Where were we?
Right. Time to cook the cucuzza.
As I explained when last we met, use a cucuzza (Hell, we're all friends here, you can just call it "googootz.") as you would a squash.
First thing you should know is that the skin can be quite hard and so it must always be peeled, never eaten. Sounds easy, but it isn't always. If you're lucky to score a soft-skinned googootz a peeler should do the trick, but often as not it will require a sturdy knife. I'd suggest cutting the cucuzza into six- or eight-inch sections and then peeling away the skin. Safer that way.
The soft core on the inside, the part with the seeds, must also be removed. After which you can go ahead and slice, dice, shred, whatever you like.
Hey, do what you want, it's your googootz!
In the past week I've made four different dishes: an appetizer, a pasta course, a main and even a dessert.
Fried cucuzza sticks I have to say, these were really terrific. All's I did was roll some pieces in cornmeal seasoned with salt and pepper and fry them in olive oil until crisp. The crunchy outside was a perfect match for the cucuzza, which, now that I think of it, has a kind of creamy texture when it's cooked.
Strozzapretti alla cucuzza Here we have the obligatory red sauce, only with the one addition. It's how a lot of my people prepare their googootz. And it's good. One thing, though: Unless you want the cucuzza turning to mush, I'd suggest adding it after the sauce has finished cooking, then simmering for just another few minutes.
Giambotta This is an Italian vegetable stew, but when my family makes giambotta with googootz we always add chicken, which I guess makes it a chicken stew. This is a special kind of dish; summers just wouldn't be the same without at least one giambotta. I've got my recipe below. It's worth trying, at least once.
Cucuzza ricotta cheesecake I'm not a baker. And don't know what possessed me. All I'll say is that, despite my best efforts to screw it up, this cake turned out really good. Good enough that I've included the recipe below. Be warned: I don't know what the hell I'm doing here, so proceed with caution — and change whatever you want. Please.
THE EXTRA CREDIT
Googootz & eggs Hey, I was looking for an easy lunch and this did the trick. You got a better idea?
Makes 4 servings
1 googootz (peeled, cored and diced into 2-inch pieces)
1 red onion
8-10 garlic cloves (fine, use less, see if I care)
Piece of pancetta (or bacon or proscuitto), diced
Fresh rosemary and oregano
Hot pepper to taste
2 or so cups white or blush wine
4 chicken thighs
Saute the onions, garlic, carrots, pancetta, hot pepper and herbs in olive oil until tender. Add the chicken thighs (skin down), season with salt and black pepper and simmer at medium heat for 15 minutes.
Add the wine (use more if it doesn't cover the thighs) and simmer for 45 minutes.
Remove thighs. When cool, remove skin, pull the meat from the bones and return meat to the pot. Add googootz slices and simmer for 15 minutes.
Let it all cool down, then toss it in the fridge overnight and have something else for dinner.
Giambotta is always better the next day.
Cucuzza ricotta cheesecake
1 googootz (peeled, cored, roasted until most of its moisture has evaporated, then finely diced or run through a food processor)
1 lb ricotta
1/4 cup diced citron
1/4 cup unsalted pistachios
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup flour
Mix everything together in a bowl, then pour into a 10-inch baking pan.
Cook at 400 degrees F for 30 minutes.
Refrigerate after it cools and eat it cold.
For some reason, I don't know why, it's better this way.