Recently appointed to the role of executive chef at Conestoga…
Whether it’s butternut or acorn, it’s squash season — and it has been since 5,000 BCE.
Humankind has been cultivating and eating the humble vegetable for a long time, whether Asian, North or South American squash varieties. It’s a remarkable foodstuff that because of its size and density is among the most valuable crops for feeding people in terms of yield per acre.
Yet, even fairly recently some cuisines have not looked fondly on the plant, according to Steve Allen of Little Louie’s Burger Joint and Soupery in Cambridge and an instructor at Conestoga College. Allen is also an expert forager and often returns from the wilds of the Ontario countryside with plants, herbs and mushrooms.
“Squash and root veg look amazing at this time of the year.”
— Steve Allen
“When I was a young apprentice in France, quite some time ago, we had a local farm that we used for chickens and produce. It’s was a huge garden, and I suggested that we do a squash puree or roasted squash. They looked at me like I was crazy because it was basically food for the animals. They rarely ate squash and pumpkin where we were, but that’s likely changed now,” says Allen.
The squash family is divided into three basic categories: melons like cantaloupe and honeydew, winter squashes which are hard and keep for months, and summer squashes like cucumber and zucchini. Their are a lot of varieties, as the photos here show.
Allen shares his expertise in culinary techniques and his practical knowledge of the current trends in the industry and teaches students culinary basics from knife skills to sauce and stock preparation and more. For him, squash can be a delicious component of a dish that takes just about all of the root vegetables, from beets to parsnips, and combines them.
“Dice each root into equal sized pieces, toss them in butter and olive oil, season with salt and pepper and herbs, and roast them all separately,” he says. “Then mix them together when cooked, reheat as needed and serve. They look amazing at this time of the year.”
We are in peak squash season with the hard winter squashes having arrived from the fields earlier in October. Once the frost really hits and squash freezes they are ruined. A good one, though, is full of vitamins, fibre, alpha- and beta-carotene, lutein, zeaxanthin and beta-cryptoxanthin (though they sound scary, the latter three of which are health-supportive carotenoids).
Quick squash recipe
Super easy and delicious, Allen suggests a very basic treatment of an acorn squash for maximum enjoyment and little fuss. “Take a basic, plain acorn squash, cut it in wedges and slather in olive oil and some brown sugar,” he says. “Roast the wedges with the skin on until they really caramelize. Not many people realize it, but you can eat them skin and all. It’s my personal favourite way to eat squash.”
1 acorn squash, thoroughly washed
salt and pepper
Pre-heat oven to 350-degrees F.
Dry the squash after washing it thoroughly. Slice the squash into wedges similar to the sections of an orange. Liberally add olive oil to coat the entire wedge and gently massage it in the nooks and crannies. Sprinkle with brown sugar to taste, and season with salt and pepper. Roast the squash sections on a baking sheet until very soft and caramelized deep brown. Enjoy!
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