Cut Along Dotted Line

October 30, 2014 at 10:14 am

Eat Local Squash

cut along dotted line


My theory, unsupported by diligent research, is that a reason people do not eat local is because they do not want to eat the foods required of eating local.  See, by the end of October, the Chicago locavore’s diet tends towards roots and squash.  Do you want to eat roots and squash?  The work involved in preparing winter squashes keeps it off shopping lists.  Easier to make asparagus or green beans no matter how wooden or banal they taste over 365 days.   The answer to easier squash comes right on the plant.

There are three ways to deal with hard squashes: one difficult, one often leading  to insipid or puerile concoctions, and a better, yet less used way.  Try peeling hard squashes.  It starts like an M.C. Esher enterprise as you keep on turning and twisting , trying to figure out where it should stand, how you should proceed.  Then, you loose half the meat as you try to remove its skin without removing your skin.  I like to use big chunks of squash in recipes, for instance, roasting and tossing in a bowl with honey and jalepenos (or some kind of dried pepper if you’ve run out of fresh).  I do peel, but I abhor the work involved in getting to chunks.  To many, squash is that soup served at Thanksgiving to quell the guests while the turkey rests (or to make the meal seem “elegant” by presenting it in courses?).  Mostly, to me, squash soups do not work.  The Swanson canned broth sneaks into the flavor too much.  Some cooks ladle out something more like dessert.  Yes, squashes stand up well to sweet flavors.  Most pumpkin for pies, the stuff in cans, come from squashes.  I just do not like watered down candy-puree in hope of re-creating something Martha Stewart did years ago on Good Morning America.  And purees, that is another way to use squash.  The principle issue with many attempts, is they use the wrong squash.  Commonly found squash like acorn and butternut can often make thin, flat tasting purees.  Great squash purees come from heirloom squash, especially the blue hubbard.  That, my friend, can be a lot of work, but the resulting fluff will be worth your trouble.   This post, though, is about avoiding trouble.

The least difficult way to approach an acorn squash is to wedge it.  Just cut on the dotted lines.  What makes acorn squash impossible to peel makes them easy to slice.  It is all in the valleys. The outside of an acorn squash is a series of undulating hills.  In between those highs you thrust your knife.  The first plunge may scare, but soon you are following the safety of that Goddess created guide.  She won’t let you err.  Make your first cut all around, cleaving the squash in two.  Place the flat side on a cutting board, now use your lines, you know them now, to cut slabs.  You want about an inch and a half of squash per slice.  Remove the seeds.  Keep as much of the stringy bits as you can as that part tastes good.  All it takes from here is a little olive oil and salt.  Coat and lay on a baking tray.  I like to line my pan with parchment to ease the mess.  Preheat your oven to a roaring 425.  It will take less than a half-hour, use your nose to guide you to when they are toasty, but not burnt.  The resulting flesh will be soft with a honeyed crust.  They require no additional seasoning, although my instinct is to add hot peppers.  Done this way, often, you can even, often, eat the skin.

In the lessons I gave the other day, I told you to fill your own box of winter squash to prepare for the months with limited supplies of local food.  You do not need a root cellar to store squash.  They will live long, at house temperature.  After you have your squash, you will know what to do with it.  Cut along the dotted lines.