Why is it that stuffed (suitable vegetable here) always sounds like a great idea, but then turns out to be a huge, laborious production with merely adequate results? I can think of two reasons, now that I’ve done a couple round of ‘pretty, but not a repeat’ stuffed vegetable dishes.

First, for whatever reason, it always seems to involve about 4 pans/pots/baking sheets. For this dish I used a pot to boil the squash, a pot to simmer the rice, a sauté pan to cook the mushrooms, leeks, garlic, and peppers, and a baking sheet to bake the stuffed squash. And then I did a lot of dishes.

Ingredients for Mushroom, Leek, Pepper and Rice Stuffed Pattypan Squash

Ingredients for Mushroom, Leek, Pepper and Rice Stuffed Pattypan Squash

The second reason is because the vegetable receptacle often seems to be somewhat bland on its own, and since it’s serving as a shell, there’s quite a bit of it in a large continuous piece. I didn’t actually buy the pattypan squash at the farmers market with the intention of stuffing it, but when I was coming up with a menu plan, I thought that might be a good way to use them. Unfortunately, since they aren’t really huge, they didn’t hold too much rice, and they had such thick walls we found we had to add quite a bit of salt to ‘flavor them up’.

Hollowed Out Pattypan Squash

Hollowed Out Pattypan Squash

The rice component (made with ruby red Jasmine rice, mushrooms, leeks, and pepper) was pretty good though. Since I had quite a bit left over after this meal, I ended up extending the remainder later in the week with a couple of andouille chicken sausage, some more mushrooms, and some chicken stock.

So, what did I learn with this dish? If you’re going to do a complex stuffed meal, try to find a shell vegetable that’s really tasty on its own. Pattypan squash probably doesn’t quite fit that bill. And maybe it really isn’t worth all the hassle – for me at least. But I must say, it was a pretty dinner!

Mushroom, Leek, Pepper and Rice Stuffed Pattypan Squash

Mushroom, Leek, Pepper and Rice Stuffed Pattypan Squash

Mushroom, Leek, Pepper and Rice Stuffed Pattypan Squash (should you choose to embark upon the laborious path)
serves up to 6 (with bonus rice leftovers if you use less than 6 squash!)

up to 6 pattypan squash (or other suitable squash)
1 cup ruby red jasmine rice (or brown, white, etc)
3-4 leeks, chopped
1 red or orange bell pepper, chopped
1/2 lb shiitake mushrooms (or your choice), sliced and then cut again into 1/2 inch pieces (if necessary)
4-5 garlic cloves, minced
2 + 3/4 cups chicken or vegetable stock, divided
2 tsp olive oil, divided
thyme (or your choice)

Cook the rice according to package directions, but use the chicken or vegetable stock instead of water. (Mine called for 2+1/2 cups, but adjust as necessary for whatever type you are using).

Meanwhile, boil the pattypan squash until they are tender (but not too tender), about 20 minutes. When they are done, remove and let cool a bit.

While the rice and squash are cooking, heat 1 tsp olive oil in a sauté pan over medium heat, then cook the mushrooms until they release their juice. Keep cooking until most of the juice evaporates, then remove from the pan and set aside.

(Carefully) wipe out any mushroom detrius, then heat another 1 tsp in the sauté pan over medium heat. Add the peppers, and cook for 3-4 minutes, until they just start to get tender. Then add the leeks and garlic, and continue to cook until the leeks are tender, roughly 5-8 minutes.

About this time you’ll want to pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees.

Turn off the heat under the vegetables if the rice isn’t done yet. Otherwise, add the rice, then add 1/4 cup of stock. Add the thyme (or other herbs) and salt to your taste, then stir well, and cook a minute or two until the stock cooks off. Turn the heat off.

Cut the top of each pattypan squash off, then using a spoon, hollow out the squash, being careful that you don’t go through the sides or bottom (although it’s not a disaster if you do). I had to empty the squash of juice a few times as I was doing this.

Once you have the squash hollowed out, fill each cavity with the rice and vegetable mixture. Place the squash on a cookie sheet covered in foil and sprayed with cooking spray. If the squash and rice/vegetables are still pretty warm,you can just put the filled squash in the oven for 5-10 minutes until everything is hot.

The remainder of the rice/vegetables will be used as a bed for the squash. If it has gotten coolish before you serve the dish, just reheat it right before you take the squash out of the oven.

Put a bit of rice on each plate, flatten it out, then put the squash on top.

To be honest, the only thing that this really borrows from lasagna is tomato sauce and cheese, but really – aren’t those the two most important parts of lasagna?  Since I still had an eggplant, and a few pattypan squash, I thought that they would make a good base, especially grilled.  I also decided it would be amusing to make tomato sauce out of orange and yellow tomatoes.  Why, you ask?  Because I can! I had to supplement a bit with an heirloom tomato since I didn’t have quite enough orange and yellow ones, but overall the result was a nice orange color.

I wanted to make sure that I used enough cheese that the dish tasted rich, but not enough that it was overly high in fat.  So I used a couple ounces each of lowfat havarti and goat cheese (from Haystack Mountain).  I also used a small amount of of shaved pecorino romano.

Since I didn’t use any lasagna noodles, we just had protein and vegetables, so I added some boiled fingerling potatoes as a side (I would have grilled them, but by that time I was out of energy – and time).

Tomato Sauce Ingredients

Orange Tomato Sauce
makes about 2 – 2+1/2 cups

about 4+1/2 cups orange and yellow tomatoes, chopped (do not remove the seeds)
2 spring onions, finely chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 tsp olive oil
3/4 tsp sugar
3/4 tsp salt
4 sprigs fresh thyme (you could use basil or oregano instead)

Heat the olive oil in a skillet over medium heat.  Add the garlic and onions and sauté for a about two minutes until somewhat translucent.  Add the tomatoes, sugar, and salt, and cook on medium until the tomatoes break down and the sauce thickens, stirring frequently.  (This will take a while, just be patient and let the liquid evaporate a bit.  I think it took around 15 minutes for me. I also turned the heat up to medium high briefly a couple of times, just to get it simmering more, and then went back to medium.)  Add the leaves from the sprigs of thyme (just run your thumb and finger along the stem the ‘wrong way’ – this will cause all of the leaves to fall off), and stir to mix in.  Remove from the heat.  I stored this in the refrigerator until I was ready to use it for the main dish.

Tomato sauce during simmering, and after thickened

And now on to the rest of the lasagnaesque preparations!

Eggplant, Pattypan Squash, and Cheeses

Lasagnaesque Eggplant and Squash
serves 4

1 eggplant
3 pattypan squash, roughly the same diameter as the eggplant
1 batch orange tomato sauce (see above)
2 oz lowfat havarti, grated
2 oz goat cheese, very thinly sliced or crumbled
3/8 oz (~10 g) shaved pecorino romano
1 tsp olive oil
salt and pepper to taste

Slice the eggplant crosswise into about 1/2 inch thick slices. Slice the pattypan squash into 1/2 inch thick slices as well, cutting parallel to their ‘equators’. Brush both sides of each eggplant and squash slice with olive oil.  Grill over medium-high heat for 6 minutes, flipping half-way.  Check the tenderness of the pieces.  Mine were getting dark, but were not yet that tender, so I turned the grill down to medium-low, flipped them again, and grilled for another 6 minutes, flipping again halfway through that.

Once the eggplant and squash are done, spread about 1/4 of the tomato sauce in a 2 quart (or a little larger) casserole dish.  Then spread a layer of eggplant on the bottom, filling in any gaps with squash if needed.  Next, sprinkle the havarti evenly over the eggplant, followed by the goat cheese.  Gently put half of the remaining tomato sauce on top, spreading it out evenly.  Now layer the remaining squash on top of that.  Follow with the pecorino romano, and then top with the remaining tomato sauce.

Bake in a 350 degree oven for about 25-30 minutes, until cheese is melted, and everything is well heated.

Lasagnaesque Eggplant and Squash with fingerling potatoes

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