The Taste of Bursting Sunshine
One of the palates I attempt to cater to is that of Romeo, my bf. Romeo is a rather demanding discerning eater. He doesn’t like it when I add diced garlic to a dish. Romeo prefers garlic minced with the pampered chef garlic press that lives in our kitchen (which, to be honest, is hands-down the best garlic press I have ever used, lemme tell you). I comply with this demand suggestion. Romeo prefers his meals more gently spiced than I like mine. (To be fair some like it hot, and some like it hotter still, and I represent a dot somewhere near the hot-hot-hot end of the bland-to-razzle dazzle spicy continuum. This I admit.) I’ve tried to tone down the hotness for Romeo’s wimpy sensitive taste buds, and with occasional exceptions, I usually succeed in a palatable compromise for the both of us.
There is one thing that Romeo had asked for since I first took on the position of his chef-in-chief (or “kitchen dictator” as Romeo insists on calling me) that for a while absolutely bewildered me: “flying saucer squashes.”
The conversation we had on several occasions always went something like this:
Maids: Do you want anything from the store?
Romeo (smiling and excited): Yes. Bring me the flying-saucer-squashes so we can use them in a curry. They taste like bursts of sunshine.
Maids (genuinely curious): What do you mean?
Romeo (short temper spent, yelling now): Buy those little yellow flying saucer squashes at the grocery store so we can put them in curry and they’ll taste like sunshine!
Maids: I don’t know what you mean by flying saucer squashes! Are they thin skinned or thick skinned? Summer or winter?
Romeo (frustrated and stamping both feet): They’re summer squashes that look like baby flying saucers and taste like sunshine! God!
I know he’s adorable, but that wasn’t much to go on, right? Especially since I’d never before encountered flying saucer-like squashes. I knew, however, that I needed to address Romeo’s unrequited craving for a summer squash that looked like a flying saucer and tasted like sunshine.
Recently, after over a year and a half of being unable to fulfill this request, I had a follow-up investigatory conversation with with Edouble and Miked (who have been feeding Romeo for far longer than I). Edouble filled me in: these squashes, for which both Edouble and Romeo have a special affinity, are commonly known as sunburst squashes. They are small and round with scalloped tops and they are usually available only in the summer season.
More research yielded further knowledge: the pattypan squash (A.K.A. white squash/button squash/sunburst squash) comes in yellow, white, and green colors, is most tender when immature, and is often served fried, curried, and stuffed. It sounded delicious, and I was on a mission to make a curry with the pattypan as the M.V.I. (Most Valuable Ingredient 😉 thanx ES commenter “LC”) of the dish.
My successful search for the pattypans and the recipe for the Pattypan Vegetable Thai Curry after the jump…
My efforts to find the pattypan squashes were frustrated at both the neighborhood Giant and Safeway, and the farmers’ market wasn’t selling squashes yet. One day on my walk home from work I decided to venture into the Harris Teeter that’s housed in the bowels of Adams Morgan here in DC. I searched through the fresh vegetable section where the broccoli and squashes, eggplant and cabbage lay glistening with the chilling spray of intermittent mechanized water showers.
No luck: I only found those all-too-familiar summer squashes and zucchinis, and a few tumorous yellow crooknecks glaring back at me from under the drape of lettuce leaves. Hmmm. I had almost given up when I walked past the packaged fresh veggie section, and … miraculously there they were! Eight green and yellow pattypans, each with a circumference at the widest part that was just a bit larger than a quarter, sealed in a small clear plastic bag. I was momentarily torn between annoyance at the amount of packaging in which the pattypans were available (definitely not local/carbon neutral pattypans!) and the need to soothe my longing to work with the delightful little morsels. The longing won out. I bought five bags of them (about 40 pattypans in all) and decided to have an impromptu pattypan curry party.
Pattypan Vegetable Thai Curry
In my favorite deep frying pan I sautéed 7 minced cloves of garlic. After the garlic browned slightly, I added a can and a half of “lite” coconut milk and brought it to a boil. When the coconut milk became fragrant I turned the heat down to simmer and added in two bay leaves stirred and simmered for ten minutes. I added toasted and crushed coriander seeds, cumin, ginger and garam masala, and two-thirds of a jar of thai green curry paste, salt, basil and a handful of shredded coconut. I also added water as needed as the sauce reduced a bit and I didn’t want to add more coconut milk.
I took 32 of the baby pattypan squashes and stared at them in some consternation. I wasn’t sure whether they would pick up the flavor of the curry satisfactorily if I left them whole. So I decided to take my chances with the yellow ones and leave them whole, while I cut the green ones in half. I fished out the bay leaves and added the pattypans to the fragrant brew.
I diced 4 baby yellow potatoes and threw those in the pot as well. I let those ingredients cook on simmer for about 20 minutes while I chopped and prepared the rest of the ingredients. I took several bunches of broccolini, chopped off the stems and added the broccolini stems and julienned eggplant into the curry and cooked the curry for another 15 minutes. I then added a few dashes of red pepper flakes, a tablespoon of sugar-free syrup (you can use sugary syrup or honey), and a dash of soy sauce. By this time, the pattypans were nice and tender as were the potatoes. For the last five minutes I added in the heads of broccolini, turned the heat up and covered the pan. When the broccolini turned a bright, inviting green, I added a few handfuls of cilantro and gave a stir or two more for good measure!
I served the curry over brown rice with thai chili and garlic dipping sauce on the side for the more adventurous diners. Romeo reported that, while he liked both the sliced and the whole pattypans, he preferred the whole pattypans. The whole pattypans tasted as they were born to taste – like little bursts of sunshine.
Pic of Patty Pans in Hands: Clinton Hill CSA