As the proud owner of a part of a CSA share — and thus the owner of 2 lbs of summer squash every week for the last month and a half –- my recent discovery of the “Recipes for Health” series in the New York Times’ Health section has been a real boon. Operating on the premise that cooking for yourself is the best way to eat healthily, Martha Rose Shulman offers recipes that use seasonal ingredients in, at least to my sometimes uninventive culinary mind, off-the-beaten-path ways. It helps that she’s not a skimper on eggs and cheese, but that’s perhaps for another post. Over six days about a week and a half ago, she printed five recipes that revolved around summer squash. A fan of things Spanish and eggy, I made the Pisto Manchego to bring in for lunch at work (but, sadly, ended up forgoing the eggs since they’re not transportable as prepared in the dish). Below is my adaptation of the recipe. (My comments are added after the dashes where I made changes.)
Pisto de la Mancha
Recipe adapted from the New York Times
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
4 garlic cloves, minced
2 pounds zucchini, or a combination of green and yellow summer squash, diced — I recommend not using zucchini if you can avoid it. The funky yellow guys we’ve been getting at CSA have more taste and add more visual pop to your dish.
2 pounds tomatoes, peeled, seeded and chopped, or 1 (28-ounce) can, drained and chopped (see note below)
1/4 teaspoon sugar
Salt to taste (a generous amount, at least 1 teaspoon)
Lots of freshly ground black pepper — Lots and lots and lots!
6 eggs — As I mentioned above, I didn’t use any eggs since I prepared this the night before eating and I didn’t think our office microwave was up to the task of baking eggs (see Shulman’s note on advanced prep below). Without eggs, this is more of a side dish.
I liberally added sage and fresh thyme to the mix to give it more flavor.
Note: When you seed the tomatoes, set a strainer over a bowl. Squeeze the seeds into the strainer, then press the pulp and juice through the strainer into the bowl. Discard the seeds and use the juice as described below. — This is a really onerous process. I ended up sort of smashing my tomatoes against the strainer, then picking them up and rinsing them under a gentle stream of water in the sink to remove the seeds. Do this task first when you are prepping your ingredients, since it takes a while.
1. Heat the oil in a large, heavy, nonstick skillet over medium heat, then add the onion. Stir often, until just about tender — about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook, stirring, for another minute or two until fragrant.
2. Stir in the squash and 1/2 teaspoon salt, and toss together for five minutes, until the squash is coated with oil and beginning to soften. Add the tomatoes and sugar, then salt to taste (3/4 to 1 teaspoon) and turn the heat to medium-high. Stir often for five to 10 minutes, until the tomatoes have slightly cooked down.
3. Add the juice from the tomatoes plus 1/4 cup water, stir together, and turn the heat back down to medium-low. Cook uncovered for 30 to 35 minutes, until the vegetables are soft and easy to mash. Stir often, and add water as necessary, every 10 minutes or so, until the mixture cooks down and begins to stick to the pan. From time to time, press on the squash with the back of your spoon so that it breaks down. Taste, adjust the salt, and add lots of pepper.
4. If you want to add eggs (I didn’t) then the instructions continue: Using the back of your spoon, make six wells in the vegetable mixture and break an egg into each well. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Cover the pan, and cook until the eggs have set, about six to eight minutes (the whites should be set, but the yolks should still be runny). Serve, using a spatula to dish out portions of pisto topped with an egg.
Advance preparation (for pisto with eggs): The pisto will be delicious for three or four days, but until you reheat it, don’t cook the eggs. To reheat the pisto, preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Transfer the cooked pisto to a lightly oiled baking dish. Make six depressions in the top, and break an egg into each one. Salt and pepper lightly, and bake in the oven six to eight minutes or until the eggs set.