Conundrums posed by a Costata

If you saw this in your fridge, what would YOU call it?

That was exactly the question I was faced with when I brought home this unidentifiable Godzilla back from the most recent Harvest Day. My housemates asked me, “Suzanne, is that a zucchini in our fridge? Why is it so huge?” I was also under the impression that it was a zucchini, albeit a monstrous one, until I gave into the doubts in my mind and did some research.

What did I find? At first, not much. There are only so many ways that one can type “huge green zucchini-like vegetable name cooking help!” into Google without getting the same results. But soon, I found a likely candidate on a specialty produce website: “Star-Spangled Squash.” Cute, right? Like ours, it is so called because when you slice the squash vertically, it produces star-shaped rounds.

But that name wasn’t very helpful. There were very few recipe suggestions, and all I got was a lot of Fourth-of-July related websites. Finally, I think I figured out what our vegetable was: Costata Romanesca squash. Beautiful, right? This vegetable is an Italian heirloom variety, and it seems to straddle the line between summer squash and zucchini (maybe someone reading this could clarify things?). Also, according to www.harvestwizard.com, it is considered the “best textured and the best tasting” of the summer squash! Even when mature, its rind is never bitter, and the flesh has a velvety, nutty flavor. As I was already two steps into my Curried Zucchini Soup preparation, I decided to push valiantly on with my newly discovered vegetable. And so, I present to you:

Curried Costata Romanesca Squash Soup

(adapted from chef Susan Beach and TheKitchn)

Serves 6-8

3 tablespoons butter
1/4 cup all purpose flour
1 pound Costata Romanesca squash, washed and diced into 1-inch cubes
1 medium yellow onion, peeled and sliced
3 cups chicken or vegetable broth, homemade or good quality canned
2 cloves garlic, trimmed and sliced thinly
1 1/2 teaspoons curry powder
1 bay leaf
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/8 teaspoon white pepper
1/2 teaspoon salt or to taste
1 cup whole milk or half and half

  1. Make a roux by melting butter in a small saucepan. Mix in flour and stir over medium-low heat until golden brown and smells like roasted nuts. (For a gluten-free version, skip the roux and cook 2 medium peeled and quartered potatoes along with the zucchini.
  2. Place the following ingredients in a soup pot: zucchini, onion, broth, garlic, curry, bay leaf, cayenne, white pepper and salt. Bring to a boil over high heat, turn down the heat and simmer for 45 minutes.
  3. Remove the bay leaf. Add the roux to the soup.
  4. Remove the vegetable mixture from the heat and CAREFULLY puree with a hand immersion blender or a standard blender in batches.
  5. Return the puree to the remaining broth. Stir in milk or half and half.

To serve, reheat the soup over low heat, and drizzle each portion with a few drops of chili oil, if desired.

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I imagine that this recipe could be used as a template for getting rid of any excess vegetables (yeah, I see you CSA-ers out there!). It is healthy, relatively hands-off, and it just gets better overnight when all the flavors meld together. Mmmmm. Plus, the curry will make you sweat and cool you down!

But it is important to note that just one vegetable presents countless questions. Even after I figured out what it was, I am still wondering: “Are the Star-Spangled squash and the Costata Romanesca squash the same thing? If so, is the former just an Americanized name of the latter? Why haven’t I encountered this before? And what does heirloom really mean?” Our mystery squash also brings up the importance of cultural preservation of produce and trending in food. Just as the açai berry was pulled from the depths of the Amazon into a worldwide marketing phenomenon, what will be next?

And now for the next exotic vegetable that our lovely garden has thrown at us: Chinese yellow cucumber. Anyone have any experience with these? We only have one (so far), but I am already intrigued by the descriptions and possibilities. Until then, cheers!

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