Learning to Love Squash
I somehow feel badly that I have never been a big fan of the squash family as I have had a bit of a love affair with veggies for most of my life. At a young age, I recall being more concerned with the remains in the salad bowl than any sweets being offered for dessert. And almost any vegetable was game in our house to be prepared as a salad. No lettuce leaf, bean, cucumber, potato, beet, cabbage or even broccoli floret was safe from being dressed with a homemade vinaigrette.
Perhaps this is why when first presented with dish of squash prepared with butter and brown sugar, I was quite simply confused. And then later aghast when I learned that sometimes people put marshmallows on top! Perhaps it was this first experience that turned my attention away from what was presumably an enjoyable food group. From butternut to acorn and many lesser know varieties, there certainly had to be one type of squash that would appeal to my palate.
I finally encountered two along the way that tempted my taste buds, namely zucchini and spaghetti which seemed to be the least offensive of the bunch, however I still felt compelled to understand the attraction to the sweeter varieties and would try my hand at different recipes. But it was only recently that I finally fell in love when I had the good fortune to meet Madison Zabiuk of Two Sisters Winery Restaurant “Kitchen 76” over a bowl of their butternut squash soup. She shared one of the secrets to this divine soup – no sugar – rather a long roasting process to bring out the natural sweetness of the squash. I was immediately inspired to come home and recreate one of the best soups and maybe the first sweet squash dishes, I have truly enjoyed.
I started with a cubed butternut squash tossed in fresh rosemary, sage and olive oil and then baked until fork tender at 250 degrees C – about two hours. This was then simply blended with chicken broth (homemade of course) and a bit of cream. So simple but so delicious.
The show stoppers were the garnishes which were inspired by the chefs of Kitchen 76, wilted Belgian endive and arugula with a dollop of goat cheese and rosemary focaccia. It was appropriately paired with a glass of 2016 Two Sisters Barrel-fermented Chardonnay, Lenko Vineyards, so I could raise a glass to Madison for inspiring me to learn to love squash.