Almost-Guatemalan Stuffed Squash

Stuffed Summer Squash

One of the fortuitous by-products of writing about food is that friends and acquaintances share tidbits of all sorts.  Emails arrive with bold promises:  Best Brownies Ever!  Incredulity:  Beet Cake?  And practical advice:  Dinner Tonight.  I pour over old family recipes, tips for massaging kale and recipes for tasty green smoothies even kids will love—treasured food secrets, every one.  The more I read, the more I’m struck by what I don’t know about food—and the wealth of what my fellow cooks are willing to share.

The correspondence keeps me plugging away some weeks—like a letter from home invariably will on a lonely stretch at over-night camp—and offers nuggets to ponder just when I’d thought the bottom of the barrel had been scraped.  Earlier this summer I received just such a note from my friend, Liana.  For the past two summers she and her three daughters have ventured to the colonial city of Antigua, Guatemala, to spend a month immersing in the language and local culture.  And of course, the food.

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Ratatouille: Summer’s Stew

Iowa City, Iowa — We’re visiting family in the Midwest, and today is another in a series of 90-plus-degree scorchers. Hot stew on a hot summer day?  The idea sounds absurd, if not downright tortured.  The usual loyal kitchen helpers are likely to scatter the moment you crank up the stove.  No doubt you’ll be left chopping and stirring in solitude.  No worries.  Ratatouille is a simple dish, just right for one cook.  Use vine-ripened tomatoes, tender-skinned squash and sweet peppers, plus plenty of garlic and onion.  Sauté each vegetable in olive oil, one at a time, then stir them all together in a sturdy pot and simmer the mixture, so the flavors commingle in a magical way.

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