Summer squash are already being harvested from the Finley family garden. That means it’s “casserole” time!

Summer squash are surprisingly nutritious. As an excellent source of manganese and a very good source of vitamin C, summer squash provides us with a great combination of conventional antioxidant nutrients. In addition, control of blood sugar in our systems can benefit from B-complex vitamins found in valuable amounts in summer squash. Finally, the presence of omega-3 fats in the seeds of summer squash, as well as carotenoids like lutein, zeaxanthin and beta-carotene, make this vegetable a natural choice for protection against unwanted inflammation. I don’t know if the chardonnay will help me absorb all this nutrition, but I think I’ll give it a try.

Summer Squash Casserole

6 c. summer squash, sliced thin, cooked and drained (about 3 c. cooked)

2 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil

1 medium onion, chopped

8-oz. can water chestnuts, drained and sliced

10 oz. homemade crème fraiche (see recipe below) or  8 oz. sour cream

2 large eggs, beaten

1/2 tsp. salt

1/4 tsp. marjoram or poultry seasoning

1 c. pecans, finely chopped (crumbed)

For the crème fraiche:

1 c. heavy cream

1/4 c. buttermilk

1 tbsp. fresh lemon juice (optional)

Mix cream, buttermilk and lemon juice. Cover and let sit at room temperature 24 hours, stir, then refrigerate for another 24 hours.

For the casserole:

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Slice squash thin and cook until tender. I like to use a pressure cooker. Drain off excess liquid with a colander or strainer.

Meanwhile sauté chopped onions in olive oil until translucent.

In a large mixing bowl, combine sautéed onion, water chestnuts, crème fraiche, egg, marjoram and salt. Add cooked squash and mix well.

Finely chop pecans in a food processor or hand chopper.

Lightly grease a 9-by-13-inch casserole. Add squash mixture and top with buttered pecans. Bake at 325 F for 40 minutes. Let cool after baking for at least 10 minutes before serving. This will allow the casserole to set up.

Pair this dish with Byron’s 2014 Nielson Vineyard Chardonnay. A good share of Byron winemaking takes place in the vineyard, where winemaker Jonathan Nagy selects individual rows and blocks for their potential to express both variety and site -- focusing particularly on clones that best exemplify Byron’s balanced, textural and site-expressive style. This wine features cuttings from the original “Wente” clone planted on their estate in 1964 -- the oldest commercial vineyard in Santa Barbara County.

These vines produce a mix of berry sizes with the larger ones providing ripe, fruit-focused flavors and the smaller ones adding firm acidity and minerality, yielding a wine that is lightly floral, rich and concentrated with hints of apricots and wet stone. This vintage was aged for 15 months in 54% new French Oak. Ratings: 92 points -- The Wine Advocate, April 2017 and 92 points -- Matt Kettmann, Wine Enthusiast, April 2017.


John David Finley is a freelance writer and author of the cookbook, "Sacred Meals from our Family Table," which features Santa Barbara County wines. He can be reached at