Five Days of Squash
By Tom // Posted 26 October, 2009 in: Farmers Market, Food + Drink
Let me start by saying I don’t like squash. I kind of hate it. It’s certainly not an aesthetic objection: nothing brightens up the drear of the fall farmers’ market quite like all the whimsical varieties of winter squash — impossible to resist! This combination of compulsive buying and strong dislike leads me to accumulate squash in the fall. Earlier this month, our squash collection reached critical mass and it was time for desperate measures. And so the idea was born: the week of squash. We would cook and eat a different squash each day for five days. At the end of the week, we would have finished our kuri, delicata, acorn, butternut and spaghetti squashes. And I would either have learned to love squash or never need to eat it again.
Day 1 Curried Kuri Squash Soup
Not wanting to be too ambitious the first day, I went for an old standard: squash soup. Most of the versions of this I’ve had are sweetened with brown sugar and pretty fatiguing after just a few spoonfuls. To try to make it a little more interesting, I attempted squash mulligatawny; a squash-based version of the citrusy Angl0-Indian soup. After peeling and steaming my kuri squash, I pureed the flesh with some of the steaming liquid, and added ginger and curry powder. Back in the pot, I added a bit of cream and some lime juice. For garnish, I made a mint-cilantro-garlic yogurt sauce, dolloped generously in the center
Squash Hatred Level: 6. The squash was pretty passable, but I think I was a little too heavy-handed with the lime juice; the soup was overly sour. The yogurt sauce helped improve the soup’s flavor, but as is often the case with squash soup (for me, anyway) a few bites was enough.
Day 2 Delicata Squash Enchiladas
This dish was inspired by a post on Serious Eats and an email I received from my Aunt Ann talking about having made enchiladas using squash with chard, feta and onions. I kind of took the worst parts of both of these ideas, ignoring their saving graces, and added some even nastier elements. So my ‘enchiladas’ contained: roasted delicata squash, kale, never-tender-enough-sauteed chard stems, charred red peppers and onions, and cilantro. After preparing my fillings and tossing them in a bowl with the recommended enchilada sauce, I rolled enchiladas, topped them with more sauce and covered the dish with a healthy (or hopefully unhealthy) dose of pepper-jack and put it in the oven to bake.
Squash Hatred Level: 8. The squash soup was not good, but it was okay. These enchiladas, on the other hand, were just nasty. Even as I was putting the recipe together, I could feel the train-wreck beginning. Eliminating the black beans and the feta was obviously a mistake. And in my overzealous cleaning of the crisper drawer I didn’t think about why combining kale and chard stems was a terrible, terrible idea. The only salvation for this dish would have been a lot more sauce and/or a lot more cheese, and preferably just those things. At this point I was getting pretty discouraged about squash week.
Day 3 Stuffed Roast Acorn Squash
With exotic reimaginings of squash having utterly failed me in the beginning of the week, it was time to turn to a stand-by. Growing up, this was how I knew squash: an acorn squash, cut in half, stuffed with pork sausage, and roasted until both were nicely browned. Of course, as a child, I would only eat the sausage, though I did eventually learn to also eat the squash, provided it was mashed together with plenty of butter, salt and pepper.
Squash Deliciousness Level: 6. This is actually a very good way to enjoy squash: pork loves a sweet compliment and finds a great one in the flesh of the squash, and the pork fat mingled tantalizingly with the squash. I hardly needed any butter at all!
Day 4 Spaghetti Squash and Broccoli Gratin
I suppose the star of this meal is actually in the background of the above photo: slow-cooked duck legs with a red wine pan sauce. But squash is the point of this post, and squash we did have to the side of our duck. For this gratin, I combined the flesh of a roasted spaghetti squash with steamed broccoli and a generous handful of New Zealand cheddar cheese in a buttered gratin dish. I topped the mixture off with bread crumbs tossed together with parmesan cheese and baked the dish until the breadcrumbs were brown and the cheese bubbly.
Squash Deliciousness Level: 4. This dish had a good level of sweetness without descending into sweet potato pie territory, and the combination of textures — the still slightly crisp broccoli, the gooey squash and cheese, and the crunchy breadcrumbs — was interesting and pleasant.
Day 5 Butternut Squash Spaetzle
I kind of dread butternut squash because it is so popular and tends to get so repetitive. How many butternut squash raviolis have you seen on restaurant menus in the past five years? So I was very grateful when Serious Eats featured a recipe for butternut squash spaetzle. I mean, I have long wanted to learn to make spaetzle, and if I could liven up squash week in the process, all the better. I also thought the recipe an appropriate wrap-up to squash week, since squash figures into the spaetzle dough as well as being a part of the sauce (I guess the ultimate wrap-up to squash week would have involved all five squash varieties in some kind of squash explosion but even contemplating that makes me a little sick). The recipe was pretty easy to follow; I only screwed up in over-cooking the maple glaze to the point where it wasn’t so much a maple glaze as maple candy. Luckily, the dishes were for Martha.
Squash Deliciousness Level: 8. This dish did a really good job of using the sweetness of butternut squash as an accent while bringing in a variety of other flavors and textures to avoid palate fatigue. Although recommended as a side dish, it made a great light lunch on a fall day.
And so the week of squash ended. Although it wasn’t planned this way, after a couple of rocky starts the meals got progressively better; by the end of the week I could even say I almost liked squash. I suppose I will be able to eat it in the future. But five days in a row again? Probably not.