“Genius is patience”, wrote Leonardo da Vinci… Just what did the great artist, inventor, and scientist mean by this? Was it the patience to paint that perfect smile for Mona Lisa, or to observe the minute details of nature, or the patience to create a myriad of complex machines? Years ahead of his time, this Renaissance man could do it all… with patient genius. And, if he was right, then we who live Down East may be in this exalted category as well, as we patiently wait for summer.
From April onward, we practice patience as our fickle weather flirts with frost. It would be lovely to put away the wool socks for a day or two of flip-flops… Patience! Like me, you’re probably also patiently waiting for the gardens to produce. It was late June when I finally got all the vegetable seeds in the ground, but I’m already salivating at the thought of the first tender green beans and zucchini… Patience!
Luckily, there is a solution for the not-so patient among us and that is our local Farmers’ Market! Located again this season at the Camden National Bank parking lot on Main Street in Milbridge, this wonderful source of fresh produce, meats, breads, cheeses, and so much more provides instant gratification every Saturday morning from 9:00 AM to noon. Because these resourceful farmers get a jump-start on the growing season with greenhouses, heat mats, and other creative adaptions, things that have barely germinated in our chilly soil are ready for the table. Recently, I had an opportunity to visit the Salty Dog Farm on Back Bay Road in Milbridge and got a full tour with owner Sam Cheney. In the clammy dampness of April, Sam had protected crops in the ground and was already offering lettuces, beets, and scallions. In sunny windows, with heat boosters, tomatoes plants were thriving. My feet may have been cold and muddy but, I felt transported into August. And, all his early efforts and those of his fellow gardeners and artisans come conveniently to Main Street every week.
Farmers’ markets provide inspiration and advice as well as products. During one of my excursions to the Milbridge market, two vendors combined their expertise to come up with a recipe that has become a family favorite. A vegetable stall displayed lovely mounds of pattypan squash, small, tender, and as visually pretty as they are delicious. “Have you ever stuffed them?” asked the grower. Unable to resist, I bought a dozen of the ruffled beauties and moved on to the next table where Creekside Farms offered their wide array of pork sausages. “Try using the Sweet Italian”, Suzanne, the owner chimed in. What a collaboration! Back and forth the discussion went… “Add a little onion… Have you discovered Panko bread crumbs?”. On the spot, I had bagged a wonderful dinner plan. A huge hit at our house, this stuffed vegetable serves as a hearty side dish or as a main meal depending on the portions. I hope you enjoy it as much as we did. Meals like this are the rewards for all our patience and, as Leonardo might have said, “Pure genius!
Market Day Stuffed Pattypan Squash
- 12 pattypan squash
- 1 pound hot or sweet Italian sausage (loose packed or removed from casings)
- bread crumbs, preferably Panko
- butter or olive oil for saute
- 1 medium onion, chopped finely
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- Parmesan cheese
- salt and pepper
With a paring knife, carefully remove the stem end of each squash in a shallow circle. Reserve this little “hat” for decoration, if desired.
Using a melon baller or small spoon, scoop seeds and most of the flesh from each leaving a thin but sturdy shell. Chop squash pulp including the seeds, as they are soft, tiny, and edible.
Next, saute onion and garlic in butter or oil until limp. In the same pan, crumble and brown sausage. Add the chopped squash and blend in bread crumbs and Parmesan cheese until a stuffing-like consistency is achieved.
Season squash shells with salt and pepper. Stuff each with stuffing mixture until rounded over. Sprinkle with a little more cheese and top with a squash stem “cap”… optional, but cute!
Remaining stuffing can be placed around each pattypan in a large baking pan. Cover tightly with foil and bake at 375 degrees for 30-40 minutes until squash is fork tender and stuffing is hot.
The other terrific benefits of shopping the Farmers’ Market are incredible freshness and organic purity. No more wondering where old, shriveled, and spotty produce came from… California? Peru? Chile? How long ago? Questionably fertilized and treated? Who knows? But, these dewy native herbs and veggies are cut within hours, a pleasure to our eyes, a treat for our taste buds and, most importantly, a boon to our health.
And so, you geniuses out there, patiently waiting for garden pleasures, there is an alternative to frustration. We may not all have a greenhouse to rely on but some of our local farmers do. Now, we only need to wait for Saturdays… Ah, Patience!