zucchini

It’s not very interesting to hear that someone’s content or that she’s counting her blessings, but that’s really all I’ve got for you today, all frustrations and disappointment eclipsed by other, fuller emotions, so I’m sorry. What can I say? At least there’s a recipe at the end.

This weekend, I went antiquing in Gurnee (where I bought seven white plates, a gift and a vintage camera, all for under $35!) and had dinner at Cracker Barrel, after which I fell asleep in the car, just like I did when I was eight. I stayed up late watching television, I went to church, I phoned an old friend from freshman year who still makes me laugh like crazy, and the skies were always blue, and the sun bright, and people I loved nearby.

One of my best friends went on a first date this weekend, too, after we spent the morning shopping, and she looked so nice, I was so proud of her for giving it a shot, and even though she and the guy had an only OK time, the whole thing reminded me how much I love her and am glad to know her. I tried on a jacket at H & M and a random stranger came over to tell me it was supercute, I had to buy it, so I did, and I wish very much I could take him with me every time I go shopping. And there were bike rides and fresh tomatoes from the garden and DVDs of Life that my friend Becky gave me for my birthday, and I just think, you know, in the seasons of life, there are some times that are especially good, and this is one of them.

zucchini and beans

I do find though that the fuller my life feels, the less I have to say. Is that strange? I don’t want to make a point or be provocative; I just want to sit back and put my feet up and enjoy it. I like to listen still—do you have a story? I’m all ears—and I like to read (the current nightstand count is eleven books, but three are the same), but mostly I just want to take everything in and, well, that’s it.

green beans

Which wouldn’t be a problem except that there’s this casserole I want to tell you about, so I’ve got to write something, and here all that’s coming out is, Isn’t life grand? I’m trying, OK?

This casserole was just supposed to be a way to use up my CSA veggies, a single recipe that would rid me of the guilt of keeping fresh squash and green beans and onions in my fridge all week.

But it was more.

This is not your typical casserole, the kind that’s an ambiguous slop with something like “surprise” tacked on to its name, filled with unknowns and unlikeds. Instead, it is all the good things of say, green bean casserole (the one I love at Thanksgiving!), but everything inside is homemade (no canned soup or packaged onions involved), and, bonus, you can use even more vegetables.

squash casserole

The bulk of the credit lies in the homemade roux—melted butter mixed with flour and heated and whisked until thick and smooth—mixed with sour cream that covers all the roasted veggies and makes everything so flavorful and creamy, I feel like you could throw gym socks in there and it would still taste good.

Because I improvised ingredients, I wish I had focused on getting all the vegetables roasted in single layers (before the part where you’re mixing with sauce and topping with bread crumbs in a pan) which would have made things faster and saved me time, but nonetheless my mistake gave me crisper green beans, which, while my family hates, I love.

casserole

And I had it this weekend, one in which I remembered so many good things about summer, and life, which I was busy living, and that was very fitting, indeed.




Green Bean & Yellow Squash Casserole
Adapted from Gourmet, September 2005

I’ve kept the directions pretty close to the original because that’s how I used them, but here’s what I’d recommend next time: with the roasting of the vegetables, the whole point is that you roast in single layers—that’s why the zucchini were split into three batches when this recipe originally called for 10 zucchini. So with these new proportions, I’d recommend roasting the beans/onions first, possibly in single layers in two pans at a time, to speed things up; then roasting the zucchini in one batch.

Of course, you can feel free to do it as written (what I did), but the green beans will be a little crisp still (I love them that way, but you might want them more tender in a casserole, as my family does).

Ingredients:
1 medium yellow squash, trimmed, halved lengthwise, and sliced crosswise 1/8 inch thick
1/4 cup olive oil
2 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons black pepper
2 medium onions, chopped (2 cups)
4 1/4 cups green beans, trimmed and chopped
1 1/2 cups chopped green onions
7 tablespoons unsalted butter
4 slices firm white sandwich bread with crust, coarsely ground in a food processor (about 2 1/4 cups)
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 3/4 cups reduced-sodium chicken broth (14 fl oz)
1 cup sour cream

Directions:
Put oven rack in lower third of oven and put a large shallow baking pan on rack, then preheat oven to 475°F.

Toss 1/3 of squash with 1 tablespoon oil, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper in a bowl, then spread in preheated baking pan in 1 layer and roast in oven, stirring once, until tender, 12 to 15 minutes. Transfer squash to a large bowl. Roast remaining squash in 2 batches in same manner, tossing with 1 tablespoon oil, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper (per batch) just before roasting and adding to bowl when done.

Toss green beans, onions and green onions with remaining tablespoon oil, remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt, and remaining 1/2 teaspoon pepper in another large bowl, then spread in baking pan and roast, stirring once, until onions are golden, 8 to 10 minutes. Transfer to bowl with squash.

Move oven rack to middle position and reduce oven temperature to 400°F.
Melt 3 tablespoons butter in a saucepan and remove from heat, then add bread crumbs and a pinch of salt, tossing to coat crumbs. Spread evenly in cleaned baking pan and bake, without stirring, until pale golden, about 5 minutes.

Melt remaining 4 tablespoons butter in a 3-quart heavy saucepan over moderately low heat, then whisk in flour and cook roux, whisking constantly, 3 minutes. Add broth, whisking, and bring to a boil, whisking. Reduce heat and simmer, whisking occasionally, 3 minutes. Remove from heat and cool 5 minutes, whisking occasionally, then whisk in sour cream and salt and pepper to taste. Pour sauce over squash mixture and stir gently until combined well.

Butter a 13- by 9- by 2-inch glass or ceramic baking dish (3-quart capacity), then spread squash mixture evenly into it and sprinkle with bread crumbs. Bake casserole until golden and bubbling, 15 to 20 minutes. Serve immediately.

Shanna Mallon started Food Loves Writing back in 2008, as a way to remember her grandma and write about her life through food. Since then it's become a place leading her to a lifestyle of eating whole foods, a new home in Nashville and the love of her life, Tim. Follow Shanna on Twitter @foodloves, keep up with Food Loves Writing on Facebook and stay inspired with the monthly newsletter.

This Post Has 24 Comments

  1. Jacqui

    glad to hear you had such a lovely weekend! and gurnee? that’s my old stomping grounds. i used to work at the candy store in gurnee mills, and let me tell you, i could weigh a bag of chocolate raisins without even using a scale. yes, those were the days.

    but anyway. green bean casserole? yes, life IS grand.

  2. Niki

    Okay, so flaky me… but you said shopping in Gurnee… meaning Gurnee, IL?

    And this casserole looks fantastic. I personally like crispier green beans myself, although my mother loves veggies cooked until they are dead and no longer have any nutrients in them at all… Sad :(

  3. Janet

    When I check your Twitter account or blog for updates, you’re almost always writing exactly what’s on my mind only in more beautiful told stories, which brings me much joy.

    As for the second, less is more. Thoreau once said man has all it needs … I don’t know the exact quote – it was summarized in another book I read a few months ago that I kept renewing and wanting to share at the right moment. But he said something about how all one needs is found in nature like your long bike ride with your brother .

    I’d love for you to share the books on your nightstand. =)

    Btw, I was thinking about who I’d like to have dinner with again per your post. It reminded me how long it’s been since I’ve had a simple and quiet dinner with my mom so that’s what I did yesterday. So satisfying and blissful.

  4. Kim

    This looks delicious – how long does it take for all the individual roasting of the veggies? I tend to throw everything in the pan all at once and then bake it…but maybe that’s just me being lazy (surprise surprise) ;-)

  5. Shannalee

    Jacqui, I had no idea! Well, next time you’re there, you should give the antique barn by Cracker Barrel a visit. It’s huge, which means you can spend an hour or more just looking through all the random knick-knacks, and it’s so much fun.

    Noble Pig, I know. I had some for lunch today and, oh, wow, indeed.

    Niki, Gurnee, IL! Do you know it?

    Sprouted Kitchen, Thank you, dear Sara. You are sweet as ever.

    Lan, Less is more. Yes!

    Janet, What a lovely compliment! Thank you so much. I don’t know that much about Thoreau other than his thoughts on nature, so for those alone I like him. What’s better than time outside? Especially this time of year.
    PS – Since you asked: Art of Travel (Alain de Botton); My Life in France (Julia Child); Running with the Horses (Eugene Petersen) – I might have the title slightly off, but it’s something like that; Pilgrim at Tinker Creek (Annie Dillard); Why I Am a Christian (can’t remember the author, but it was given to me at a church recently); Life Together (Dietrich Bonhoeffer); and three versions of the Bible, because I’ve been meaning to transfer notes from two into the third so I’ll have everything in one. Plus three more I apparently can’t remember now! (so embarrassing)

    Kim, So the one thing the original recipe made a big deal about was that you shouldn’t, for any reason, try to roast all the veggies together; if you do, they’ll turn out soggy. I believe them, I guess, but if you try it your way, I’d love to hear what happens!

  6. Kim

    Wait, there’s a way to make a casserole/baked thingum like this without the veggies getting all soggy? I just assumed that’s the way life works – and enjoyed my soggy veggies. Actually, I sometimes refer to my “throw it in the oven and bake it” recipes as “mush.” ;-)

    Good to know that if I roast separately, they’ll stay crunchy/crisp!!

  7. Shannalee

    LOL, Kim, and PS I forgot to say how long it should take – well, the way I did it, it took like an hour just to roast the vegetables, but I really think that’s because I didn’t do them in single layers, so the middles weren’t getting cooked enough, yadda yadda. Basically it depends on how you do it.

    JessieV, Yay!! I’m so glad! Thanks for letting me know!

  8. Niki

    I live in Palos Hills, which on the map looks super far from you… but it’s not. I’m kind of a speed demon though, so maybe it is… It’s like 20 mins south of Chi-town. I usually make the trip up to Gurnee at least once a year for shopping at Gurnee Mills. We’ll either go around xmas time, or if we head up the our fav apple orchard in WI, we’ll stop there on the way home. Speaking of driving far north, I really want to go to that Mars Cheese place…. Cheese…. Too bad it upsets my stomach, it’s so good!
    But I’ve heard of tons of great places up there to pick your own fruit, but no one can tell me the names nor can they remember exactly where they are… Probably b/c they know if I went there, I’d pick all the fruit for myself…
    but yeah, I didn’t think you were from around these parts at all. Not sure why, but I so thought you lived in the east coast somewhere…

  9. Shannalee

    Niki! I live a lot closer to Palos Hills than to Gurnee, which was just a day trip Saturday. Definitely grew up hitting the outlets during my teenage years once a summer – have you been to the newer ones in Aurora? I like them better. And yep, I am a Chicago (area) girl, always have been – although I left part of my heart in Boston a few years ago, so maybe that’s why you thought me an East Coaster?

  10. The Leftoverist

    Just discovered your blog via a friend of mine who is VERY PICKY about which blogs she reads and praises. She praised yours up and down, and I see why. So happy to be in your world.

    I love what you said about being content. It’s true–sometimes the words (and blog entries) come easier when we’re less than content, but it’s only the best of writers who can write about contentedness well. There’s plenty of stories there if you know how to tell them.

  11. Shannalee

    kickpleat, Oh, I hope you get to make it for your dad! Tell me what you all think!

    Leftoverist, What a lovely comment. Who is your sweet, sweet friend that sent you over here? You need to give her a big hug for me. You are so right about it being the best writers who can write well about being happy and content, and I hope to have plenty of opportunities to practice and become more like them! Thanks again for stopping over!

  12. Niki

    I do like the Aurora outlet mall. I got my one and only Kate Spade from there. I personally heart the Michigan City Outlet Mall the most… I go every year on Labor Day w/ my mom.
    So the question is, Sox or Cubs?

  13. Shannalee

    Niki, That’s OK. We can still be friends.

    Shelley! It’s so rare you get to stop over here, so thanks for commenting! HA, yeah, even this recipe might not save a gym sock – it comes close though.

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