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Ma La Chicken with Roly-Poly Squash

As anyone who grows vegetables can tell you, it is easy to find yourself drowning in summer squash. We’re not gardeners (I have a black thumb of death), but even so we find ourselves overwhelmed by the sheer abundance of squash this month.

Last week, Dave and I were wandering around Prospect Heights (a nearby neighborhood in Brooklyn) when we came across a plastic bag full of zucchini hanging from the fence in front of one of the brownstones. A sign above the bag declared that the zucchini came from a farm upstate, and begged passers by to take some. There is no escaping the summer squash!

Not that drowning in summer squash sounds like such a bad way to go, mind.

This dish tastes a bit like a meaty Szechuan version of ratatouille. ‘Ma la’ means ‘numb and spicy’, referring to the heat of the cayenne and the tingliness of the Szechuan peppercorns in this dish. Here, Dave melded that classic flavor combination with the very French/Italian combination of zucchini and tomato, which you’ll remember from the triumphant dish featured in recent film Ratatouille. (Incidentally, I just can’t recommend the film highly enough. Pixar really understands what makes great food great. I love the scene where they show how well they get it.)

Roly-poly squash looks like zucchini’s chubby baby brother. The taste is fairly similar, but when I have the chance to go for cute vegetables over monstrous ones, well, that’s just the way I swing.

Ma La Chicken with Roly-Poly Squash
4 large shallots, chopped
1 lb chicken breast, chopped into bite-sized chunks
2 bananas, peeled and sliced into 1/4″ thick rounds
3 small roly-poly squash (or 1 large zucchini), cut into thin strips (as if you were making crispy fries)
2 large tomatoes, peeled, seeded, and chopped
2 tbsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp cayenne
1/2 tsp ground szechuan peppercorns
1 tsp ground cinnamon
t/4 tsp ground turmeric
A pinch of ground clove
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

In a cast iron pan, add some oil, then add the chicken breast in a single layer and brown. Once it is nicely browned, remove the check and set it aside. Add in and brown the shallots, then return the chicken and stir in all of the other ingredients as well. Cook over medium-high heat for about 5 minutes, or until done.

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4 Responses to “Ma La Chicken with Roly-Poly Squash”

  1. Lydia says:

    This looks delicious, and just my kind of thing — well, maybe I’d have to add a tiny bit more cayenne. Such a nice way to use up a zucchini or two.

  2. I love Ma La…give me anything with Ma La flavor and I will be a happy camper…but I heard Sichuan peppercorn is not good for health and that it was banned before in the US?

    Oh well…eat first think later. LOL.

  3. Danielle says:

    Lydia – We use cayenne from Kalustyan’s, which is significantly stronger than most supermarket cayenne. So if you’re using supermarket cayenne, it’s probably a good bet to adjust the quantity upwards with all of my recipes.

    RM – Sichuan peppercorns are no longer banned in the US, since they figured out that they could destroy the bacteria (which was harmful to crops, but not to humans) by heating them to I-forget-how-hot before importing them. No health problems with them that I’m aware of. I’m told they grow wild in Prospect Park in Brooklyn, NY, in fact!

  4. Kristen says:

    I love your photos…that first one is amazing!
    This looks like a tasty way to use up some delicious squash!

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August 2007
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