Decades before Farm-to-Table was a nationwide THING, Madison’s L’Etoile (est. 1976), was championing small, local growers, constructing seasonal menus, and pushing vegetable-centric cooking beyond lentil cakes and baba ghanoush.
A summer-squash compendium on the kitchn last week reminded me of a meal I’d had at L’Etoile close to 30 years ago—a meal that kicked off with a warm loaf of crusty bread and two small mason jars. The first was loaded with fresh, tangy goat cheese from Fantome Farm (whose proprietor, Anne Topham, we’d met at the Capitol-ringing farmer’s market earlier in the day), and the second contained freckly flecks of super-soft squash—something the menu called zucchini confit and our server described as “like chunky apple butter but made with squash.”
Shredded and then cooked with oil (and/or butter) for an hour or more, the squash essentially melts down into itself, caramelizing and concentrating into a spreadable, sweet+savory marmalade that’s a treat on toasts, schmeared on a tomato or turkey sandwich, or as the base layer for pizza.
This’ll work with any combination of summer squash you have, and once you cook it down, it’ll keep in the fridge for at least a month (though you’ll want to bring it back to room temp for the best flavor).
- 1 pound of summer squash, scrubbed (I used mostly pattypans, with one small yellow squash)
- 2 tbsp olive oil or unsalted butter (or combination of the two)
- 1 medium shallot, minced
- salt and pepper, to taste
Grate the squash, and load it into a colander set over a bowl or in the sink. Salt the shreds very lightly, give them a toss, and let them drain for 15 minutes or so. If, at the end of that time, it’s all still pretty wet, use your hands to squeeze out some of the liquid. It doesn’t need to be completely dry, but you’ll get better results if it’s not swimming.
Meanwhile, in a large skillet over medium heat, warm the oil (and/or butter) and sauté the shallot for about five minutes. Add the drained squash shreds. Cook over medium-high heat for a few minutes, tossing constantly.
Reduce heat to low, and cook for an hour or more, stirring occasionally (and adding a swirl more oil if necessary), until the squash is very, very soft and spreadable. Taste and season.
Store sealed in a glass container in the refrigerator; enjoy within a month.
And to drink . . .
Johannes Davaz (“Giovanni” to his Tuscan friends and neighbors) moved from Switzerland, where his family had grown wine for hundreds of years, to the heart of Italy’s Chianti zone in 1990. Their estate, Poggio al Sole, is among the highest in the Classico, has been under vine since the early 1300s, and is considered by many to be one of the very best sites in Tuscany for growing Sangiovese, the key ingredient grape in Chianti.
“Chiara” is a new wine for Poggio, one that combines the free-run juice of Sangiovese (vinified white) with Chardonnay from a newly acquired plot farmed in cooperation with Corzano e Paterno.
The result is a clean, crisp white wine with hints of apple, apricot, and maybe a little basil and walnut—a lovely accompaniment to grilled fish, poultry, veggies, and white pizza. For me, Chiara is this summer’s Adirondack Chair white.