Meet cocozelle, a thin-skinned summer squash similar to the common zucchini. It’s covered with light and dark green stripes, making it look much more delicate than zucchini.
I had never heard of cocozelle (I love saying that word. It sounds so romantic.) A couple of days ago, my husband came home from work with a few cocozelles in hand and gently set them on the island in the kitchen. They were from Molly Miron, the editor of the Bemidji Pioneer. She lives on a small farm and every summer has a prolific vegetable garden.
When I mentioned cocozelle to Cheryl Krystosek of Chill Creek Ridge, a farm north of Itasca State Park, she knew exactly what I was talking about. She and her husband, Dale, sell their mostly organic produce at the local farmers market. She told me she has had cocozelle in her garden for at least a few years.
I finally used the cocozelle to make an evening meal. I patted the same wild rice mixture from my last post into individual-serving sized gratin dishes. One batch of the mixture made just enough to form crusts in four dishes. I baked the wild rice crusts for 15 minutes at 350 degrees and then gave them time to cool.
In the meantime, I pulled the turning slicer that I bought two years ago and never used out of the closet.
I had watched the slicer being used at a chef demonstration at the farmers market and thought I definitely needed one myself.
I sliced unpeeled cocozelle into very thin strands that looked like angel hair pasta. I set my squash pasta aside and moved onto the sauce.
If you were at the cooking demonstration I did on Saturday at the Women’s Expo in Bemidji, you watched as I made a simple butter sauce flavored with fresh herbs, white wine, some cream and chicken broth. I used that same sauce to toss with the angel hair cocozelle and added some toasted pine nuts.
The cocozelle and sauce were spooned over the prebaked wild rice crusts and topped with grated Parmesan. Then, I just put them back into the oven long enough for tiny bubbles to appear in the sauce that gathered along the edges of the gratin dishes.
My husband and I made a meal of it. He had a ciabatta roll on the side. Wild Rice Crust filled with Angle Hair Cocozelle Squash would also make a lovely side to grilled chicken, or any kind of meat, really.
Most home cooks don’t own a turning slicer. Just use your sharp chef’s knife to julienne the soft summer squash. Any summer squash would give the same delicious results.
This is truly a dish made of fresh, local ingredients. And, it is proof that wild rice crust is not just for quiche. It is very versatile. If you have another idea for ways to use the wild rice crust, leave a comment and tell us about it.
Added morning of September 2nd, 2010: Do be careful if you use a turning slicer. Don’t put the slicer into a sink full of soapy dishwater and then stick your hand down into the water. My husband says the gouge in the tip of his finger is the size of a 1/8 teaspoon. He’s been known to exaggerate and be a bit dramatic. Unfortunately, the only kind of bandages we have in the house are those that appeal to our grandchildren. Won’t he look cute at the office today with his Shrek and Hello Kitty bandaged finger?
But, still, I do love a man with dishpan hands!
“Angel Hair” Cocozelle Squash in Wild Rice Crust
- 1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese
- 1 large egg
- 3 tablespoons butter, melted
- 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
- 2 1/2 cups cooked wild rice
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 2 to 3 medium cocozelle squash, or any summer squash, julienned
- 3 to 4 tablespoons butter, divided
- 1 medium shallot, minced
- 5 chubby cloves garlic, minced
- 1/4 cup dry white wine
- 1/4 cup heavy whipping cream
- 1/3 cup chicken broth
- Fresh herbs, minced (I used flat-leaf parsley, basil and delicate fronds from the fennel stems in my garden)
- Salt and pepper to taste
- A generous handful of pine nuts, toasted
Combine Parmesan cheese, 1 egg, 3 tablespoons melted butter and lemon juice in a large mixing bowl. Stir in cooked rice, 1/4 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Spoon into four lightly greased individual-serving sized gratin dishes or shallow ramekins. Use a spoon to press mixture into bottom and up sides of dishes. Bake in preheated 350-degree oven for 15 minutes. Let cool on wire rack. At this point, crust can be covered tightly and stored in refrigerator.
Melt 1 tablespoon butter in skillet. Add shallot and garlic and saute until soft. Add wine, cream and broth. Stir in prepared squash. Simmer very gently for 6 to 8 minutes until squash is al dente. Stir in remaining 2 tablespoons butter, stirring until melted. Add fresh herbs and salt and pepper to taste. Stir in pine nuts.
Divide mixture evenly between 2 of the baked crusts. (The other two crusts can be stored in plastic freezer bags in the freezer for up to a month.) Grate fresh Parmesan over the top of each. Bake in preheated 350-degree oven for about 15 minutes, or until sauce bubbles around the edges. Serve hot. Make 2 servings plus 2 extra crusts to use at another time.
Tip from the cook