There is a season: Making zucchini disappear

  • This tuna melt casserole is based on zucchini or any similar summer squash. MOLLY PARR

For the Gazette
Published: 7/11/2020 12:10:15 PM

It’s a tale as old as time. Last week, the zucchini in my garden were like the magic pumpkin in Cinderella. This week, they have encircled the rest of the garden like the vines around Sleeping Beauty’s castle. I have to burrow through to find them before they grow too big and watery to enjoy. My 7-year-old took one misshapen specimen I didn’t catch in time and turned it into a doll.

My husband was worried that it was too soon to share another zucchini recipe, but I have a feeling that many of you reading this also need rescuing out of this nightmare. And when my 5-year-old saw the bounty, she became very excited and requested this recipe.

It’s a tuna casserole of sorts. I find tuna casserole to be very comforting, but certain things about it — the can of cream of mushroom soup, the pasta — have me passing. With zucchini standing in for the noodles, this version is still comforting and delicious, but also fresh and gluten free.

It’s also one of my favorite pantry recipes, elevating two cans of tuna into something truly special. The original recipe calls for tuna in oil, but I’ve used tuna in water and have had delicious success. Although the recipe calls for four bunches of green onion, I find that one massive bunch of green onion, as bundled by the CSA, is the perfect amount. I grate a block of cheddar for the shredded cheese — my personal preference is Cabot because it’s very delicious and local.

You’re supposed to salt the zucchini and have it sweat it out before you start cooking it. Either give yourself an extra half-hour to do so, or do what I do, which is sweat it out in the fridge the night before so everything is all set the next day once you are ready to start cooking.

Squash and “Tuna Melt” Casserole

from Six Seasons by Joshua McFadden

1½ pounds firm small summer squash

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Extra virgin olive oil

4 bunches scallions, trimmed and thinly sliced

One quarter teaspoon dried chile flakes

Two 5-ounce cans of tuna

1½ cups shredded extra-sharp cheddar cheese

Trim off the ends of the squash and halve lengthwise (with round or pattypan squash, cut through the “equator”). Salt the squash on their cut faces with 2 teaspoons salt and leave to drain for at least 1 hour or up to 24 hours (if for more than 2 hours, transfer to the refrigerator).

Heat a big glug of olive oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add the scallions, chile flakes, ½ teaspoon salt, and several twists black pepper. Cook until scallions are soft and fragrant, but not actually browned, 3 to 4 minutes. Take them off the heat, and when cool enough to taste, adjust the seasoning with more of any of the spices.

Heat the oven to 450F.

Spread the squash cut side down on a rimmed baking sheet (or two if needed, to avoid crowding). Roast until slightly shrunken and browned on the cut sides, on the way to tender, but at all mushy. Cooking time will depend on the size and shape of your squash, but for a typical slender 6-inch zucchini, this should take about 15 minutes. (Leave the oven on.)

Arrange the squash pieces in a baking dish that will fit them all snugly in one layer, this time cut side up. Distribute the scallions over the surfaces. Flake and crumble the tuna in an even layer over the scallions and then top evenly with the cheese.

Return to the oven and bake until the cheese is nicely melted and beginning to bubble and brown, 10 to 15 minutes.

Let cool for about 5 minutes before serving.

Molly Parr lives in Florence with her husband and two young daughters. She's been writing her food blog, Cheap Beets, since 2010. She was furloughed from Smith for the summer and is using the time to work on her first cookbook. Send questions or comments to molly.parr@gmail.com


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