Monday, July 29, 2013

You Say Squash Casserole, I Say Nana's Squash

My Mother-in Law was a wonderful cook and could cook vegetables better than any I have ever tasted.  If it came from the garden she could turn it into a flavor extravaganza.  Even something as simple as new potatoes became a taste and texture affair when she worked her kitchen magic on them. She was never one for gadgets and special use items.  In fact, her best cooking was done in an old electric skillet, ( Can you say Best. Okra. Ever.) a couple of pots, and baking pans.  We all miss Nana so much,  and we miss all of her cooking but we especially miss Nana's Squash.

This is my attempt to recreate it.  I don't think she had a recipe for it, she just did it by feel and smell.  I watched her countless times and know how she made it, I just don't know exactly "how". Mine is not exactly like hers, though I can come close.

                                                                   Nana's Squash

makes 4 servings
2 cups summer squash cut into small pieces
1 small onion chopped (small dice)
1/4-1/2 cup mayonnaise (I use 1/4 but 1/2 is more like Nana's.  More tastes way better but...)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 - 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/2 cup ( or more) grated cheese
1 tablespoon melted butter ( use real and add another tablespoon if you'd like)
12 saltine crackers crushed

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Cook the squash in boiling salted water until it is quite soft.  Drain in a colander and using the back of a spoon, push out as much liquid as you can without pushing the squash through the colander holes.  After that grab a couple of paper towels and press on the top of the squash to blot as much excess moisture as possible.  Put the mostly dry squash in a mixing bowl and mash it with a fork until it resembles chunky mashed potatoes.  Stir in the onion  and mix well.  Add the mayonnaise, salt and pepper and incorporate it completely.  Put it into a greased oven safe dish. ( 4 servings fit in a standard loaf pan)  Top with the cheese.  In a small bowl toss the cracker crumbs with the melted butter to coat it evenly.  Sprinkle the crumbs on top of the cheese and pop it into the oven for about 20 minutes or until the onions are soft, the cracker crumbs are nicely browned, and everything is bubbly.

You might notice from the picture my squash is in chunks.  I did not cook it quite long enough to mash so ours was a lot chunkier than it should have been.  You might also look at the picture and ask "Where is the cheese?"  That is a valid question and the answer would be on the plate where I grated it and promptly forgot it until I had already put the cracker crumbs on the squash.  At that point I decided to just bake it as is.
Don't forget the  cheese!
It was good but could have been so much better.  If Nana was watching she would have noticed I am still terribly absentminded.  The upside is I have cheese grated for the next time I make this and because summer is squash prime time, it will probably be next week.

We all agreed it was really good, but it is just not the same as it was when Nana did the cooking.  She truly did have a magic touch!

If you want a delicious way to eat squash try this recipe.  Even the squash indifferent like this. Son3, the vegetable hater, is the exception.  Even he might like it if he would ever let one single bite of squash pass through his lips.  I am guessing the world will never know his true opinion.

I wish I could do this justice, Nana, but even more I just wish you were here!

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