Courter: Local produce makes perfect summer meal

Courter: Local produce makes perfect summer meal

July 6th, 2011 by Barry Courter in Life Entertainment

Pattypan squash is stuffed with chorizo and served with grilled okra with a hint of hickory and a salad made with summer tomatoes.

Photo by Jenna Walker /Times Free Press.

Chorizo-Stuffed Squash

4 pattypan squash

1 pound Mexican chorizo

2 garlic cloves

2 1/2 teaspoons dried oregano

1 1/4 teaspoons ground cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon ground cloves

3/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

2 tablespoons orange liqueur

1 cup shredded queso quesadilla cheese

3/4 cup green tomatillo salsa

1/4 cup sour cream

Place squash in pan with water almost covering the tops of squash. Boil for five minutes, then turn over and simmer covered for another 3 minutes. Remove from stove, and allow to cool.

Sauté chorizo with garlic. Add spices and continue to cook until pork is cooked. Add liqueur, and simmer until evaporated. Let cool.

Cut a circle in the stem end of each squash. Remove the inner seeds and pulp to form a bowl.

Mix shredded cheese into cooled chorizo. Stuff mixture into the squash. Bake in an oven at low heat for about 10 minutes, until mixture is heated and cheese has melted. (We placed the squash in the upper portion of our grill while we were grilling the okra.)

When ready to serve, heat the salsa in the microwave until warm. Add the sour cream to blend, and pour a little over the squash.

BARRY SAYS: Kelley and I discussed several options for this month's installment and finally settled on a challenge. It would be mostly a challenge for her since she does most of the menu planning and cooking. I throw out ideas, and then I eat.

We decided it might be fun to drop by the Saturday Brainerd Market at Grace Episcopal Church and see what they had to offer. The challenge was that the meal would have to come from whatever they had. Right away, I noticed a local vendor had grass-fed meats, including tongue, which I had discussed with a friend earlier in the week. I suggested we try it, but Kelley opted for squash instead. As always, it was the right choice.

Combined with market-fresh tomatoes and whole okra grilled over coals and hickory chips, the stuffed squash was a perfect summer meal. The squash itself had a creamy, though meaty texture and a rich, almost buttery flavor.

KELLEY SAYS: This was my first opportunity to visit the Brainerd Market, and I must say they had a nice variety of vendors. As always, I go directly to the food items. Once I've looked over what everyone has to sell, I begin to get ideas. The possibilities are always endless. We purchased pattypan squash from Williams Island Farm, heirloom tomatoes from Crabtree Farms and fresh blueberries from a local woman who mentioned she has hundreds of blueberry bushes on her property off Highway 58.

I stuffed the squash with some chorizo I had in the fridge. I thought the flavors blended well. However, our daughter, Grace, said she would have preferred an Italian sausage stuffing instead. With the pattypan squash and its flavor, you could use any number of stuffings. I tossed the tomatoes in a shallot and garlic vinaigrette with fresh rosemary and orange-blossom water. Grace immediately picked up on the orange-blossom water flavor. She said it reminded her of the dishes cooked by the Lebanese family of one of her friends.

We also enlisted Grace to make a dessert using those wonderful blueberries. She ended up with a lemon cream cheese pie with a blueberry topping. It was yummy.

I absolutely love when all the fresh produce in our area begins to flourish. You can't tell me that our homegrown fruits and vegetables aren't the very best. I recently had a conversation with a woman from California about strawberries. The berries were just beginning to come in, and I told her that nothing could beat a Tennessee strawberry when it came to taste. But she insisted on telling me that you couldn't compare the two since California berries were so huge and she thought they were the tastiest. Well, I said, bigger isn't always better.

BARRY: I haven't knowingly eaten an out-of-season, non-local tomato since the Chattanooga Market opened a decade ago. Just can't do it. Local is better.