When I was a young mother I took the role of feeding my family very seriously starting with growing fresh produce to cooking meals from scratch. Summer squash was easy to grow, sometimes so easy that I ended up with much more than we needed and was constantly trying to think of new ways to prepare it. Somewhere along the way I came up with a squash casserole that was a such a big hit it became part of my summer menu repertoire.
This year I didn’t plant summer squash but lo and behold, I have a couple volunteer plants growing in our compost pile (along with several potato plants). Faced once again with what to do with prolific summer squash, I pulled out my well-worn paperback copy of The Fannie Farmer Cookbook. During my early parenting years, this was the cookbook I went to again and again for the most basic recipes, especially for fresh vegetables. Fannie Farmer originally published her cookbook in 1896. It was unique in it’s day because she introduced the concept of standardized measurements using spoons and cups and discussed the nutritional value of whole foods at length.
Looking back at my old cookbook, I quickly realized that even at that early stage in my cooking career I hadn’t followed the recipe — at all. Not only did I use my own measurements, what I made was more of a squash gratin than what Fannie Farmer described as a squash ring. It was supposed to be cooked in a ring mold over a pan of hot water and then turned over onto a dish. I can’t remember if I ever tried the original recipe but more than likely, I took the ingredient list and did my own thing.
My Summer Squash Casserole
3 cups sliced summer squash — yellow, zucchini, patty pan, crookneck, whatever you have
3 eggs, well beaten
1/2 cup milk, cream or half-and-half
1/4 cup melted butter
1 shallot, chopped
Salt & pepper
Butter a medium baking dish. Arrange squash slices and sprinkle shallot over the top.
Beat eggs in a small bowl, mix milk with the eggs and pour over the squash.
Top with bread crumbs. Pour melted butter over the crumbs. Sprinkle grated cheese, salt & pepper on top.
Bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes or until squash is tender and breadcrumbs and cheese are toasty brown.
Who wouldn’t love this with all the cream, butter and cheese not to mention tender summer squash and crunchy bread crumbs?
A few weeks ago I heard from a childhood friend on Facebook. She had been going through her cookbooks and ran across a copy of The Boston Cooking School Cookbook by Fannie Farmer that had been given to my mother on her 22nd birthday by my great-grandmother. My mother along with millions of other housewives across the country used that cookbook when they were learning to cook and as a reference for years after. During my childhood, it was rivaled only by the Joy of Cooking. I’ve always preferred it because I found it easier to follow and I grew up with it sitting on the shelf in our kitchen.
When I was going out on my own in my early twenties, I asked my mother for her copy. She, unfortunately, was not one to part with anything she thought she might need one day so I bought a paperback copy instead. Eventually, she must have decided to part with it and sold it at a neighborhood yard sale. My friend’s stepmother purchased it and that’s how she ended up with it. She has her own mother’s copy and graciously offered to send my mother’s to me.
If you have an abundance of squash too, check out some of our other summer squash recipes here.