Farm Party + RECIPE: Summer Squash Tuna Melt Casserole

There are a lot of things I love about summer.

I love the simplicity of grilled meals. I love the bounty. I love the way our little state comes alive with excitement and joy, suddenly remembering all the reasons they love being alive. I love watching my hard work manifest in front of me and the ease I feel when I step away for an evening or a day only to see that these fields I tend need me just as desperately as they can survive without me. I love getting out on the water as often as I can with coworkers, friends, family and my hubby. I love the epic sunsets, the dramatic storm clouds, and the hours spent outdoors.

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Even though summer races past like a blur, our farm demands 99.9% of our energy, and there’s never close to enough hours in the day to get everything done that I want to accomplish, I love this time of year.

And most of all, I love the simple celebrations that take place on perfect days under the big blue sky with little more for entertainment than each other, a bonfire and some seriously good food.

 

Two weekends ago we had a beautiful party like this out at the farm. Our CSA members, neighbors and friends came out to our little slice of paradise to eat, wander the fields, drink iced coffee, and just generally bask in the beauty of our farm. We all posted up alongside our greenhouse where views of the fields and the surrounding landscape are epic. It was a perfect evening that stretched late into the night. The mosquitoes were buzzing but so were the fireflies. We built a big fire to keep the pesky bugs away while we watched fireflies twinkle in the distance.

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This recipe has nothing to do with all that other than the fact that I developed it for my CSA members because holy cats are we harvesting an abundance of summer squash right now. (300 pounds in just the last week!). Our members mean the world to us and taking the time to visit with so many of them has been the true highlight of our summer.

Developing recipes with this beautiful group of people in mind is what keeps me blogging. Knowing I’m growing food for this beautiful group of people and nourishing their summer is what keeps me going during the hard weeks. This recipe is for you but it’s also for them. To our CSA members and to local-supporting foodies everywhere, thank you for making the commitment to farmers and eating in season even when it’s hard. Thank you for taking five pounds of summer squash in one week and having the determination to turn it into something beautiful. Thank you for understanding what we’re building out here and knowing that it is so much more than just food.

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So make this simple lovely casserole, adapted from the brilliant Joshua McFadden of Six Seasons cookbook, celebrate the bounty of mid-July and breathe in deep. Let the beauty and brilliance of summer wash over you.

-Leek

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SQUASH TUNA MELT CASSEROLE
Adapted from Six Seasons
Not a fan of canned tuna? Feel free to substitute 10 ounces of shredded chicken breast or some other mild, neutral meat. If you do use the tuna, be sure to get oil-packed (or the casserole can be too dry). I found this really fun sustainable canned tuna at my local co-op that had garlic and herbs in the oil. The brand was Safe Catch.

Serves 2-4
Takes 1 hour

2 pounds summer squash
1 tablespoon + 1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt, divided
2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1 large onion (preferably Walla Walla), thinly sliced
1 green pepper, diced
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 teaspoon dried thyme leaves
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup breadcrumbs
Two 5-ounce cans oil-packed tuna
1-1/2 cups shredded, good-quality sharp cheddar cheese

  1. Trim off the ends of the squash and slice lengthwise at about 1/4-inch. I sliced mine with a mandoline at 5/16-inch. Place on a baking sheet so they are tight but still in a single layer. Sprinkle with 1 tablespoon Kosher salt and let sit for 10 minutes. This will drain out some of the moisture inherent in squash.
  2. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.
  3. Roast for squash 15 minutes until the squash is tender but skill holds together.
  4. Meanwhile, heat one tablespoon olive oil to a medium or large skillet over medium heat. Add the onion, pepper, garlic, remaining 1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt, thyme, red pepper flakes, and pepper. Cook for 8-10 minutes until fragrant and just beginning to brown. Place mixture in a small bowl and set to the side.
  5. In the same skillet, heat an additional tablespoon of olive oil over medium heat. No need to wipe it out. Any residual seasonings will just add flavor. Pour in your breadcrumbs and toast for 2-3 minutes, stirring frequently, until a deep golden brown.
  6. Arrange the roasted squash pieces in a baking dish so that they all fit together snugly. For me, it was two layers. Distribute the onion mixture over the top followed by the tuna. Flake and crumble it evenly. Top with cheese, then breadcrumbs.
  7. Return to the oven and bake until the cheese is nicely melted and beginning to bubble and brown, 15-20 minutes. Let cool for 5 minutes before serving.

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