Chefs will tell you that we all eat first with our eyes. Our eyes see a beautiful strawberry or basted chicken or leg of lamb or cheesecake and our mouths start to water as we imagine its deliciousness.
We’re told repeatedly that beauty is only skin deep, but no one follows that up with beauty is the first thing we see, the first impression and can make us believe that something or someone is fabulously wonderful. Whether we like it or not, it can keep us from experiencing people and places and foods that are wonderful..Beauty is a tough category for the squash family. Because they’re like not that pretty to be honest.
And the fact that we might judge them and avoid them based just on looks is sad, just sad. I mean, if we truly made all of our food decisions based on how something looked, think of all we’d miss out on…there are certain foods we might never eat. Consider kiwi fruit or burritos or even Yodels – all sort of ugly, but completely delicious.
I think the same holds true for squash. They’re rough to look at – large, hard and intimidating. Oddly colored, strangely shaped and emitting no alluring aroma. A squash virgin has no ideas of the hidden wonders of the flesh that make risking your fingers to knife them open worth it.
So…squash aren’t super pretty. I realize that no one would pay to see the Ms Squash beauty pageant. And I know that to choose a pretty squash is like declaring a tallest midget…But, since another blogger announced this week that he had a favorite child, I feel compelled to say that Acorn squash is pretty pretty and maybe even prettiest of all squash. And, lucky for me, its flesh is as delicious – sweet, delicate yet hearty – as it is beautiful. In this case, beauty is skin deep and deeper.
And, there are other amazing ways to enjoy an acorn squash – beyond just the traditional basting in brown sugar and butter…Here’s one.
Stuffed Acorn Squash (side dish serves 4-6)
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees
1. Saute 1/2 cup of roughly chopped baby bella mushrooms in 2 tbsp of olive oil
2. In a second saucepan, over medium heat saute 1/2 chopped shallot and 1 chopped clove of garlic until fragrant, about 2 – 3 minutes
3. Add in 1 defrosted package of chopped spinach, squeezed dry. Heat through – about 2 mins
4. Add in 1 tbsp heavy cream and stir
5. Add in 1 cup of whole milk ricotta cheese and stir to combine
6. Once heated through, add in the sauteed mushrooms and stir to combine. Add salt and pepper
7. Add in 2 heaping tbsp of parmesan cheese, stir to combine
8. Remove from heat and set aside
9. Slice the tops off of 2 Acorn Squash about 1/3 of the way down the squash and remove the seeds and membrane-y stuff from the base and the lid
10. Put 1 tbsp of butter into the base of the larger side of each split squash
11. Using a small spoon, scoop some of the spinach, cheese and mushroom mixture into each squash on top of the butter. Do not overstuff!
12. Top with toasted panko bread crumbs and replace the top of each squash
13. Gently place the stuffed acorn squash on a rimmed baking sheet lined with parchment paper and put into the oven for 1 hour until fork tender
14. Let cool slightly and then scoop out the flesh and filling and put into a serving bowl. Mix together and serve hot
So, squash virgins, see the beauty in this amazing vegetable. Look past the tough exterior and heft. Fear not the splitting process. And, squash experts, give Acorn Squash a new look – move away from the 1970’s traditional brown sugar steam bath and elevate her with a delicate, creamy filling.
And, mostly all people, please enjoy the pleasures of the flesh.