Food and Drink

Squash is abundant now. This casserole with buttery crackers is a seasonal indulgence.

Summer squash casserole with buttery crackers

So many varieties of squash this time of year, how to honor them all before the end of the season? A friend recently shared her downtown garden crop of round globe zucchini, which are perfect vessels for stuffing with rice, ground pork or beef, or cheese and breadcrumbs. I’ve also been making relish and pickles and quick breads with black beauty and gourmet gold varieties. And let’s not forget squash blossoms! Fill with burrata and a spoonful of black olive tapenade and grill or roast until just wilted. Or dip in a tempura-style batter and fry until golden and crisp. Yellow crookneck squash, heavy-bottomed and tapered toward the neck, are often a bit seedier than zucchini, but much beloved for its mild flavor and natural sweetness.

As much as I often try to encourage enjoying these seasonal vegetables simply steamed and drizzled with good olive oil, a spritz of lemon juice and flake salt, sometimes nostalgia kicks in and comfort food beckons. As a kid growing up in the South, when summer squash was in season, my grandfather would cook it down to an almost (but not quite) mash flecked with bits of ham or smoked hock or crispy bacon, perhaps some cheese or other veg like summer corn and tomatoes folded in, but the topping remained the same, a glorious layer of crushed buttery crackers (read: an entire sleeve of Ritz). I’ve tried to lighten up this version but if you’re in need of a bit of indulgence, add a bit more cream or grated cheddar. Keep in mind, the cooking time will depend on the size of your baking dish (i.e. smaller dish = thicker layer of veg) so adjust accordingly. Any leftovers can be piled onto bread for a sandwich or added into a frittata. — Kim Sunée

Makes 4 to 6 servings

1 to 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil or 1 tablespoon oil + 1 tablespoon unsalted butter

5 to 6 medium yellow squash and/or zucchini (about 1 1/4 pounds)

Kernels from 2 ears fresh corn (or frozen corn kernels)*

1 jalapeño or poblano, stems removed, finely chopped

1 small yellow or white onion, finely chopped

2 cloves garlic, minced

Salt and freshly-ground black pepper

Pinch cayenne or red pepper flakes

1/4 to 1/3 cup heavy cream

3 large eggs

Optional add-ins: fresh herbs, lemon zest, ground turmeric or hot Madras curry powder

1 cup grated cheddar cheese or Comté

15 to 20 buttery crackers, such as Ritz, crushed into small crumbs

1 to 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, diced into 4 to 6 pieces

• Preheat oven to 375°. Lightly grease a (approximately two-quart) baking dish; set aside. Remove stem end of squash, if needed, and cut into quarter-inch thick slices; set aside. Remove husks and silk from corn. Tip: *To remove kernels from corn, place a small bowl upside down in a larger bowl; place shucked cob on top of small bowl so it’s standing upright; hold top of cob and carefully cut kernels off; they should easily fall into the larger bowl. Remove small bowl. Chop and add jalapeño, onion, and garlic to bowl. Slice squash/zucchini.

• Heat oil or oil and butter, if using, in a large heavy skillet set over medium-high heat. Add corn-jalapeño mixture and sauté, stirring occasionally, one to two minutes. Add squash and sauté, stirring occasionally, about 10 minutes, until tender but not mushy; adjust heat as needed. Season with salt, pepper, and cayenne. Remove from heat.

• In a small bowl, whisk together eggs, cream and cheese, if using. At this point, add any optional herbs or spices. Pour mixture into prepared baking dish. Top with buttery cracker crumbs and dot with butter. Bake 30 minutes or until golden brown and bubbling. Serve warm or at room temperature.


Kim Sunée

Kim Sunée is a bestselling author ("Trail of Crumbs: Hunger, Love, and the Search for Home," "A Mouthful of Stars," "Everyday Korean: Fresh, Modern Recipes for Home Cooks") and a former magazine food editor. She's based in Anchorage. For more food and travel, visit instagram.com/kimsunee.

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