Try This Grilled Pattypan Squash With Green Polenta and Garlic Aioli for a Tasty Vegetarian Meal

A recipe for grilled squash, excerpted from the cookbook Together at Sobo by Lisa Ahier, with Susan Musgrave.

This recipe was conceived when we were making our signature polenta fries one lunch service and realized we had loads of polenta left over. I decided to turn it into a light vegetarian meal, heavy on the herbs. It is now a staple dish in our kitchen. It also looks beautiful on a plate, so you’ll get lots of oohs and aahs from your guests.

Grilled Pattypan Squash, Green Polenta and Garlic Aioli

Serves 6


Green Polenta Cubes

  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 2 tsp salt
  • ½ cup coarse-ground cornmeal, plus extra for dusting
  • 3 Tbsp butter, cubed
  • ½ cup grated Asiago cheese
  • 1 cup coarsely chopped mixed fresh herbs (I use flat-leaf parsley and basil)
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • 2 cups canola oil, for frying

Garlic Aioli

  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1 tsp capers, rinsed 1 tsp minced garlic
  • 1 tsp apple cider vinegar
  • ¾ cup olive oil

Pattypan Squash

  • 1 lb pattypan squash
  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • ¼ red onion, sliced ultra-thin, for garnish
  • 1 radish, thinly sliced, for garnish
  • A few sprouts of watercress, for garnish


Prepare the polenta: Preheat the oven to 300°F.

In a medium ovenproof saucepan over medium-low heat, put 1 cup water, the milk and the salt. Cover with a lid and allow the mixture to come to a frothy, latte-like state. This will likely take 10 to 15 minutes. Do not let the milk bubble up and seep out under the lid. (If this happens it means the milk is scalded and the flavor will, um, not be so good.)

Very slowly whisk in the cornmeal until it’s smooth. No lumps allowed! The polenta will start to bubble in little eruptions—I call this the volcano stage. You must get your mixture this hot to ensure that the cooking process will continue in the oven. Cover and bake for 15 minutes.

Remove from the oven and stir with a wooden spoon so that no part of your mixture is sticking to the bottom of the pan. Return to the oven and bake for another 10 minutes.

Carefully remove from the oven and stir in the butter, using a wooden spoon. (Some of my worst burns are from accidentally spilling polenta when removing it from the oven. It sticks like glue and burns like hell.) Add the Asiago, then the herbs, and stir again until everything is well incorporated.

Pour the polenta into a 9- × 9-inch baking sheet and let cool to room temperature, about 1 hour. The polenta should then be cool enough to put in the fridge to set for a few hours.

Remove from the fridge and cut into 3- × 3-inch pieces. Lightly dust with cornmeal to prevent sticking.

When ready to serve, heat the oils in a heavy-bottomed pot suitable for frying until it reaches between 325°F and 350°F—test it with a deep-fry thermometer, or do the bread cube test.

Carefully add the polenta cubes to the hot oil. (Cook in two batches to avoid overcrowding the pan.) The cubes will get crispy, but don’t expect them to get golden brown (the herbs will have turned the

polenta green, and you can’t get golden brown from green, if you know what I mean). Drain on paper towel.

Prepare the garlic aioli: In a small bowl, place the egg yolk, capers, garlic and vinegar. Mix well with a whisk, then slowly add the oil, whisking until the mixture is emulsified. The aioli should be refrigerated if not used within the hour and will keep for up to 5 days.

Prepare the pattypans: Preheat the grill to medium-high.

Wash and cut the squash in half lengthwise. Toss with the olive oil. Grill for 2 to 3 minutes, then turn over and cook on the other side for another 2 to 3 minutes, until cooked through. Alternatively, you can roast the pattypans: Preheat the oven to 400°F. Place the oil-coated pattypans in a baking dish and roast for 10 minutes or until caramelized.

To serve: Spoon a few tablespoons of garlic aioli on each of six plates, then arrange the polenta and squash on top. Garnish with red onions, radishes and sprouts.

Sobo cookbook

Excerpted from Together at Sobo by Lisa Ahier, with Susan Musgrave. Copyright © 2023 Lisa Elaine Ahier. Photographs by Jeremy Koreski. Published by Appetite by Random House®, a division of Penguin Random House Canada Limited. Reproduced by arrangement with the Publisher. All rights reserved.

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