This is one of those meals I always associate with summer cooking: simmered ripe juicy tomatoes, young pattypan squash (available for a short period only in summer) and fresh green chillies straight from my balcony (and feta adds always a ray of sunshine to anything I eat!). I have based it on my Greek-style Giant Bean Stew, but replaced the beans with the beautiful pattypan squash I had brought from the market. Then I treated it as the base for two slightly different meals. First, I had it with feta and some leftover grilled sausage, then, two days later, I reheated it and put on top sliced grilled chicken breast and some olives. Both versions tasted fabulous and felt very summery.
If you’ve never heard about the pattypan squash, it’s a round flat vegetable looking a bit like a flying saucer. It can be eaten and prepared in many ways depending how young it is. Tiny – 1-2 cm – pattypan squashes are pickled in vinegar and bigger, with a big hand’s diameter can be cut into pieces and simmered or stir fried without removing the skin. The oldest are big, with very tough skin (its removal is obligatory) and can be stewed too, though I think they don’t taste as good as the smaller ones. Their neutral taste reminds me of a courgette, but the texture is slightly firmer.
TIPS: You can prepare this stew with fresh or canned tomatoes, with a tomato sauce and also with a mixture of two (this is the way I did it). If you taste it and feel something’s missing, add some tomato paste and simmer for several more minutes.
You can of course skip the sausage and serve it only with feta.
Preparation: 40-50 minutes
Ingredients (serves 2-3 people):
1 young pattypan squash (with a diameter similar to a big hand), cut into bite-sized cubes or the equivalent piece of an older, bigger pattypan (remember to remove the skin if it’s tough)
approx. 5 heaped tablespoons chopped Greek celery or Chinese celery (kintsai) with leaves (or 2-3 heaped tablespoons chopped/sliced standard celery stalks (threads removed))
2 big shallots, sliced
2-3 garlic cloves, chopped
400 ml (about 1 cup) chopped tomatoes (with or without the skin) or tomato sauce or a mixture of both
2 big bay leaves
sweet or hot chilli powder (Hungarian paprika is perfect here)
salt, ground pepper, oregano
200 g (about 5.3 – 7 oz) feta
10 slices of a sausage of your choice
(fresh green chilli, sliced)
Stir-fry the onion/shallots in 1 tablespoon olive oil until it becomes transparent.
Add the celery and the garlic and stir-fry for 3 more minutes.
Pour the tomatoes and add the bay leaves.
Simmer at low heat, stirring, until the tomatoes become mushy.
Add 100 ml water, the oregano and the pattypan squash, cover and let the stew simmer until the pattypan squash is slightly soft, checking frequently its texture (unless you want it to become mushy). The older the pattypan squash, the longer it will take.
Check from time to time if you don’t need to add more water (you can adjust the thickness of the stew to the way you like it, adding more or less water). Just before serving, season with salt and pepper.
Grill the sausage slices (I grill them under the oven grill and pat dry to remove the excess fat).
Divide the stew into individual bowls or soup plates. Put on top broken pieces of feta and, if you like it warm and slightly melted, warm it in the microwave (see the TIP above).
Add the sausage slices, a splash of good quality oil and sprinkle with more oregano. If you like chilli, add some fresh green sliced chilli too.
Serve with white bread.