Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Cooking With Squash: Recipe Ideas For Fall

Cooking with squash: Recipe ideas for fall
By: Chef Cristian Feher

It’s that time of year again - Fall. A time just after summer, and just before the holidays. So we, in the culinary field have developed the odd tradition of celebrating and marketing the heck out of squash. Why squash? I’m not sure. I must have missed the meeting. However, I did get the memo, and will hold true to my profession by giving you some interesting ideas of what you can do with that ingredient that is supposed to be the quintessence of the north American fall season - the squash.

Before I get into the fun, let’s first define what we mean by “squash”. There are many varieties of squashes throughout the world. But in this article I’ll be discussing the most popular varieties. Namely, zuccini (yellow and green), pumpkin, butternut squash, acorn squash, and spaghetti squash.

Zuccini Squash. The zuccini is a soft squash that usually comes in green and yellow varieties.

Zuccinis can be roasted on the grill, rubbed with a little olive oil to help them cook faster. What you’re looking for are grill marks on the skin and that the flesh becomes soft. I like to cook slices of zuccini in a skillet with fresh herbs (like dill), sea salt, fresh ground pepper and garlic until it breaks down to a sort of “mush”. It’s a really tasty side dish despite it’s low visual appeal.

Spaghetti squash. I have been holding a grudge with spaghetti squash since the time I went on a low carb diet many years ago. I found people online touting spaghetti squash as a good zero-carb substitute for pasta. They had recipes, photos and videos on YouTube. So I thought I’d give it a try. They lied. How someone can eat spaghetti squash and think that it comes anywhere close to resembling the taste or texture of pasta must have been born without a mouth or bodily senses. If spaghetti squash resembles pasta, then so do soap shavings, green beans, and wheat grass. To those people who attempted to fool me, I only have this to say: You deserve to eat spaghetti squash.

Acorn Squash and Butternut Squash. These two squashes are great for soups. You can peel the hard skin of the butternut squash, scrape out the seeds and membrane, boil the flesh in chicken stock and make a great pureed soup flavored with curry or ginger. I used acorn squash cut into quarters for my world-famous “Possibly the healthiest soup in the world” (Google it). You can also roast acorn squash by splitting it into quarters and roasting them in the oven with some olive oil, salt and honey. I’ve also cubed these two squashes into small pieces and incorporated them into risotto with different cheeses (like Boursin, and Manchego).

Pumpkins. These squashes are not only great for carving scary faces on them and stuffing them with candles, but they are also the ideal bait to put in the middle of a bear trap if you want to catch some teenage neighborhood vandals on Halloween.

Pumpkins are also great for soups and can be used the same as the acorn and butternut squash above. The seeds can be roasted in the oven with Cajun spice for a great snack while you interrogate the kid with droopy pants and ridiculous hair who tried to steal your pumpkin.

My favorite way to use pumpkin is to simmer the flesh in chicken stock until soft. I then puree the mixture and thicken it with a roux (oil and flour). To this sauce, I now add a small amount of chipotle peppers, cumin, soy sauce, a couple of drops of liquid smoke, salt and pepper to taste. I use this sauce to blanket shredded beef and chicken burritos which I bake with white cheddar over top. This makes a delicious Mexican dinner with saffron rice, and sour cream on the side.

There you have it! Squash. It’s what’s for dinner. Hurry up and get your fix before the end of November. This message has been approved by the Culinary Professionals of North America.

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