Queenie Cooks: Stuffed Yellow Squash

By Terry Harris

To me, there is nothing quite like the taste of fresh yellow summer squash. I love them any way you can prepare them, and today I am going to share my recipe for one of the most delicious squash dishes I have ever developed - almost.

Actually, I am sharing a copy or recreation of a favorite recipe – a replacement I came up with when I lost the one that I originally had created!  True story.

Several years ago, I was asked to plan and prepare a very special fund-raising dinner featuring “something different and delicious and totally unexpected.” Well, I came up with these wonderfully tasty Stuffed Squash Boats that were such a hit that even people who previously claimed to hate squash still rave about them. That’s the good news.

The bad news is that when I went to make them again at a later date, I could not find original recipe anywhere!  I searched through my computer, looked through loose-leaf recipe books, ransacked filing cabinets, and sifted through the embarrassingly tall “to be filed” pile on my desk. I even dug out and searched in a previous (now obsolete) computer.

I located directions for successful experiments baking, frying, sautéing and microwaving squash. I even found a recipe I did not remember writing down for Granddaddy Frank’s favorite Squash and Onions, which basically is just a whole lot of squash with a whole lot of onions cooked down in butter (over a whole lot of time) to a delectable brown mush. But no Stuffed Squash Boats did I find.

So, I did what any good cook will do – I called Mama. It had been a fund-raising dinner for a cause near and dear to her heart, and she remembered the dish well – but not my recipe.  She did say that she had been thinking about remaking them herself - as she remembered them – and why not come over for lunch to try them out? Well, who could turn down lunch at Mama’s?

Well, I ran down to the farm, and when I got there, she had them already in the oven!  We had a great lunch between the Squash Boats and Corn on the Cob and Fresh Cucumber Salad, and the squash were beautiful – and delicious.  But we agreed that they were not “quite” like the ones we remembered making before.  So, after a nice visit, I headed back home with a big bag full of squash courtesy of my sister-in-law, ready to try again.  

The next day, I put together a combination of what she had done, some ideas from a recipe that sounded familiar online, and things that I thought I remembered from the originals, and you know what?  They are great!  The little “boats” are pretty easy – and actually fun - to carve with a spoon.

As for the stuffing, I liked the crunch of what she did much better than the “bread-stuffing” texture of the crumbs I used, so I recommend using Panko breadcrumbs in this new/old recipe.  I loved how the basil I added from my herb garden gave them a nice, fresh taste, even though I knew I had none the first time, so I kept that.  I also lengthened the baking time because I did not think the squash itself should be too crunchy.  (Of course, you can adjust your baking time to make yours as tender – or crisp – as you prefer.)

As I was recreating the recipe, I remembered – too late in the process – that I might have used some mozzarella sprinkled atop the little boats in my original recipe.  So, instead, halfway through cooking, I drizzled melted butter on top of my little boats for a little “dairy” moistness. Strictly speaking, I don’t think that was necessary.  But for flavor?  Well… it’s butter!  I mean… butter, bacon – can you ever have too much of either?  But thereafter I have always added a little mozzarella in with the parmesan.

Speaking of bacon, I do think a little fried up crisp and sprinkled on top of these would be great.  For added color, you can add chopped pimentos to the stuffing, and you certainly can use dried herbs if fresh ones are not handy.  I have even considered browning and crumbling a little sausage to add in, but that would slide it over from the side dish to the entrée category.

Anyway, these may not be exactly by “that original recipe” but they are delicious, and very simple to make. They are also really pretty – nice for plating, and something you could be proud to serve anyone any time with anything.  And who knows?  You might just end up with some yellow squash converts!  Enjoy!

Baked Stuffed Yellow Squash Boats

4 medium yellow squash

1 medium onion, diced

1 large clove garlic, minced

1 to 3 Tablespoons fresh basil (or 1 T dried Italian seasoning)

salt & fresh ground pepper, to taste

olive oil for sautéing

1½  cups Panko Breadcrumbs

1⁄2 cup grated parmesan cheese + extra for tops

¼ Cup grated mozzarella cheese

1 large egg

4 Tablespoons melted butter (optional)

½ to 1 pound mild bulk sausage, browned and thoroughly drained (may omit for vegetarian side)

Pre-heat oven to 375 degrees.  Cut squash in half lengthwise and make boats by scraping flesh and seeds into a large bowl with a spoon, saving seeds and pulp. Sauté onion and garlic on medium in olive oil. Add squash pulp and seeds, salt, and pepper.  Cook 10 minutes until almost soft.  Remove from heat and mix in bowl with cooked sausage, breadcrumbs, herbs, and cheeses. Add egg last so it does not “cook” when it hits the sautéed vegetables. Place boats in baking dish sprayed with cooking oil, cover with foil, and bake 10 minutes.  Drizzle boats with melted butter (optional), re-cover, and return to oven for 10 more minutes.  Remove foil and continue to bake about 8 – 12 more minutes, until tops begin to brown and squash boats are tender, but still holding their shape.  Enjoy!