As many of you know, last fall I grew three Marina di Chioggia -- an heirloom winter squash from Italy -- in my garden. Two I gave away as gifts and the third sat on top of my refrigerator for about four months. Internet searches had indicated that not only did they have a long shelf life (up to six months) but actually got better with age. But finally this past week it was time to prepare it. So. What to do?
Most of the sites I could find said that in Italy it's frequently used for making gnocchi, as a soup or as a filling for ravioli or tortellini -- essentially anything you might do with a butternut squash or kobucha you can do with the Marina di Chioggia. Well, I didn't feel up for making the gnocchi -- feels like something I'll need to work up to. It was too hot for soup. And to make the ravioli or tortellini, I'd have to, well, make the ravioli or tortellini pockets first (see thoughts on gnocchi above).
Most of the information I found indicated that the first step for just about anything I was considering was to roast the Marina di Chioggia. This is accomplished by cutting it up (see photo above). Use a strong knife, these are pretty tough dudes. After taking out all the seeds and stringy bits, brush on some olive oil, sprinkle with sea salt and rosemary or other herbs, and then lay it face down or sideways on a cookie sheet (the slices on the right were turned over after the photo was taken). Then cook at 350 degrees for 30-60 minutes or until the fork test shows it to be tender.
Mission accomplished. The Marina di Chioggia was ready. But for what?
The first dish I used it in was salad. I saw a brief mention of people throwing it into salads or just topping it with a little goat cheese and eating it that way so I chopped some into cubes and added it to a salad I made that included lettuce (from my garden!), onions, celery, carrots, avocado slices, almond slivers and goat cheese, with a balsamic vinegar dressing. Yum. The sweetness of the Marina di Chioggia was a nice addition.
The second I made was inspired by The Grilled Cheese Truck, which has a Harvest Melt that includes butternut squash, leeks, balsamic and agave syrups. Since, as I said, you can pretty much do with the Marina di Chioggia anything you can do with butternut squash, it occurred to me it might taste good in a grilled cheese sandwich. The one I made included the Marina di Chioggia squash, plus onions, red peppers, basil and a mixture of swiss, goat and mozzarella cheeses.
All I can say is: Thank you Grilled Cheese Truck as it was, quite simply, scrumptious.