Summer Squash Soufflé

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There are 960 varieties of summer squash. Some common ones grown in North America are yellow, yellow crookneck, and pattypan squash as well as zucchini and Trombincino. This summer, the Black Cat farm is growing Rondé Nice, One Ball, and Eight Ball summer squash.

All squash belong to the Cucurbit botanical family, which includes melons, squash, and gourds. The members of this family include cucumbers, pumpkins, luffas, and watermelons. Cucurbit plants were among the first cultivated plants in the Old and New  Worlds.

As for summer squash, inhabitants of Mexico and Central America first cultivated it 8,000 to 10,000 years ago. Traditionally, Native Americans relied on squash as a dietary staple along with corn and beans. These three crops constituted the “Three Sisters.” Native Americans planted them together. The corn shaded the squash vines and the bean vines climbed the corn stalks.

The following summer squash soufflé recipe uses summer squash, instead of a soufflé dish or ramekin, as the vessel for the soufflé filling, which puffs up during baking. You can use any type of summer squash. However, we recommend round varieties of summer squash. Round varieties have a pleasing appearance in the final result. Ease of use is another factor. You can also use any size of summer squash. Final baking time will vary according to the size of the squash.

Ingredients

1 cup uncooked polenta cornmeal
4 cups water
1 cup whole milk or heavy cream
Salt

Eight medium summer squash, washed
1/2 cup fresh goat cheese
4 egg whites
Tomato sauce of basil pesto (optional)
Basil leaves for garnish (optional)

1. Combine the polenta, water, and milk or heavy cream in a medium pot. Over medium heat, continuously stir the mixture until it thickens, in approximately 20 minutes. Season to taste with salt. Remove the pot from the burner.

2. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.

3. Cut and discard the tops off of the summer squash. Hollow out the squash and place them in a roasting pan. Roast the squash until they give off water, in approximately 5 minutes.

4. Remove the squash from the oven and drain. Keep the oven on at the same temperature. Add a large dollop of goat cheese to the interior of each squash cup.

5. Whip the egg whites until they form soft peaks. Fold the whipped egg whites into the polenta. Spoon the polenta mixture into the squash cups until the mixture fills 3/4 of the volume of the squash cups.

6. Return the roasting pan with the squash to the oven. Bake until the soufflé filling has solidified and its surface is golden, in approximately 10 to 20 minutes, depending on the diameter and thickness of the squash.

7. Place each squash cup on a plate or shallow soup or pasta bowl. If desired, pool a moderate amount of tomato sauce or basil pesto around the base of each squash. Place a sprig or a few leaves on the top of the soufflé filling to garnish.

8. Serve immediately.