Summer Squash Casserole

We bought our first squash of the season at the new farmer’s market in Bridgeport this morning, and soon after my brother emailed asking for this recipe.

Mother found this recipe while I was in college – we never had squash of any kind growing up. My father used to tell a story about squash and his brother Conrad. After their oldest sister Doris got married and was living in Charleston, the family went there for Sunday dinner. Aunt Doris’ husband, Uncle Scratch (he used to pay the children a nickel to scratch his feet, and would always let us feel where he said he had blown off a toe with a shotgun – I never saw him with his socks off) came from a Raleigh, North Carolina family of hotel-keepers, and was full of Southern hospitality and salesmanship. Uncle Conrad, who was quite small at the time, ate all his squash first to get rid of it so he could enjoy the rest of his meal. Uncle Scratch, seeing Conrad enjoy the squash so, insisted on giving him a second helping. The unfortunate Conrad didn’t catch on, ate it all quickly again, and ended up with a third serving. His mother, my grandmother, always said “Eat what’s set before you, even if it is a frog.”

Squash Casserole
2 cups cooked summer squash, diced
¼ cup milk
¼ cup melted butter
3 eggs, well beaten
1 tablespoons grated onion
salt, pepper, cayenne
¼ cup buttered bread crumbs

Mix all ingredients except bread crumbs and put in baking dish. Top with bread crumbs. Bake at 350° until firm (about 25 minutes).

Anna Mary McVaney deGruyter

West Virginia Pizza and Dandelion Greens

Once upon a time, I made pizza every Saturday night.  Pizza was such a Saturday night tradition that on our two trips to Europe with our children, we had to find pizza on Saturday night – in England, Germany, France, and finally, two Saturdays in Norway.  Fortunately, pizza is an international food.  Later, life became too much, and we started getting take-out – never delivered – Robert went and got it.  This, however, caused Andy-our-neighbor-across-the-street (and indispensable friend) to kid us unmercifully about the delivery guy sneaking over the back fence to bring a “home-made” pizza.

Now that we are in West Virginia, an essential ingredient for traditional West Virginia pizza is easily available – Oliverio’s sweet peppers in tomato sauce.  (We used to carry jars back to wherever we were and hoard them.)  These are canned here in Clarksburg, the southern edge of the large northern West Virginia Italian community.  There are other brands of peppers, but these are closest to the ones Bobby Belcastro’s mother made.  I learned to make pizza from Bobby when we were college students.  He was from Fairmont, and on Sundays he would go home from WVU, come back with his mother’s canned peppers, and make pizza.

Homemade pizza is so simple, it hardly needs a recipe, but here is how I do it.


1 cup of whole-wheat flour
1/2 cup water
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon dry yeast

Mix the salt and flour in a medium-size bowl.  Make a well in the flour and put in the yeast and water.  Mix with a wooden spoon until the dough gathers up in a ball.  Cover with a dish towel and let rise for 30 minutes or more.  Knead briefly.  Put a little olive oil on a 9-inch pizza pan, turn the dough in it to coat, and leave it to relax a few minutes.  Stretch out to fill the pan.

Top with two cups of Oliverio’s sweet peppers in tomato sauce, Italian seasonings to your taste (I use basil, oregano, rosemary, sage, thyme, heavy on the oregano, which I think many commercial pizzas are short on), and 2 cups of shredded cheese – Mozzarella, Provolone, Parmesan, Romano, whatever.

Bake at 425° for 20 minutes.  This feeds the two of us with leftovers for lunch the next day, but your mileage may differ.

I picked a mess of dandelion greens one weekend in March, when they  were new and tender, and used a hot olive oil, garlic, and raisin dressing (fancy recipe from Epicurious).

Letter to the President

Mr. President:

I am sure you are aware of this editorial by Robert F. Kennedy, Jr.

It outlines what you can do immediately to enforce existing law and regulation and end the travesty of mountaintop removal coal mining, and touches on the consequences it has had for the people of the southern coal fields.

I am a West Virginia native who left in 1978 to attend the University of Chicago and have only this year returned.   West Virginia, the only state completely within Appalachia, has suffered the fate of a third-world country for a century.  Even though coal mining is now a much smaller part of our economy, the coal companies do not have to pay the full cost of extracting the coal, and can spend a great deal on politicians and judges to keep it that way.

I was shocked by the conditions in the South Side of Chicago when I moved there; the southern coal fields of West Virginia are more shocking, because the people can be helped only if the land is not irretrievably destroyed.  Please go and visit southern West Virginia.  Visit the grade school threatened by sludge.  Fly over the devastated mountains.  Visit a “restored” mountaintop mine and listen to the silence of a destroyed ecosystem.  Walk the streets of the communities.  Then go visit the National Radio Astronomy Observatory in Greenbank, in the heart of the untouched mountains, and see what was and could be.


You can write President Obama at