A few weeks ago, Casey Boltz walked into work with an armful of unidentified, tubular vegetables. The long, green pods resembled a sort of unripened eggplant.
“It’s Cucuzza,” Boltz explained. [kuh-KOOT-suh]
She went on to describe the origins of the squash. As a descendant of Sicilian immigrants, Boltz has known Cucuzza as a culinary staple since childhood. The oversized squash is popular in Italian dishes and can be grown here in Alabama. In fact, Boltz’s uncle supplies the family with its Cucuzza stash, growing the vegetables suspended on strings and vines in his garden.
“My grandmother and great aunts always cooked with them, so it was just a part of regular life,” Boltz said. “It wasn’t until I was getting married that I realized how strange Cucuzza was to other people.”
There are other aspects of Boltz’s life that are unique to her Sicilian heritage. Each year, she attends a family reunion with more than 500 relatives – all descendants of one original couple.
“It’s very loud,” Boltz laughed.
To bring a slice of this culture to Strong, Boltz brought in some of the season’s Cucuzza harvest to share with her teammates. Everyone had their own idea of how to use the Cucuzza, so stop by Accounting to hear what they came up with.
As for Boltz, her favorite concoction is Cucuzza Stew. If you happen upon one of these squash, try out the recipe below!
Courtesy of Genius Kitchen
- 1 lb lean ground beef
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 large red onion, sliced
- 2 -3 celery ribs, chopped
- 1 1⁄2 cups carrots, sliced
- 4 -5 garlic cloves, crushed and chopped
- 1 Cucuzza, peeled and cubed
- 1 (28 ounce) can whole tomatoes
- 1 fresh bay leaf
- 1 teaspoon dried thyme
- 6 cups water
- salt & fresh ground pepper
- Brown the ground beef in a skillet, drain and set aside.
- In a large dutch oven, add the olive oil and sauté the onion, celery, carrot, and garlic for about 4-5 minutes, or until the onions are translucent.
- Add the ground beef to the pot along with the can of whole tomatoes, add the Cucuzza and the rest of the ingredients. Bring to a boil and simmer, uncovered for around 45 minutes or until the squash is cooked.