[Pâtissons rôtis et pois chiches aux herbes]
The patty pan squash (in French: le pâtisson) is a member of the blended summer squash family. Shaped very much like a UFO with undulating edges — each bump a tiny cockpit with an alien inside, presumably –, it can be conical or squat, and comes in shades of yellow, green, or white. The flesh inside is the color of clotted cream, its heart studded with edible seeds like the center of a zucchini.
Like all summer squashes, the patty pan squash is best eaten when young and small. Avoid patty pans that are larger than the palm of your hand: they will likely be watery and bland, and you will then miss out on the buttery and subtly sweet taste of the littler ones, and their faint artichoke flavor.
If you do find such specimens — at the farmers market or perhaps in your CSA share –, make sure you use them soon after bringing them home: in my experience, they don’t keep as well as your average zucchini, and their skin mottles after a couple of days.
Small patty pan squashes don’t need to be peeled: they can just be cut into slices or sections, and steamed, sautéed, braised, grilled, or roasted. It is also traditional to stuff them, which I’m sure is lovely, but also a tad more involved than I’m ready for these days.
What I like to make with those patty pan squashes that cross my path is this warm-to-cold salad, a summer counterpart to one of my favorite winter salads: patty pan squash segments roasted till golden, al dente chickpeas, and a slick dressing of herbs and anchovies whizzed together with lemon peel and olive oil. I like to eat it on its own for a light yet filling lunch, but it could also be served as a side to roast chicken or grilled fish.
Any patty pan inspiration of your own to share?
- 140 grams (3/4 cup) dried chickpeas, soaked in cold water for 12 hours and rinsed
- 750 grams (1 2/3 pounds) baby patty pan squash, about six 8-cm (3-inch) specimens
- olive oil
- a dozen stems chives
- 1 small handful fresh cilantro
- 8 leaves fresh mint
- 4 anchovies packed in oil, drained (substitute 1 tablespoon rinsed capers if you prefer)
- a good pinch cayenne pepper
- one strip lemon peel from an organic lemon
- 2 teaspoons verjuice or lemon juice
- freshly ground black pepper
- Place the soaked and rinsed chickpeas in a saucepan, add cold water to cover by about 2-3 cm (1 inch), and bring to a simmer over high heat. Lower the heat to medium and simmer for 45 to 60 minutes, until the chickpeas are tender but not mushy. As the chickpeas cook, add a little more water if the level runs low, and skim any foam or impurities that may rise to the surface. Let cool to room temperature in the cooking liquid, then drain.
- (The chickpeas may be cooked up to a day ahead. Once at room temperature, cover and transfer to the fridge, still in the cooking liquid. Alternatively, you can use canned chickpeas, drained, rinsed, and drained again; you'll need about 2 cups.)
- Preheat the oven to 200°C (400°F). Cut off the stem and root ends of the patty pan squashes, and cut each of them into 8 sections. Place the sections in a baking dish large enough to accomodate them in a single layer, drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle with salt, and toss to coat. Roast for 30 minutes, until cooked through and browned in places. Let cool.
- While the patty pan squash is roasting, combine the herbs, anchovies, cayenne pepper, lemon peel, verjuice, black pepper, and a drizzle of olive oil in the bowl of a mini-chopper, and pulse until more or less smooth. (Alternatively, you can chop the herbs and anchovies finely by hand, and combine the dressing in the salad bowl.)
- Toss the cooled and drained chickpeas with the herb dressing in a salad bowl, and let rest in the refrigerator. When the patty pan squash is cooled, arrange the segments on each plate, and top with the dressed chickpeas. (You can also toss everything together in the salad bowl, but the sections of patty pan may get a bit squooshed then; it doesn't matter from a gustatory perspective, but it will be a bit less presentable.)