This afternoon we reconvened our dinner group. We have been meeting with these friends for more than 30 years. Paula and I were asked to bring a vegetable side dish today. I read about this recipe, which was created by Vivian Howard of The Chef and Farmer restaurant in Kinston. We used Swiss cheese in the recipe and cut back on the quantity appropriately. For example, we only used 3 onions, 4 zucchini and 4 yellow squash. It was really, really delicious. Everyone loved it so much that we didn’t bring any home!

If you are interested, here is the recipe…

Squash and Fontina Casserole

Chef Vivian Howard was happy to share the recipe for her Squash and Fontina Casserole, which she describes as “a cross between traditional squash casserole and the long-cooked squash and onions I grew up eating.”

1 tablespoons butter

2 tablespoons cornmeal

2 tablespoons bacon fat (or olive oil…)

4 medium yellow onion halved and sliced thin, about 4 cups

2 tablespoons minced garlic

8-10 medium yellow squash or zucchini, sliced 1/4 inch rounds or half moons

3 teaspoons finely chopped fresh sage or 1 1/2 teaspoons dried sage

1 teaspoon finely chopped rosemary

3 teaspoons kosher salt

1 teaspoon ground black pepper

2 cups grated Fontina, Swiss or white American cheese

1 large egg

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter an 8-inch-by-8-inch casserole dish and dust the inside of the dish with cornmeal. Alternately, you could use six (6-ounce) ramekins and make individual casseroles.

Heat the bacon fat over medium heat in a 12-inch saute pan or cast iron skillet. Add onions and garlic and cook until onions are translucent. Add the squash, sage, rosemary, salt and black pepper. Stir it all to combine and cook over medium-high heat for about 25 minutes, checking periodically to make sure things aren’t sticking. You are looking for the squash to release all its liquid and begin to brown. Remove pan from the heat. While things are still steamy, stir in cheese. Allow the mixture to cool slightly. Then stir in the egg.

Fill whatever vessel you choose three-fourths of the way with the squash mixture. Bake uncovered for 30 to 45 minutes for the large casserole, or 15 to 20 minutes for the small ones. Either way you’re looking for it to brown on top and around the edges. Serve warm.

If you want a really delicious dish to enjoy with any meat, I encourage you to try this dish. It is not that easy to make. I say that because Paula told me so. She made the dish while I was taking care of something else this morning.

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