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…

Pic: Clinton Hill CSA

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

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  • Fearless Kitchen May 11, 2009  

    This looks great. I like pattypan squash – I don’t know that they taste like sunshine to me, but I do like them. A curry with them is an interesting way to go and I’ll have to try it sometime.

  • LC May 11, 2009  

    Thanks for the shoutout! I won’t rest until MVI has its own tag though. I am also adding pattypans to my list of eccentric and crazy expensive things to buy at the farmer’s market once they are selling more than ramps and lettuce.

  • La Morgan May 11, 2009  

    Little bursts of sunshine and flying saucer squashes?! Wow – Romeo’s poetic side comes through. I think you should ask him to describe all of his food preferences in such artistic ways, and then post them up here so we can chuckle with you.

  • C. Christy Concrete May 11, 2009  

    Baby pattypans, baby potatoes, broccolini…you could also call this Baby Curry!

  • Maids May 11, 2009  

    @C.C.C. – yeah, I’m kinda obsessed with baby veggies…. It might be a problem. I think they actually taste better… more tender, and delicately flavorful – but maybe there is some as-of-yet undetected Freudian reason behind the obsession. I hope not, that would be annoying!

  • Fugee May 11, 2009  

    What is broccolini anyway? I’ve heard that it is baby broccoli, but I’ve also heard that it is a different plant altogether.
    The dialogue between you and Romeo is priceless, by the way.

  • BS May 11, 2009  

    add some baby carrots! and some baby spinach! and some baby.

  • Maids May 11, 2009  

    @ Fugee – according to

    Broccolini, known in Europe as asparation and in the United States as baby broccoli, is a trademark of the Mann Produce Company, which developed the hybrid between broccoli and Gai Lan, also known as Chinese chard. The unique vegetable resembles broccoli or asparagus in physical appearance, with long stalks topped by delicate buds. Broccolini took off in gourmet cuisine in the 1990s and became widespread in supermarkets shortly thereafter.

    In flavor, broccolini reminds many consumers of asparagus, being sweet and tender with a hint of broccoli-like bite. In fact, the plant is so delicate that it can be eaten raw or cooked very briefly. Many commercial broccoli cultivars are woody and lacking in flavor, because they have been developed for rapid growth and easy shipping. The more delicate broccolini has a much more robust flavor, and it is a welcome addition to the ever growing options in the produce aisle.

    In addition to tasting superb, broccolini is rich in many vitamins and minerals. It carries high amounts of vitamin C, potassium, iron, fiber, and vitamin A. For parents trying to convince children to eat their vegetables, broccolini, like other “baby” vegetables, is a fun alternative that sometimes intrigues children enough to coax them into eating some. For vegans and vegetarians, broccolini and other leafy green vegetables should be eaten frequently.

  • Bliz May 11, 2009  

    extra baby on mine please!

  • Liza May 12, 2009  

    I got to eat these lil bursts of sunshine in curry and the meal was divine!! I too like baby veggies 🙂

  • Yvo May 12, 2009  

    Maids, are you secretly dating my boyfriend (or would I be the one secretly dating yours?)? That conversation? Wow. Except my boyfriend doesn’t even like food very much, which makes it doubly frustrating that like, wtf, why are you even being so picky when you’re going to eat like 2 bites and then leave me with the rest of the food. Ugh. Umm, looks delicious.

  • Maids May 12, 2009  

    @Yvo, hmmm… that could explain his workaholic schedule…. (but you live in NYC, no… ? I think the commute from NYC to DC every day would be a bit too much of a give away). Romeo likes food, but he’s not very into talking about cooking, which is why ES is a relationship-saver. In the interest of full disclosure, Romeo has contended that I misrepresent the extent of his pickyness, that he can deal with diced garlic in some dishes. I guess I should carry a tape recorder in my bodice so that I’ll have proof of his demands next time I write about them.

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