I made it to the Sunday Farmers Market last weekend, where I found some very cute yellow eight balls. The eight ball is a variety of summer squash that is much like zucchini, except they are nearly perfectly round balls. I’d seen dark green ones before, but these were a lovely bright yellow with little dark green tips and ranged from about 1-1/2 inches to 3 inches in diameter. I opted for the smallest ones I could find, and picked up a little over a pound. I thought they just might work whole, in a sort of stew with peppers, tomatoes, potatoes and some fresh herbs. I make a lovely summer eggplant stew, Cianfotta, that has similar ingredients. It would be great with couscous or quinoa. A red bell pepper, fresh parsley, and some multicolored carrots also made their way into my bright red tote bag.
Putting this all together took about 30 minutes. First I roasted the red bell pepper. This just takes a few minutes, and the resulting flavor is more than worth the little bit of extra effort. Check out my prior post about roasting peppers for some great tips!
While the pepper was getting charred, I made quick work of scrubbing a few carrots and potatoes and cutting them into bite-size chunks. Then popped the roasted pepper into a bowl and covered it with a plate so it could sweat for a few minutes. I set the potatoes and carrots in a pot to steam. Partially cooking them while prepping the other ingredients reduces the overall cooking time.
With those veggies happily steaming, I sauteed one half onion chopped in small dice and some minced garlic in olive oil. When these were a little golden, I added the eight balls. I realized the whole ones were going to be way too big to leave whole. I cut them in quarters and this looked perfect. These squash would be beautiful stuffed, for a tasty party appetizer, or smothered in a luscious fresh tomato sauce. I might try something like that next time!
I added 3 whole Roma tomatoes to the pot of steaming veggies and let them steam in there just for a minute or two. Then removed the skins, coarsely chopped, and added to my wok of eight balls, along with a pinch of thyme, freshly ground pepper, salt, and a pinch of saffron. If I’d had some fresh basil on hand, I would have added that too. When the squash was just starting to get tender, I added the potatoes and carrots (they had been steaming for 10 minutes). With a few more minutes, it all would be perfectly done, not too soft, still quite colorful, and quite ready for some chopped roasted red peppers and parsley to be stirred in.
Into the pot they go. Simply gorgeous, don’t you think? These lovelies needed just 2 or 3 more minutes to be perfectly tender, and to allow the tomatoes to dissolve into a sauce. I wished I’d bought more tomatoes. I think a full pound of tomatoes would have given a saucier result. Lacking them, I added a cup of broth from the veggie steam pot.
Time to eat!
After I served this up, I remembered a package of cheese I’d just purchased the day before… looking for new goat & sheep milk varieties. It’s called “Bianca Ricotta Salata” (which I think means “white salad cheese”) and is made with both sheep and goat milk.
This cheese ended up being a very firm and dry cheese, that tasted fine but I did not care for the dry almost gritty texture. I think a softer and more crumbly goat cheese/goat feta would have worked better (it is also quite tasty without any cheese at all).
I would make this dish again, and next time I’d use more tomatoes and play with other herb combos.
Eight Ball Stew with Roasted Peppers & Tomatoes
Yield: 4-6 servings
Preparation time: 25-30 minutes
1 red bell pepper
1 pound gold, white or red potatoes
3 carrots (any colors)
2 tablespoons olive oil
½ red onion, chopped in small dice
3-4 cloves garlic, chopped
1 pound eight ball squash (any color), cut in large bite-size pieces
1 pound Roma tomatoes, blanched, peeled and chopped
6-7 fresh basil leaves, each torn in few pieces
¼ tsp. freshly ground black pepper
Pinch saffron threads
1/2 bunch finely chopped parsley
Goat feta or other soft/crumbly cheese (optional)
Roast whole red pepper directly over gas flame on stove (or use perforated pan), or under broiler, turning about once a minute until charred on all sides. Set aside in a covered container to sweat for 5-10 minutes. You could use jarred roasted peppers instead (about 1/2 cup chopped).
Scrub potatoes and carrots and cut into bite size chunks. Steam for 8-10 minutes (depends on size). Add whole tomatoes to the hot steaming pot, but be sure they do not stay in there longer than 2 minutes. Remove with slotted spoon or tongs and let the other veggies finish cooking. Remove skins and stem cores from tomatoes and coarsely chop.
Meanwhile, heat olive oil in wok over medium high flame and add chopped onion and garlic. Lower heat to medium and saute few minutes until softening and very light browning. Add chopped eight ball squash (or other summer squash) and continue to stir and cook. When heated through and starting to get a little cooked, add the chopped tomatoes, herbs, pepper, salt and saffron. Keep cooking, stirring as needed. WHen potatoes and carrots have steamed for 8-10 minutes, remove from pot and add to cooking squash. Stir and cook few more minutes until all are done. The vegetables should be tender, but not overcooked.
Remove skins and stems from the roasted peppers (it’s fine to keep the seeds; great fiber!) and chop into large dice. Add peppers and half of chopped parsley to the stew. Stir lightly.
Serve onto plates or place on serving platter and garnish with reserved chopped parsley. Add crumbled goat feta or other cheese if desired.
Serve with your favorite garden salad and quinoa, rice, or other grain.
I packed it up for Hubby’s lunch with some simple quinoa: