April, come she will,
When streams are ripe and swelled with rain;
May, she will stay,
Resting in my arms again.
June, she'll change her tune,
In restless walks she'll prowl the night;
July, she will fly,
And give no warning to her flight.
August, die she must,
The Autumn winds blow chilly and cold;
September, I'll remember,
A love once new has now grown old.
-April Come She Will by Simon & Garfunkel
The hot, dry winds of summer that fueled the wildfires across Colorado are just a memory. Fall brings torrential rains that wash through the burn-scared hills, a vicious flash flood that decimates everything in its path. The quiet stream down the road has become a raging river, it rumbles through the quiet trees and reminds me to never underestimate the fury of Mother Nature. The rain also brings with it the essence of fall. I can smell it in the smoky, damp leaves, in the fog that shrouds the mountains in mystery, in the dense overgrowth of the forest, in the sticky, ripe fruit and vegetables of the garden.
Now that the weather is cooler, I been taking long walks through the forest and along the stream. It's like a secret hide-away, so close to home. Eve and I spend hours there, exploring new paths and finding hidden treasures. Just yesterday we found a collection of massive concrete flower pots, cracked and crooked with age, and overflowing with trees and vines, as if planted by some giant long, long ago. His memory lives on.
I come home invigorated and craving the flavours of fall. Spice muffins, apple cider spiced tea, and stuffed squash have all been staples in my kitchen for the last few weeks.
The garden can sense the presence of fall, too. The basil has gone to seed, the tomatoes are furiously trying to ripen before the first frost, and the enormous patty pan squash has become lanky and wild with blooms, swallowing up half the back garden in its urge to proliferate. Summer squash is one of those easy vegetables; it needs only a bit of water to thrive. Perhaps that's why I plant it each year. It's low maintenance. In fact, the only maintenance it requires at all is to harvest the hordes of squash it produces every few days. And, though I try my hardest to stay on top of it, inevitably some get left on the plant too long and turn into behemoths. I had three mammoth-sized patty pans last week, and I couldn't let them go to waste. So I stuffed them.
Large zucchini and summer squash have seeds that are tough, similar to the seeds in pumpkins and other winter squash. It's best just to scoop them out and discard them. This leaves a nice sized hole for the stuffing. I hollow out the squash further by scooping out some of the flesh with a spoon. I chop it and mix it into the filling to stuff back into the squash. Bring them to the table whole for a show-stopping main course that your family won't soon forget.
Stuffed Patty Pan
3 large patty pan squash (or zucchini)
1/2 cup dry Arborio rice
1 cup water
1 lb all natural mild Italian sausage
1 onion, chopped
3 cloves of garlic, chopped
2 large tomatoes, chopped
2 Tbsp capers, drained
1/2 tsp dry oregano
1/3 cup finely grated Parmesan cheese
salt and pepper to taste
Preheat your oven to 375 F (190 C). Combine the rice and water and bring to a boil, stir in a pinch of salt. Cover tightly and cook the rice over low heat for 15 minutes, until the water has been absorbed. Set aside.
In a very large skillet, brown the sausage then stir in the onion and garlic. Cook until the onion is tender. Add the chopped tomatoes (with their juice), the capers, oregano, and salt and pepper to taste. Cook over low heat while you prepare the squash.
Cut to top off the squash (similar to cutting the top off a jack-o-lantern) and reserve. Alternately, if you're using zucchini, slice off the top 1/4 of the zucchini and reserve for the "lid." With a spoon, scoop out all of the large seeds and discard (don't worry if a few are left behind). Continue to hollow out the squash with the spoon until you have a nice, large bowl. Chop the squash that you've removed and stir it into the sausage mixture as you go. Rub the squash "bowls" with olive oil and sprinkle the insides with salt.
When ready to stuff, stir the rice and the Parmesan cheese into the sausage mixture. Pack the stuffing into the squash "bowls," and top each squash with its reserved lid. Bake for 1 hour.
I love to bring these to the table whole. It's a showstopper. To serve, cut the squash into quarters.