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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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
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.