Saturday, November 12, 2011

Acorn Squash, Revisited


I confess, I’ve never understood the allure of acorn squash. It lacks the depth of flavor of butternut; it's not quite as versatile as a pumpkin; it's difficult to peel. I do, at times, appreciate the subtle tea-like flavor of the fruit, but I’ve always wished for something more, something greater.

A couple of weeks ago, my husband picked up a large acorn squash at the market. It sat in the bread box*, briefly considered and then rejected every time I reached in for an onion. For a side dish, our usual mode of cooking has been to fill the cavity with butter, brown sugar, maybe some cinnamon and nutmeg, and bake. The label even calls this out as the perfect way to enjoy it. Well, my friends, the label-writer, acorn squash–promoter types are wrong.

A few nights ago, I decided the thing must be cooked before I was led down the road of produce spoilage–induced guilt. A quick search on epicurious.com uncovered Lidia Bastianich's Roasted Acorn Squash Salad. I had the dish’s few ingredients on hand, and it seemed simple enough to create while the meatloaf baked. And thus, a convert was born.


Roasting the squash in thick slices brought out its sweetness, and the vegetable was elevated when combined with the tangy, slightly sweet, almost nutty flavor of a balsamic vinegar glaze. Toasted almonds accompanied it perfectly, providing texture and a nice layer of flavor. The salad is wonderful without cheese, although I do think it would be divine with some goat cheese crumbled on top. 

I used olive oil (not extra-virgin) for roasting, and next time I would use a bit less, perhaps 1 to 1 ½ tablespoons. For drizzling over top, I used a good-quality extra-virgin olive oil. I did slice my squash a bit thinner than instructed; I wanted to have it in the oven with the meatloaf, which was baking at 375°F, and fully cooked when the main course was.

Balsamic vinegar can be pricey, but you needn't feel compelled to make a full batch of the glaze. I had ¾ cup in the house and reduced that with ½ tablespoon of honey and a bay leaf. It made enough glaze for at least 3 batches of the salad. Lidia claims the glaze keeps indefinitely; with that part of the prep completed, I believe this new favorite might make the cut for our Thanksgiving menu.


*We keep the bread in the refrigerator and the squash, onions and garlic in the bread box. Makes perfect sense. And it has not, as of yet, led to human sacrifice, dogs and cats living together, or mass hysteria.

Copyright 2011

4 comments:

  1. At first glance I thought this looked like fancy French toast (I've been putting pumpkin in my French toast so maybe that's where the idea came from). I'm so impressed with your ability to know exactly how to modify a recipe on the first go. I usually have to make it exactly by the recipe before I know what I'd change, and you can do it on the fly. I suppose this just takes practice?

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  2. Pumpkin French toast sounds awesome! But, yes, simply lots of cooking and trying new things. And they don't all turn out to be fabulous, but they are almost always edible. :)

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  3. I find acorn squash a huge pain too, so I'll have to try this.
    I've been a big fan of delicata lately, because you can eat the skin. Also it' tasty, but these days I really appreciate ways to cut corners...

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  4. Delicata would be perfect for this dish, then. (The skin was a bit pesky when eating the salad.) I'll look for it at the market on Saturday!

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