Although I haven’t been able to cook much, I did manage this weekend to sneak in a meal mainly because in our absence, a volunteer squash plant had crept across our entire patio, bearing several mottled round squashes and a plethora of huge blossoms begging me to stuff them. When we left on our trip, the plant had already spilled over the sides of the box where it had taken up residence, but when we returned, this is what we found.
the family plant guru, my mom, to see if the squashes were edible.
“Oh yes,” she replied, “But they probably won’t be very good. Most of those volunteers are weird mules—very vigorous but strange hybrids and not very tasty.”
“Do these have a name?” I enthusiastically asked the seller.
“They’re called roly-polys!”
“Are they super sweet and juicy when you open them up?”
“Yes!” he continued. “They are great for stuffing!”
I bought one and compared it to the squashes waiting in my refrigerator. Low and behold, they were identical.
I used to stuff zucchinis all of the time. The kids loved them and it was a great way to use the larger fruit I had missed in the zucchini patch. In those days, I filled them with a combination of Italian sausage, breadcrumbs, herbs, onions, and pine nuts. You can stuff squashes with any sort of stuffing—rice, quinoa or other grains and veggies and herbs. This time I decided to stuff them with ricotta cheese and herbs since that sounded quick and easy and wouldn’t require my standing on my feet too long.
Ricotta Stuffed Roly-Poly Squash
4 medium roly-poly squashes
½ onion, chopped
3 chopped garlic cloves
1 cup fresh ricotta cheese
½ cup grated Parmesan cheese
2 T fresh chopped herbs (oregano and thyme work great) or 2 t Italian dried herbs
1 egg, beaten
A pinch of red pepper flakes (more if you like things spicy)
¼ cup toasted pine nuts (optional)
Salt and pepper to taste
Preheat oven to 350. Bring a pot of water to a boil. Drop squashed in the boiling water and cook about 5 minutes until skewer gives slightly when pierced into squash.
Cut the tops off of the squashes and scoop out the seeds.
Sauté chopped onion in olive oil on medium heat until translucent. Add garlic and cook another 1 minute. Combine cheeses, chopped herbs, onion, beaten egg, red pepper flakes, pine nuts and salt and pepper. Stir to combine.
Stuff drained squashes with the cheese mixture. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with breadcrumbs.
My roly-poly monster is an extremely vigorous vine with huge leaves, tons of gigantic male flowers and very few female flowers, which means not many squashes. But since I am a squash blossom fan, it has been truly a treat to harvest a dozen 5-inch blossoms every day and cook them various ways. The entire squash, cucumber, and melon family produce two types of flowers—male and female—and they depend on insects buzzing from flower to flower to fertilize them. The female flower is attached to a very tiny fruit and when pollen from the male is deposited, via a bee, on its pistil, fertilization occurs and the fruit begins to grow. After the males have closed up for the day, they are useless to the plant and can be picked for many different uses in the kitchen. Make sure you are truly picking a male flower. You can tell the male flower because it resides on the end of a long thin stem as opposed to being attached to a baby squash.
Squash Blossom Frittata
(Modified from Mediterranean Cooking in Alaska)
1 sliced onion (can use shallots or leeks if you want)
fresh herbs (such as chives or dill) or herbes de Provence
4 oz cheese (I used goat)
Salt and pepper
1-2 T butter or olive oil
Check blossoms for bugs by gently opening them and looking inside. Wipe carefully with a damp paper towel.
Whisk eggs with salt and pepper. Add chopped herbs.
Add a little more fat in pan and arrange blossoms in a pinwheel, stem sides to the middle.
Preheat oven on broil. Add onions to eggs, stir, and pour into hot pan.
Put under broiler to finish cooking eggs (watch carefully…this goes quickly!)
I have been making the following recipe for over 20 years. It came from the 1987 version of The Best of Sunset Magazine. I didn’t have the cream cheese in the house so used goat cheese and it was yummy! If you use small squash blossoms, these make great appetizers. My jumbo flowers, though, made a great side dish.
Stuffed Squash Blossoms
6 large squash blossoms or 12-15 small ones, gently cleaned and checked for bugs
3 oz cream cheese or goat cheese at room temperature
1 T milk
1/3 cup freshly grated Paresan cheese
freshly ground pepper
1 ½ T canned or freshly roasted diced green chiles
2 large eggs
Rinse blossoms with a gentle spray of cool water; shake off excess. Trim off stems completely (close to blossoms). Set aside.