Around this time every year, our household is drowning in two things: squash and pesto. The pesto is due to the 2 pounds of basil from our bulk share, and although I love how this pesto stock means having fresh basil flavor during deepest, darkest winter, in the summer, I’m haunted by the lingering headache of churning out 18 containers of pesto, not to mention panicked that I need to find new and interesting ways to use the pesto before I forget that it’s there. Call it freezer-induced amnesia– if I don’t see it since it’s blocked by ice cream, then I forget it’s there.
The squash however, is not part of the bulk share but the usual squash-multiplies-like-bunnies plenty that everyone deals with. In our case, we average receiving 2 lbs of squash with each delivery for 5-7 weeks. Like last summer on this blog, I challenge myself to find new ways to use the squash since it really is not a favorite vegetable for either John or me so there’s a need to keep things interesting. (Click on the squash category at the bottom of this page, and you’ll see there are at least 10 more recipes I could hyperlink to.) If I can find ways to use squash with pesto then I feel like it’s like scoring a double word score in Scrabble.
A savory bread pudding has been my favorite squash/pesto experiment from this summer. I took cubes of buttery, eggy challah, tossed it with melted butter and fresh herbs from our garden, then spread them out on a baking sheet so that they got toasty. When toasted, the challah was ready to drink up a rich custard made with eggs, whole milk, and plenty of shredded smoked mozzarella. While the challah cubes made nice nice with the custard, I sautéed sooooooooo much some summer squash with pieces of chicken Italian sausage, onion, and garlic. Everything got mixed together then layered with dollops of pesto in a baking dish before baking until crusty on the outside, a little smooshy in the center.
John took a bite and his eyes got super big. He declared it to be like eating Thanksgiving stuffing which coming from John, has to be the ultimate culinary compliment. 🙂 Imagine pieces of buttery, crisp bread, with a tender, gooey center. The spice of the sausage marries the sweet squash and the subtle smoke flavor from the cheese. Throughout it all, you have fresh, bright flavors from the pesto and herbs. Any annoyance with pesto and squash disappeared while I ate this. In fact, I think this may have to appear on this year’s Thanksgiving table, a way to use up the winter squash that becomes my nemesis in late fall.
- 3/4 loaf challah bread, cut into 2 inch cubes
- 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
- 1 teaspoon chopped fresh savory
- 2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme
- salt and pepper
- 4 large eggs
- 2 cups whole milk
- 16 oz smoked mozzarella, shredded
- olive oil
- 13 oz bulk Italian chicken sausage (or if you have links, remove the casing)
- 1 small sweet onion, diced
- 2 cloves garlic, minced (yields about 1 teaspoon)
- 1 lb summer squash, sliced into 1/4 inch thick rounds
- 8 oz pesto
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Add challah cubes to a large bowl. Sprinkle in thyme, savory, and salt and pepper to taste. Drizzle with melted butter, and using your hands, mix the bread cubes together. Spread the bread cubes in a single layer on a baking sheet and bake for 15-20 minutes or until toasty and golden.
In the same large bowl in which you mixed the challah and butter, whisk together the eggs, milk, and cheese along with 1/4 teaspoon of salt and 1/8th teaspoon black pepper. Add the toasted bread cubes and mix with your hands. Set aside to let the challah croutons drink up the custard.
In a large skillet, heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil over medium heat. Add onion and saute until softened, about 5 minutes. Add the chicken sausage and garlic and cook until sausage is browned, about 6-8 minutes. Add the squash and cook until softened, about 7-8 minutes. Add this mixture to the custard soaked bread and mix until combined.
Butter a 13 x 9 baking pan. Add half of the bread, squash, and sausage mixture. Dollop 1/2 of pesto on top then top with remaining bread pudding mixture. Return to 350 degree oven and bake until golden and crusty on top, about 35-45 minutes. Remove and let sit for 10 minutes before serving. Serve by sitting a scoop of bread pudding on top of each plate, smeared with some of the remaining pesto.
CSA Count: 4
Summer squash, basil, garlic, onion
Garden Count: 2