Serious Eats: Recipes

The Crisper Whisperer: Hairy Gourd Bread

[Photographs: Carolyn Cope]

Featured Veg: Fuzzy squash, aka fuzzy melon, hairy melon, hairy gourd, Mo Qua.
Prep: Peel. Then dice, grate, or slice.
Eat: Raw, pickled, braised, stir-fried, stuffed.
Substitute: Summer squash (cooked) or cucumber (raw).

Whoever named the fuzzy squash has really got some explaining to do. Possibly even a scholarship fund to establish for retributive purposes. Because how can a vegetable be expected to get anywhere in this world with the weight of that name on its shoulders? If you're thinking that "fuzzy squash" may be the least appealing name a person could give to a perfectly lovely food, well, I regret to inform you that it's the second-least appealing name. Second after "hairy gourd," another name for fuzzy squash. Poor dear.

"Anyone want to share my hairy gourd?"
"Um, no. Are you even allowed to ask me that at work?"
Never mind getting ahead. You'll be lucky to keep your job.

Last I checked, peaches are fuzzy too but I guess they were lucky enough to be named by someone with a knack for marketing. Or at least someone whose mom taught her to accentuate the positive. Hairy Gourd Namer's mom, on the other hand, wore a belt when she was eight months pregnant with him. It's little wonder that this versatile summer vegetable is more prevalent in Chinese cuisine, where it goes by the kindler, gentler name Mo Qua. (It's kinder to me at least, since I don't speak Chinese. For all I know it means "Anyone want to share my hairy gourd.")

20090904hairygourd.jpg

Except for the fact that it needs to be peeled, fuzzy squash can be prepared in many of the same ways you would use other summer squash. It is especially good in stir-fries and soups. You can stuff it, or you can dice it and use it as an ingredient in stuffing. How's that for adaptable? But because I'm the kind of high-minded person to give an underdog its first fair shake at life, I discovered this week that you can also use it to make a classic spiced quickbread.

This recipe is adapted from The Silver Palate Cookbook's cakelike zucchini bread recipe. I've swapped in half whole-wheat flour for an added nutritional boost and changed up the spice mixture because, while we're on the subject of equal rights for foods, cardamom could use a little affirmative action, and cloves really do not deserve the equal representation with cinnamon that the original recipe grants them.

In the spirit of helping to launch this deserving specimen into the world, if you've got a favorite use for your hairy gourd, please share it here. (I don't think I need to ask you directly to use discretion, do I?) Since few of our CSA members know what to do with them, I've got about ten of them left in my own crisper right now, so I will probably try your recipe personally this week.

Hairy Gourd Bread

About the author: Carolyn Cope writes Umami Girl and manages a CSA in Hoboken, New Jersey.

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