I have a confession: sometimes I eat ugly food. as much as I resisted the acceptance of southern-style food — moving to the south for the rigid, pre-teen years after having been a ravenous, open-minded kid in the far east (that was jellyfish!? whaa?) — and as much as I hate admitting to being such an a-hole, I was flat wrong. southern food is really quite delicious. but no matter the taste, cream gravy and stewed collards are just not photogenic. and there's not much that can be done to make them so. the standards can be made healthier, with less saturated fat and salt...but they're still just not that pretty on the plate. now, as a fully-reformed open-minded omnivore, I sometimes order a plate of just the un-pretty side dishes ("step sisters")...3 or 4 of them: collards or jalapeno creamed spinach, black eyed peas, okra and tomatoes...and yeah, probably the mac-an-cheese or cheese grits (which is okay because I don't eat the deep-fried-battered-steak, right?).
this weekend, we had 7 or 8 yellow squash wasting an entire crisper drawer, and this recipe called me. some more traditional recipes for squash casserole cook the veg until it's entirely broken down and, well, squashy. generally, I prefer a vegetable's original texture...but hey, I also don't cook collards for two hours at a time. call me inauthentic; I'm at peace with it.
summer squash casserole
adapted from the lady who received a sculpted bust of herself in butter, with a little bit of my own flair
2 lbs yellow squash, sliced
1 c. chopped onion
1-2 cloves garlic, chopped
1/2 tsp salt, or to taste
1/4 tsp pepper, or to taste
1 tbsp worcestershire sauce, or to taste
1 tbsp brown or dijon mustard
2 tbsp butter or olive oil
1 c. panko or breadcrumbs
1/2 c. milk
1 c. cheddar cheese, shredded (supplementing a tad with goat cheese is wonderful, if it's lying around)
1/2 c. parsley, chopped
1/4 c. panko or seasoned bread crumbs, mixed with
1/8 c. parmesan, shredded
in large skillet, sautee onion in butter or oil, until golden and translucent....or caramelized to your taste. add squash and garlic, salt, pepper, mustard and worcestershire sauce, sauteing until wilted and nearly tender, but still al dente.
butter 1 1/2-quart baking dish. stir breadcrumbs, parsley and cheese into the squash mixture, and turn into buttered casserole dish. pour milk over squash and sprinkle with the parmesan cheese and additional crumbs. bake at 350°, uncovered, for 20 minutes, until milk is absorbed and the squash casserole is bubbly. garnish with another tbsp or so of parsley...to attempt giving it a little color.
otherwise, just eat it in a dimly lit room.