Thursday, October 07, 2010

Textures of Fall

Butternut squash edged out root vegetables as a favorite fall cooking item. I have to agree that the versatility of butternut squash and in turn other fall root vegetables is very agreeable. For a long time I thought of butternut squash along with acorn squash, Cinderella, spaghetti and the many other varieties as nothing more than a puree-able pulp to be made into soup. I’ve learned the past few years that spaghetti squash is great when you cut it into rings and oh yes, it does in fact resemble spaghetti. Also butternut and acorn take well to being diced and sautéed. The key is not to overcook them, thus controlling their texture. The easy out is to cook the hell out of it and puree it into a soup like I’ve done so many times before, instead leaving a bite to it and getting a good sear will give you a great fall vegetable item.

While thinking about texture you can use parsnips, celery root, rutabaga and turnips the same way as squash. It is easy to cook them to death and puree them, but if you enjoy that flavor you will ultimately enjoy the caramelized and firm textured version as well. I’m really excited about the fall flavors this year and hope to share a few more ideas with you, but for now, here are two non-pureed ideas that I’ve found success with in the past.

Vegan Curry Butternut Squash Stew

One large onion diced
Just enough oil or roasted garlic oil

One tablespoon ginger
One teaspoon garlic if you don’t have roasted garlic oil

Two quarts medium diced butternut squash
Two tablespoons curry powder
Fresh crack black pepper

One quart diced tomatoes

Two quarts vegetable stock

Deeply caramelize the onions in oil. Add ginger, squash and curry powder to onion mix and cook a few minutes. Add the tomatoes and let its juices run, then add the stock and bring to a boil. This should take about ten minutes and at this point the squash should be tender but not mushy…perfect.

Butternut squash risotto

This is less of a recipe. What I like about it is the procedure so we will skip all the measurements and such. We all know how to make risotto. I like to take a large squash and make a perfect medium dice, but reserve all the scraps and chop them up in the food processor. I sauté this processed squash with an onion then proceed with making risotto. After the second third of liquid to the risotto I add the diced squash and continue on my way. This way I get a nice orange risotto with a resounding flavor of butternut squash, but also have the diced pieces of squash kind of like ‘flavor crystals’ in your gum. This is especially good with maple syrup!

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