The carrots stay firmer than the squash, while the sweet potatoes get very soft when baked. I have no explanation for why I've never used potatoes.

April

One cantaloupe is ripe and lush/Another's green, another's mush/I'd buy a lot more cantaloupe/ If I possessed a fluoroscope. Ogden Nash

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To make winter squash gratin:

I like to cut the squash into about 1-inch cubes and saute them with a little butter, salt and pepper until they are light brown and slightly caramelized. Add a little sugar if the squash is not sweet enough. Depending on the amount of squash, might have to do them in couple of batches. Transfer them to a gratin pan, add some lemon zest and chopped sage if desire. Add just a little water to moisten the squash. Cover with foil and bake in a preheated 350 degree oven for about 30 minutes until the squash is done. This can be done ahead of time.

Then remove the foil and sprinkle the top with lightly toasted fresh breadcrumb and lots of parmesan cheese. I like the saltiness of the cheese to balance the sweetness of the squash. Add a little more water if the squash seems too dry.

Return the gratin to the oven, uncovered. Bake for another 20 minutes or until the the gratin is hot and the top is brown.

Instead of very fine breadcrumb, I like to use a coarse fresh breadcrumb that has been toss with a little melted butter or olive oil and lightly toasted in the oven. I don't like the sandiness of fine breadcrumb and the the coarse breadcrumb adds a nice crunch to the gratin. Of course, no problem using fine dry breadcrumb. I do the final baking of the gratin after the turkey has come out of the oven and resting before serving.

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To make winter squash gratin:

I like to cut the squash into about 1-inch cubes and saute them with a little butter, salt and pepper until they are light brown and slightly caramelized. Add a little sugar if the squash is not sweet enough. Depending on the amount of squash, might have to do them in couple of batches. Transfer them to a gratin pan, add some lemon zest and chopped sage if desire. Add just a little water to moisten the squash. Cover with foil and bake in a preheated 350 degree oven for about 30 minutes until the squash is done. This can be done ahead of time.

Then remove the foil and sprinkle the top with lightly toasted fresh breadcrumb and lots of parmesan cheese. I like the saltiness of the cheese to balance the sweetness of the squash. Add a little more water if the squash seems too dry.

Return the gratin to the oven, uncovered. Bake for another 20 minutes or until the the gratin is hot and the top is brown.

Instead of very fine breadcrumb, I like to use a coarse fresh breadcrumb that has been toss with a little melted butter or olive oil and lightly toasted in the oven.  I don't like the sandiness of fine breadcrumb and the the coarse breadcrumb adds a nice crunch to the gratin.  Of course, no problem using fine dry breadcrumb. I do the final baking of the gratin after the turkey has come out of the oven and resting before serving.

Thank you. This is another winner. I may do this for TG, since it can be done ahead, and save April's for afterwards and use all the garlic. Besides deciding, my one remaining squash-related problem is getting it cut up. :unsure:

Maureen B. Fant
www.maureenbfant.com

www.elifanttours.com

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