You would have thought I’d never seen fresh vegetables. My husband wanted to shop as men do: Get in, get something, and get out. But I dragged him from stall to stall at the farmer’s market, comparing the quality of the tomatoes and zucchini, sighing in disappointment that I’d gotten there too late to get the okra, and marveling at the beautiful produce that I can’t find at Kroger–bitter melons, long beans, white eggplant, and organically-grown yellow patty pan squash.
The squash were beautiful, and I wish I’d taken a photo of them before they were cooked: bright yellow with a ring of variegated green at the bottom. I knew when I bought them that I was going to stuff them. The man who sold them to me said to use sausage, and then remarked, “Every time I say that, I find out I’m talking to a vegetarian.” “You are again! You come across that many vegetarians?” “A lot of them. But you could use cheese instead.”
I let that go and started pondering what I, a no-refined-foods vegan, would use instead of sausage or cheese. How about beans that taste like sausage? With Cajun seasonings?
Oh boy! That was a good choice, and I knew it as soon as the fennel hit the pan. I started with all the seasonings that normally go into Louisiana cooking and added fennel and sage to create a rich, sausage-like flavor. There’s a hint of spiciness here, too, so go easy on the black and cayenne pepper if you’re spice-sensitive. But by all means, try it! The peppery taste of the beans provides a bold contrast to the tender, buttery squash. Patty pans are the perfect shape for stuffing, but if you can’t find them, you can use zucchini or a winter squash.
And a word to my carb-conscious friends: Patty pans are summer squash, so they’re low in calories and carbohydrates; they’re considered a “free” food on most diet plans, so eat up!
Patty Pan Squash Stuffed with Cajun White Beans
- 4 medium-sized patty pan squash
- 1 small onion chopped fine
- 1 stalk celery chopped fine
- 1/2 bell pepper chopped fine
- 2 cloves minced garlic
- 1 teaspoon thyme
- 1/2 teaspoon oregano
- 1/2 teaspoon basil
- 1/2 teaspoon fennel seed
- 1/2 teaspoon salt optional
- 1/4 teaspoon rubbed sage
- 1/8 teaspoon black pepper
- 1/8 teaspoon cayenne
- 1 15-ounce can great northern beans (or other white beans), rinsed and drained
- Place the squash flat side down in a large pot. Add about 1 inch of water, cover, and bring to a boil. Cook for about 8 minutes, until a fork easily pierces the top of the squash. Remove from the pot and set aside to cool.
- When cool enough to handle, slice off the top of the squash and use a melon baller to scoop out the flesh from the inside. Be sure to leave a wall of at least 1/4-inch of flesh on all sides of the squash. Turn them upside down to drain, and dice the scooped out flesh coarsely.
- Preheat the oven to 375 F.
- Sauté the onions, celery and bell pepper in a large, non-stick skillet for about 5 minutes until soft; add garlic, diced squash, and remaining seasonings and cook for another 2 minutes. Add the white beans and cook on low heat for about 5 minutes.
- Place the squash in an 8×8-inch baking pan. Spoon the stuffing into each shell; be sure to really pack it into the shell, and don’t be afraid to over-stuff them. Pile any stuffing that remains into the center of the baking pan, right between the squash.
- Bake for about 20 minutes or until the tops begin to brown. Serve with additional stuffing. Serves 2 as a main dish or 4 as a side dish.
Nutritional info is approximate.