Squash

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Yard to Plate – The Lighter Side of Spaghetti

Here in the Great Lakes region the harvest season is in full swing - the bounty of the summer's labors piled high on tables in every farm market and every kitchen counter for those who's gardens survived the punishing summer drought. What started as a quick "I want to use some of this stuff from the garden" side dish last week has been refined as the main course this week and I'm happy enough with it to share it here. This one is pretty simple and  can be served hot or cold. The preparation of the squash is flexible - steaming squash is one of the few tasks I think a microwave oven is perfect for: 12 minutes in a modestly powered microwave should be enough to produce a perfectly al dente 2lb spaghetti squash every time and you don't need to dirty a single dish. The Software:
  • 2 lb Spaghetti Squash
  • 1 lb fresh tomatoes, diced (Use a few different types if available)
  • 1/4 cup onion, diced
  • 1 tsp minced garlic
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1 tblsp unsalted butter
  • 1 tblsp fresh lemon juice
  • 1/4 cup minced fresh herbs (Oregano, Basil, Parsley, Chive)
  • 1 tsp sea salt
  • Black Pepper to taste
The Method: Halve or quarter the squash and scoop out the seeds and other goop. Like pumpkin seeds, seeds from all squash varieties are absolutely delicious when dried, toasted and salted, so save em up and make yourself a nice little snack. For the sake of simplicity, (Simplicity? is this really The Rogue Estate?) stick the squash portions in the microwave and let it go for 12 minutes. Check it at 6 minutes if you are unsure of your microwave's capabilities and adjust accordingly. Before, during or after the squash steaming described above, put a 1/4 inch dice on the tomatoes and onions, removing any excess seeds or other goopy bits. Put a real fine mince (or a chiffonade if you're fancy) on the herbs. I used roughly equal parts of Oregano, Basil, Parsley, Chive for this application, but let your own preferences guide you - spaghetti squash's mild flavor lends itself compatible with just about everything, much like it's namesake pasta. Melt the butter and whisk it into the olive oil, then put everything else into the bowl and toss or stir to coat and combine. Season with salt and pepper to your liking and set aside to let the flavors meld a bit. Back to the squash - you'll know it's done with you can pull it apart with a fork and little to no effort. Use the fork to scrape the husk clean  and discard the husk. Portion out the squash onto whatever individual serving vessels suit your fancy - in this case I used 8" plates.  At this point you can serve hot or allow the squash to cool. Give the sauce a good stir to redistribute the liquid and scoop it on top of the plated squash. Drizzle an extra spoonful of the liquid over each plate and serve immediately.   This dish goes well with an autumn sunset and a hunk of good bread to soak up the juice and oil leftover when the squash is gone. Drop a reply here or on the facebook if you give this a whirl, we'd love to know how it turns out and if you came up with any great modifications. As with any of our recipes, this is but a guide - explore, modify and make each dish your own - taste, taste, TASTE! -///    
A consummate nerd, yet still plays well with others.

Squash for Adults

When I was a child, any kind of winter squash was my enemy. My mother was fond of acorn squash, roasted in the oven until soft, and pureed with brown sugar and margarine (ugh). To me the uniform texture, midway between watery and gummy, held no appeal. And I associated the sweetness of squash with the gagging texture, which may be partly why I've always been a fan of savory foods over sweet ones. My mind was set until a Thanksgiving at my grandmother's house, where she served a squash dish that included onions and a breadcrumb topping. It made a difference - both the savoriness and the sweetness from only the natural sugars in the fruit. Moreover, there was a textural contrast that I loved. Now, I like almost all winter squash. But when I prepare it, I like to marry differences in texture, PLUS invite the right balance between sweet and savory. Today I dreamed up a dish I call "Squash Three-way", a naughty name you would never find on an insipid jar of over-processed baby food. Essentially it's a two layer dish with a favorite simple topping - roasted pepitas, which are the hulled seeds of certain varieties of pumpkins or squash. The first layer is a basic savory latke, replacing the potato with shredded winter squash. The second is a sweetened mash of winter squash, upon which rests the slightly crunchy pepitas. Squash Three-way Recipe for 3 servings (scale up as necessary, swingers!) For the mash: 1 small to medium French variety winter squash (Sucrine Du Berry, Rouge D'Etampes, or Baby Golden Hubbard) 1/2 cup chicken stock (optional) 4-5 Tbsp butter Pumpkin pie spice (nutmeg, cinnamon, clove, allspice blend) 2-3 Tbsp brown sugar For the latkes: 1 medium (7-inch) Delicata squash 1 large shallot 1 extra large chicken egg, beaten 1 tsp baking powder 3-4 Tbsp All Purpose flour Salt & Pepper to taste Ground dried sage to taste Ground dried oregano to taste 2 Tbsp corn or canola oil for frying For the topping: Handfuls of roasted, salted pepitas (available in Mexican or health food stores, and many Trader Joe's) Prepare mash: Preheat oven to 350°. Halve French squash lengthwise and scoop out seeds. Roast cut side down in a pan with 1/2 cup stock or water for an hour or until soft (while roasting, prepare latkes as below). Let cool. Scoop pulp into bowl, discard skins. Add butter and spice. Mash with a fork to a smooth consistency. Keep warm. Prepare latkes: Halve Delicata squash lengthwise and scoop out seeds. Peel skin from flesh. Grate raw flesh with a box grater (better yet, one of these: http://www.germandeli.com/bohachgr.html). Thinly slice shallot and mix with grated squash. Add baking powder, flour, salt, pepper, herbs, and mix well. Add beaten egg and stir thoroughly. Heat oil over medium heat until hot. Drop mixture in 1/3-1/2 cupfuls into hot oil, pressing down slightly. Fry 2-3 minutes on each side until golden brown. Drain and blot, keep warm. Assemble by topping latke with mash, and sprinkle pepitas on top. Enjoy, but be careful any photos don't find their way onto the Internet!

Hope mom doesn't see this!