Summer Squash Casserole

Whether you get your summer squash from your own garden, the farmers market, or you local grocery store, there is always plenty, and plenty of recipes for ways to use it. When I was growing up, my favorite way to eat it was fried.  Mother sliced yellow squash, put it in a bowl with a handful of cornmeal and some chopped onions to coat and fried it, usually in bacon grease. We also had it boiled down to limpness, also flavored with a little bacon fat. For me in those years, squash was yellow and crookneck. Now we grow it and find it many places and many varieties – yellow crookneck, zucchini (straight and ball), calabacita, white pattypan -ranging from dark green to bright yellow, long to stubby, smooth to lumpy to ridged.  Although they vary a little in texture and flavor, they all have thin skins and most adapt to being steamed, fried, grilled or stuffed.  But a classic dish, one that is a favorite for church potlucks, is squash casserole. There are hundreds of recipes. My favorite of all that I have tried has the fewest ingredients and is simplest to make.

I am a fan of Jan Karon’s Mitford series books and even have her cookbook, Jan Karon’s Mitford Cookbook & Kitchen Reader, which has recipes along with stories to link with characters in the books. The recipe I adapted to make my Summer Squash casserole comes from one called Puny’s Squash Casserole, named for the feisty, hardworking house helper who cooks for the series’ principal character, Father Tim Kavanaugh. It is the kind of recipe you look for when you need to keep it simple!  I have used zucchini and calabacita squash in the dish with equal success.

Summer Squash Casserole

6-8 medium yellow squash, coarsely chopped

1 medium onion, chopped

2 large eggs, beaten

1 cup grated cheddar cheese

3/4 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon pepper

1 Tablespoon butter

1 cup crushed potato chips or corn flakes

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray 9X13 baking dish with cooking spray.  Steam squash and onions until tender. Pour into large bowl and mash with a potato masher. Add butter and stir to melt butter. In a small bowl, combine eggs to cheese, salt and pepper, then add to squash mixture.  Pour into baking dish. Bake for 20 minutes then add topping of crushed chips or corn flakes. Bake another 10-15 minutes, until topping begins to brown.

 

 

 

 

Chicken Marengo

More than any of the cream sauces or pastries or souffles, I love to cook French dishes with fish or chicken and hearty tomato sauces that include garlic and olive oil and olives. I like to think my French great grandmother’s bloodline has something to do with this – she and her family sailed from the south of France (Marseilles) when they immigrated to the southern United States so perhaps that region is where they came from, although I have no way of knowing. If so, my love for Provencal cooking comes honestly. My favorites to eat and to cook have many common ingredients – Bouillabaise, Cacciatore, and Chicken Provencal. This dish, called Chicken Marengo has an interesting legend about its origin. Chicken Marengo is not Italian, as the name implies, but very French as the story goes, it was hastily invented by the cook who accompanied Napoleon when he went to battle. Following the narrow victory at the battle of Marengo in Italy in 1800, Napoleon is said to have been famished and directed a meal to be prepared right away. His cook gathered what local ingredients he could come up with, making this dish with its chicken, tomatoes, herbs, and olives. Tradition includes the addition of a fried egg and some crawfish on top but I chose to omit those!

Chicken Marengo

  • 4 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves
  • Salt and pepper for chicken
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 small shallots, diced
  • 1/2 cup dry red wine
  • 1 15-oz. can diced tomatoes, drained
  • 2 cups baby Bella mushrooms, sliced
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried French thyme
  • 1/3 cup kalamata olives
  • 1/3 cup green olives
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh parsley
  1. Season chicken breasts with salt and pepper. Heat oil in a 12-inch heavy skillet over moderately high heat , then sauté chicken, smooth sides down, until golden, about 2 minutes. Turn over and sauté 1 minute more. Scatter mushrooms around chicken and cook, until chicken is just cooked through, 10-15 minutes.
  2. Transfer chicken to a plate, then add shallots, garlic, and thyme to skillet and sauté over moderately high heat, stirring, 1 minute. Add wine and simmer, stirring and scraping up brown bits, until reduced by half, about 1 minute. Add tomatoes, and water and simmer until mushrooms are tender and sauce is reduced by half, about 4 minutes.
  3. Return chicken to skillet, add olives, and simmer, spooning sauce over until chicken is heated through   Serve with rice.

Slow Cooker Brisket

SlowCookerBrisket

Since we live a short distance from one of the best BBQ restaurants in the state, I don’t often cook brisket at home these days. But we had a small one in the freezer I wanted to use and I thought it was too hot to heat up the oven in the kitchen, even hotter to cook it outside on the grill or in the smoker.  I remembered a recipe and a story I could adapt to the crockpot, loaded it with the few ingredients necessary, set the slow cooker on low and went about a busy day.  The results favorably compared with other methods, and nobody got hot cooking!

The recipe could not be simpler.  The story brings back fond memories.  In 1973, Joe worked with a young man whose name was Steve Greenwell. He and his wife Sondra had not been married long, had no children, and were fond of ours. They came to stay with Sean and Jeremy on the Sunday afternoon 44 years ago that Ben was born.  Sondra was learning to cook.  She told me she bought a brisket and asked  the butcher how to cook it.  He told her to heat her oven on low, put the brisket in a pan, and pour over 1 bottle of liquid smoke, 1 bottle of barbecue sauce, and enough water to cover the meat. Cover and cook for hours. Here is the story in recipe form.  I did not have a crockpot all those years ago and if you do not, you can always use the oven.

Barbecue Brisket

2-3 pound beef brisket

1 bottle barbecue sauce (any kind)

1 bottle Liquid Smoke (optional – omit if you prefer)

2 bottles of water (rinse out the barbecue sauce bottle), enough to cover meat

Add all ingredients to slow cooker set on low and cook for 7 to 8 hours.

Lift out brisket to slice.  Pour sauce into pitcher or bowl to pass when served.