With the exception of a (glorious!) three-year stint on the East Coast, I’ve lived in Texas for the better part of two decades. Though I often complain about the weather and the less-than-inspiring landscape, the Lone Star State does have a lot to offer in terms of food and shopping. Those two things come together at the Dallas Farmers Market, a place I’ve somehow never had the pleasure of visiting in all these years until this past Sunday.
My husband Michael is usually pretty busy all weekend but I managed to reserve him for a few hours on Sunday so we could head to Dallas for breakfast, some shopping, and a visit to the farmers market. Our first stop was Café Brazil on Cedar Springs, just off of Oak Lawn. Dallasites are notoriously fond of breakfast and brunch so I assumed we’d have to wait for a table, but we were seated on the patio almost immediately. My favorite thing about Café Brazil is that there are so many vegetarian options on their extensive menu. I ordered the veggie migas (which was amazing) and Michael ordered the Brazilian breakfast (which he said was just so-so).
After breakfast we did a little shopping and then drove over to the Dallas Farmers Market. I had a single goal in mind for the outing: find something I’ve never seen or heard of and use it to invent a new recipe for dinner. The market is huge, with three long rows of vendors selling everything from peaches to honey wine to handcrafted soap.
I scanned their offerings in search of the perfect objet trouvé, and I knew I’d found it when my eyes alighted on this strange little gem:
When I learned that it’s called a flying saucer squash, I knew I had to have it. I mean, come on, flying saucer squash?! That name is just too fanciful to resist. I bought three, as well as a basket of cucumbers (which I plan on pickling) and two ears of corn.
After we got home I let Michael return to “digging ditches and bossin’ people” (that’s an inside joke, but basically it’s my facetious reference to what I assume he does when he isn’t at home) and I went to Central Market to pick up some groceries for dinner. I’ve been eager to try David Lebovitz’s recipe for herbed pasta, so I decided to make that with some homemade tomato sauce to go along with my farmers market find.
Basil Fettuccine (adapted from the My Paris Kitchen recipe for herbed fresh pasta)
- 1 1/2 cups semolina flour
- 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/2 cup chopped fresh basil
- 3 large eggs, room temperature
- 3 egg yolks
- Additional flour (all-purpose or semolina) for rolling
- Combine the semolina flour, all-purpose flour, kosher salt, and basil in a medium bowl (some people prefer to create a mound of flour directly on a countertop, but I think it’s easier and cleaner to do it in a bowl).
- Create a well in the center of the flour mixture and add the eggs and egg yolks. Using a fork, whisk the eggs until blended and then slowly begin incorporating the flour mixture. It takes patience and some elbow grease, but it’s best to combine the flour and the eggs slowly rather than all at once so you won’t end up with a big clumpy mess.
- When the dough becomes to thick to continue mixing with a fork, turn the dough onto a floured work surface and continue incorporating the remaining flour with your hands.
- Knead the dough with your hands for three minutes until it is smooth, then form it into an oval about one inch thick. Wrap it in plastic wrap and let it sit for one hour.
- Divide the dough into eight roughly equal-sized pieces. Take one piece at a time (leave the remaining pieces covered with plastic wrap until you use them so they won’t begin to harden) and form it into a small rectangle. Feed it through your pasta machine on its widest setting. Fold it in half and pass it through again, then fold it once more and pass it through a third time (folding it and passing it through helps exercise the gluten). Then feed the dough through the machine on the widest setting two more times.
- Feed the dough through the machine twice on each setting, decreasing the opening each time until it reaches your desired thickness. I have an Imperia pasta machine that goes from 6 (the widest setting) to 1 (the smallest setting) and I stop after passing the dough through 3.
- Next comes the fun part: pass the dough through the fettuccine attachment (or your attachment of choice), drape the resulting pasts on a pasta rack (plastic hangers or a broomstick suspended over two objects will also do the trick), and then sit back and marvel at your unparalleled noodle-making skills.
- To cook: Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the noodles and cook for 4 to 6 minutes, until they reach your desired tenderness. Then drain it, serve it, and put it in your belly.
And here’s how I jeujed up the flying saucer squash:
Flying Saucer Squash Stuffed With Orzo, Fontina, and Mushrooms
- 1 cup orzo (uncooked)
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 1 cup diced yellow onion
- 3 garlic cloves, minced
- 8 ounces baby bella mushrooms
- 3/4 cup diced fresh tomato
- 1/4 cup chopped fresh basil
- 1 heaping cup shredded Fontina cheese
- 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese
- Salt, pepper, and red pepper flakes, to taste
- 3 or 4 flying saucer squashes (or is the plural “squash”? I really ought to know . . .)
- Preheat the oven to 350°F.
- Place the squashes in a large pot filled with water (they’ll float, but that’s OK). Bring the water to a boil and cook the squashes for 15 minutes, turning them over half-way through. Remove them from the pot and set aside to cool.
- Bring a small pot of salted water to a boil. Cook the orzo as directed, drain, and set aside (add a dab of olive oil to keep it from sticking together).
- Put the mushrooms in the bowl of a food processor and pulse several times, breaking them down into very small pieces.
- Heat the olive oil in a large sauté pan over medium heat. Add the onions and cook for several minutes, until almost translucent, then add the garlic and cook for an additional minute. Season with salt, pepper, and red pepper flakes, if desired.
- Add the mushrooms, stir to combine, and cook for three minutes.
- Add the diced tomato and basil, stir to combine, and cook for another minute or two. Check the seasoning and adjust as necessary.
- Add the Fontina cheese and stir to combine, until the cheese has fully melted, then mix in the orzo. Remove from heat and set aside.
- Cut a circle in the tops of the squashes (boiling them should make them soft enough to cut) and remove the insides to hollow them out. Divide the orzo mixture evenly among the squash and top with Parmesan.
- Bake for 30 minutes, allow to cool slightly, and serve.
My verdict on flying saucer squash? It doesn’t have much of a flavor, but it makes an excellent vehicle for other delicious foods, and it’ll leave your dinner party guests asking “What in God’s name is that?”
If you don’t have a flying saucer squash on hand or simply aren’t inclined to try it, the orzo-mushroom mixture I invented was fantastic and would work well in other stuffable items like bell peppers, or even on its own as a side dish.
I consider it blasphemy to eat homemade pasta with store-bought sauce, so I made my own with Roma tomatoes, garlic, basil, a bit of lemon juice and white wine, and of course, a good amount of olive oil. All in all it was an excellent Sunday feast.