It was a gorgeous day here in a suburb of South Seattle. Blue skies, warm sun, just a faint hint of Fall – a kind of Indian summer quality to the air that cooled as darkness quietly fell. I know it is Fall because suddenly I am nesting. This means my interest in cooking has returned, but it has taken an odd turn. Healthy. I am cooking vegetables – and not just my usual artichokes, but acorn squash. Acorn Squash! I am not a squash affectionado – yep, I like pumpkin, but in pies or the seeds toasted – none of that pumpkin soup our foodies love so much here in the environs of cool chefs and twiggy, leafy stuff. Someone gave me the acorn squash, but that doesn’t account for buying a bunch of Southern greens, defrosting some bacon in preparation for cooking it tomorrow. The friend who gave me the squash said blithely, “Oh, just cut it in half, scoop out the seeds, put it in a microwave dish, fill the center with more butter than a human being should imagine, add some brown sugar and cook it for 20 minutes.” Hmmm.
Well, that sounded easy enough, but I couldn’t leave it alone. I looked up recipes, read about acorn and varieties of squash, and after all that, did what my friend said, but adapted the others into it. Cut the sucker in half – anybody who has cut squash knows exactly why I called it the sucker – this is not cantaloupe you’re cutting – holy God! I watched my super expensive knife balk at piercing the skin. I finally upended the blade and then sort of glided it in and out – hoping I wouldn’t lop my wrist off while I was at it. Later, I read the cautionary words of advice in Joy of Cooking… wisdom prevailed even in ignorance – that was a killer knife I was using.
I ended up using only one half of the acorn squash because I thought to try it both ways – via microwave and the oven, but got distracted by the seeds and the idea of roasting them, which I am in the process of doing at 250 degrees for 1.5 hours or so…. I put one half in a dish cut side down, added some water, covered it with Press N Seal (my favorite), leaving a side open for breathing. Cooked it five minutes on high; then another 7 minutes. Took it out, peeled back the cover, carefully lifted out the squash and tested it with the aforementioned knife – that’s more like it! Cut some groves into the center, cut a half a stick of butter and put it into the center, packed it with brown sugar, back in the microwave for six minutes. It’s beeping as I type.
Tonight’s dinner is artichokes boiled in water, olive oil, lemon juice and rinds. (For the first time in my life, I used the kitchen shears, a Christmas gift from the friend who also gave me my super knives, and trimmed the leaves – a pretension I have always resisted. Surprisingly relaxing, like doing ironing.) The artichokes will be accompanied by the acorn squash, which is supposed to be mashed up and served, but it’s so soft, I might just slice it – you can always mash later, not so?. I was going to add corn on the cob, but my system is beginning to rebel. Where’s the beef? Where’s starch? Where’s the substance here? I’m adding in Artisan’s crusty French bread with more butter. Toasting the night with a mini martini of Stoli. Either way, it’s going to be good.
(Images from Acorn Squash Recipe and Artichokes Recipe – Allrecipes.com)
(Image from Disney’s Family.go.com)
(Image from Stoli – strangly, no minis… :))
Update: Ladies and Gentlemen: Squash verdict: we have a convert. It was fantastic and would have been really good with some baked pie crust. Two of the four artichokes with melted hot butter down; four slices of that Artisan bread with butter – oh, and the trimmed leaves were a lovely touch – hah! pun. Half a large bowl of squash with more for tomorrow. The roasted seeds turned out great! Nice flavor! Do not, repeat do not put them in with the squash – they turn moist – had to take ’em all out, but I’ve still got a small container full of tasty, crunchy seeds. The ice cold Stoli was good, too. 😉