Hail the mighty (versatile) squash

Respect: Recipes go from simple to sophisticated

November 10, 2010 

Pity the pumpkin. It gets no respect. In September freakishly large versions appear on public display. In October its lovely ribbed shell is carved in to ghoulish faces. Finally in November it becomes a pie ingredient like some sort of culinary punch line.

But the pumpkin and its yellow, gold and green squash relations can be so much more than a dessert or mushy side dish.

Butternut, delicato, kabocha, acorn. Saute them, soup them or squish them. Every squash has its unique personality and one variety may be better suited than another for a particular cooking method. While this may seem daunting at first, it’s actually a boon to the cook. This is one vegetable that is eminently flexible.

Adding squash to your meal can be as simple as grating butternut as if it were cheese on a green salad or baking acorn halves with brown sugar or the sophistication of pumpkin raviolis.

These recipes from local chefs can either be a side dish or a featured main attraction for your Thanksgiving meal or any meal when fall and winter squash are in the markets.

Craig Sailor: 253-597-8541 craig.sailor@thenewstribune.com


Grilled Winter Squash & Potato Soup

2 large zucchini, sliced length-wise

2 large yellow squash, sliced length-wise

1/2 cup olive oil

Salt and pepper to taste

10 Idaho potatoes, peeled and cut in half

1/2 carrot, chopped

3 white onions, chopped

21/2 cloves garlic, chopped

1 bunch tarragon, chopped

1/2 bunch oregano, chopped

1 cup extra virgin olive oil

1/4 cup tomato paste

11/2 gallons vegetable stock

1 gallon cream

2 cups Parmesan cheese, grated

1/2 cup Champagne vinegar

Salt and pepper to taste

Season the squash and zucchini with salt and pepper and toss in the regular olive oil. Lightly grill the squash and zucchini, do not burn. Sweat the potatoes, carrots, garlic and onions in the extra virgin olive oil. Add the squash, zucchini and garlic, sauté. Add the tomato paste and stock; bring to a simmer for about half an hour. Add the cream and bring just to high simmer. Blend with immersion blender. While blending, add the Parmesan cheese and vinegar. Taste and adjust seasoning, acid and salt if needed. Store cold until needed; re-heat over medium heat in a water bath.

Vegetable Stock: 8 cups white onions (chopped), 6 cups celery (chopped), 8 cups carrots (chopped), 1 bunch parsley (chopped), 1 bunch thyme (chopped), 4 gallons water. Simmer for 11/2 hours, strain, hold cold until needed.

Source: Thad Lyman, Brix 25, 7707 Pioneer Way, Gig Harbor, 253-858-6626, www.harborbrix.com/

Tempest Veggie Lovers Delight

Yield: Serves 4

2 acorn squash

11/2 cups wild rice mix

1 Fuji apple

1 tablespoon granulated garlic

1 trablespoon granulated onion

1 tablespoon dried sweet basil

1 tablespoon dried parsley

1/4 cup golden raisins

1/4 cup walnuts (lightly crushed)

1 celery stalk (finely diced)

1-4 tablespoons olive oil (not extra virgin)

Salt and pepper (to taste) a pinch of each should do it

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Remove stems from squash, cut in half and remove seeds. Place on sheet pan with cut side down and skin side up. Place in oven for 25-35 minutes or until soft. Cook rice according to package. In a sauté pan place oil, apple, celery and walnuts. Cook on medium heat for 5-7 minutes stirring frequently. Add raisins, rice, dry spices and salt and pepper. Mix very well so everything is evenly distributed.

Return to heat and cook for another two minutes stirring frequently. Place even amounts of rice mixture in each squash half. Put filled squash back in oven for 2-3 minutes to finish at 375 degrees. Remove and serve.

Source: Denise Tempest, Tempest Lounge, 913 Martin Luther King Jr Way, Tacoma, 253-272-4904, www.tempestlounge.com

Pumpkin Crab Cakes

1/2 pumpkin (we used a sugar pumpkin in our recipe testing)

1 cup total finely chopped carrots, onions and celery; combined

1 cup flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

Peel of half an orange, finely chopped

Juice of one orange

1 teaspoon chopped fresh garlic

1 tablespoon chopped parsley

Salt and pepper

11/4 cup cooked crab meat

1/4 cup olive oil

1 cup of bread crumbs

Leaving the rind on, clean the membrane and seeds from the pumpkin, and cut it into large wedges. Place on a baking sheet and drizzle oil over the top. Roast in a 375-degree oven for about 45 minutes, or until the flesh of the pumpkin begins to soften. Let the roasted pumpkin cool completely.

Remove the rind and chop one cup of the pumpkin. Add it to a mixing bowl along with 4 tablespoons of the olive oil and all of the other ingredients except the bread crumbs and crab. Mix these ingredients together gently (using your hands is best) until a slightly moist paste is formed. Mix in one cup of crab, reserving the rest of the crab to put on top of the finished cakes.

Scoop one tablespoon of the mixture and roll it into the bread crumbs. Then flatten it into a patty. Repeat this process until all of the mixture has been used. Heat the remaining oil in a large sauté pan. When the oil is quite hot, fry up the crab cakes, until they are crisp on both sides. Quickly remove them from the pan, place them on a baking sheet, and cook in a 450 oven for about 5 minutes. Place the remaining crab on top of the finished cakes.

Source: Tom Pantley, Toscanos, 437 29th Street NE, Puyallup 253-864-8600 www.toscanospuyallup.com

Sautéed Squash

1 butternut squash

1/2 cup butter

1 cup minced onions

11/2 cups of riso aborio rice

8 cups of chicken or turkey stock

1/2 cup dried cranberries

Salt and pepper to taste

1 teaspoon each dried rosemary and thyme

1 cup Parmesan

Take butternut squash and cut off the top third and dice into 1-inch pieces. Take the rest of the squash, wrap it in foil and roast in the oven until cooked. Then hold on the side until later.

In a large braising pan, melt whole butter. Sauté 1 cup minced onions until translucent. Add 11/2 cups of riso aborio rice and mix in with butter and onions.

Add uncooked diced squash and mash the roasted squash add into pan.

Add 1 teaspoon of rosemary and 1 teaspoon of thyme.

Slowly add one cup at a time of stock until all stock is gone or 18 minutes has passed. You can use chicken or turkey stock. Add dried cranberries while adding stock to rice. Add salt, pepper and Parmesan at the end and stir until cheese is melted.

Source: Daniel Hutsell, executive chef, El Gaucho Tacoma, 2119 Pacific Ave., Tacoma, 253-272-1510

Pumpkin Ravioli with Butter Sage Sauce

For the ravioli:

Fresh pasta (buy fresh, or use the recipe below)

Pumpkin filling

Salt and pepper

For the pasta:

21/2 cups flour

3 large eggs

1 egg yolk

Pinch of salt

Pumpkin ravioli filling:

1 pound cooked pie pumpkin meat

3 tablespoons olive oil

1 cup Parmesan, shredded

1/4 teaspoon nutmeg, grated whole nut or to taste

3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

Salt and pepper

To finish the ravioli:

Prepared raviolis

2 ounces unsalted butter

6 sage leaves

Salt and pepper

1/2 cup grated Parmesan

To make the pasta: In a mixer with dough hook attached mix the ingredients until well incorporated. Wrap in plastic and leave overnight in refrigerator.

For the pasta: Cut the pasta into four and beginning with the first ball roll the pasta out in the pasta machine starting at the widest setting, using flour to avoid sticking and progressing in settings until the narrowest setting is reached. Lay the finished sheet on a floured surface and place spoonfuls of pumpkin filling about 2.5 inches apart on the pasta. Brush between the filling with a little water and fold the pasta over the filling making sure to push air out of the ravioli and to seal them properly. Place the ravioli on a plate dusted with semolina flour.

For the ravioli filling: Halve pumpkin and remove seeds. Drizzle the inner flesh with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Place on a cookie sheet with the cut side down. Bake in oven at 350 degrees for approximately 30 minutes.

When the pumpkin is done cooking, allow cooling before removing flesh from skin. Drain any excess liquid from the pumpkin in a colander. Weigh out the cooked pumpkin to determine the correct amounts of the other ingredients. Mix in the remaining ingredients and adjust seasoning as needed.

For presentation/finish: Bring a pot of salted water to a boil. Cook the ravioli in the boiling water for 5-8 minutes, until they float and are uniformly cooked. Meanwhile, melt the butter in a sauté pan. Add the sage leaves and season with salt and pepper. Add the cooked raviolis and a little pasta water to the pan and stir to coat with the butter sauce. Sprinkle with the Parmesan and serve.

Source: Charlie McManus, Primo Grill, 601 South Pine, Tacoma, 253-383-7000 www.primogrilltacoma.com

Squash without squish

Diana Prine, executive chef at Fife City Bar and Grill, says some people don’t like squash because of its mushy texture, so she has several suggestions for combating that.

Butternut Squash: peel and blanche in boiling water until al dente. Shock in ice water, drain, and toss with butter and pesto.

Delicata squash: In addition to its great flavor and unique color, its skin is edible. Split the squash in half (leave the seeds in until after roasting, they are easier to remove this way), place on a sheet pan cavity side down with a small amount of water and roast until the flesh begins to soften when touched in the center. Cool, remove seeds, and heat in the oven with butter, salt and pepper.

Source: Diana Prine, Fife City Bar and Grill, 3025 Pacific Highway E., 253-922-9555

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