Ah, farmer’s markets. Five or so years ago, getting to a farmer’s market in my neck of the woods was highly inconvenient. Saturdays only, early hours if you wanted decent pickings, horrible parking, traffic congestion…and the fact of passing half a dozen or more grocery stores on the way…No thank-you! Too much to do and stress out about already! As much as I appreciated better for you produce and supporting a (relatively) local business, often times it was not worth the hassle. Fast forward to 2013…today I am aware of at least eight different farmers markets within a 15-20 minute drive. What a long way they have come in finally finding their ways into the not so sleepy commuter towns of America. Wohoo!
My favorite thing about farmer’s market is the variety. Unlike chain grocery stores, they have the leeway to grow unconventional produce and as well as sell them at reasonable prices. I think my most giddy find was Chinese Long Beans. These loooooooong, thin green beans made regular appearances at dinner growing up in Japan. When we transferred back state side, though, the only place you could find them were in Asian markets…which meant special grocery trips into the capital beltway. In addition to my nostalgic beans, I have also found beautiful Ichiban and Chinese eggplants ( another set of childhood of veggies not often found in a conventional store), purple and striped bell peppers (wha??), sooo many varieties of tomatoes….oh, and a yellow watermelon! I think that was my second most giddy find.
Another interesting find were these Eight Ball squash (squashes?). How cute are they? Basically, the green ones are zucchini hybrids and the yellow ones yellow squash hybrids. They taste exactly the same as their conventional siblings. That means an Eight Ball squash absolutely begs for presentation! The best way to preserve the cuteness of the Eight Ball squash is to hollow them out and stuff them. As I was contemplating what to do with them these lovelies the morning of my first “Furlough Friday”, I thought a stuffed squash with an egg on top would be just the thing to brighten my day. After seeing how beautiful the idea turned out for The Kitchn, I knew I was on the right track.
Breakfast “8 Ball” Squash
inspired by my Baked Eggs and The Kitchn
- 3 eight-ball squash
- 2-4 tablespoons olive oil
- Salt and pepper
- 1 medium tomato, diced
- 2-3 slices prosciutto, chopped
- 2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
- 2 tablespoons chèvre (goat cheese)
- 3 eggs
- Basil sprigs for garnish (optional)
- Preheat oven to 375°F.
- Slice off the stem of the squash, about 1/2 an inch from the top. Feel free to retain the stem tops for extra presentation oomph.
- With a melon baller (or small spoon) scoop out the flesh of the squash. Make sure to keep about ¼ inch “wall” along the sides and base. Set the flesh aside in a bowl.
- Dip a pastry brush into the olive oil and rush the inside and outside of the squash shells. Set the squash shells on a baking sheet and season with salt and pepper Bake for 10-15 minutes until just tender.
- While shells bake, prepare the stuffing.
- Crisp the chopped prosciutto in a skillet or frying pan over medium high heat. You should not need any additional oil once the prosciutto begins to render, but feel free to add if needed. Once browned and slightly crispy, approximately 2-3 minutes, set the prosciutto aside on a paper towel lined bowl or plate. Keep the rendered fat in the pan.
- Chop the squash flesh if needed, you don’t want huge chunks or you won’t be able to fit a lot into the squash shells.
- Add the squash flesh to the pan. Season the squash with salt and pepper and sauté until tender. Transfer to a large bowl.
- Next follow the same process for the tomatoes. Add to the same bowl as the squash.
- Toss the squash and tomatoes together until well mixed. Add the chopped basil and toss again. Set aside until ready to stuff the squash shells.
- When the squash shells are ready, begin layering the ingredients.
- Begin with the squash and tomato mixture, about 1 tablespoon.
- Follow with crumbled pieces of goat cheese, about ½ a teaspoon
- Then the crisped prosciutto, just a few crumbles, not even ¼ teaspoon.
- You should be able to repeat this layering twice. Do not stuff all the way to the top. Be sure to keep ½ to ¾ of inch at the top for the eggs. You’ll probably have leftover stuffing. I had about ½ cup leftover that I used in other dishes.
- Crack an egg into a small bowl. Top the stuffed squash shell by carefully pouring in the egg.
- Return the squash to the oven and bake until eggs are set, about 15-20 minutes. If you decided to keep the stem tops, go ahead and place them on the baking sheet next to the shells and bake as well.
- Once eggs are set, serve garnished with a basil sprig and some extra prosciutto.