In the recent past, I have had to cook for friends who don't like spices but love vegetables. No spices?! Whatever shall I do? Well, it's not so much no spices as no new-to-them spices, which ruled out any Indian spices. I found an answer in an easy Italian-inspired dish in the Relish pullout of my local newspaper. The recipe called for broccoli and pumpkin but I chose to use acorn squash because it was locally grown and I had never cooked with it before.
Once regarded as a staple in root cellars, kitchens and dinner tables across the country, winter squash has slowly waned in popularity over several decades. We’ve embraced fast food, trendier vegetables, and those that are seemingly easier to prepare.From Front Range Living
However, as the sustainable agriculture movement grows, so does the demand for locally grown produce. Savvy purveyors are starting to incorporate more foods typical of the American frontier where squash once played a major role.
Gulp! How does one cook this thing?! I didn't have time to look it up on the net so I went with the instructions on the sticker. It said to cut it in half and place it upside down in about 1/4 inch of water and bake for 35 minutes at 400F until tender. Usually the instructions say cut-side down. Which is the 'upside'? The cut side? Or the outside? I went with cut-side down because that is how I had seen pie pumpkins cooked. Turns out that it was the right move. Phew!
The slightly wrinkled ones were done just right. The other two needed a little more time in the oven. I then sliced these along the grooves and cut along the inside of the skin to get thick slivers of cooked acorn squash, that I then diced into smaller chunks. The flesh was more yellow than gold.
Garlicky Broccoli with Acorn Squash
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 1/4 tsp crushed red pepper flakes (more, if you want to up the heat)
- 3 cloves of garlic, chopped fine
- 4 cups of broccoli, largish florets
- 2-3 cups of acorn squash, cooked and diced
- 1/3 cup water
- Fresh ground black peppercorn
- Salt to taste
- 1/2 cup cheese of your choice, preferably Parmigiano-Reggiano
- Pre-heat your oven to 350F.
- Heat the olive oil in a large skillet.
- Add the red pepper flakes and heat until the oil darkens in color.
- Add broccoli florets and stir-fry on high heat for 3-4 minutes.
- Add 1/3 cup water, cover and steam on medium heat for another 3-4 minutes.
- Transfer to a baking dish or a dutch oven and sprinkle the chopped garlic over the broccoli.
- Add the diced acorn squash, fresh ground black peppercorns, salt and toss to mix well.
- Sprinkle the cheese over the veggies and bake at 350F until the cheese is melted.
- This will serve between 6-8 veggie lovers as a side at a Holiday Meal.
- For the dish in the picture above, I used a mix of cheeses that I had on hand from the leftovers of the cheese platter from the Secret Santa party. There was no way I was buying more cheese when there was already so much at home. So I ended up with a mix of Swiss, Monterey Jack and Colby Jack. Parmigiano would have been so much better but...and no-one seemed to mind!
- This dish is high on garlic. My husband insisted that we had a gas leak till I figured out it was the garlic he was smelling! So cut down on the garlic if you can't handle that much but remember that most of it just falls down to the bottom of the dutch oven and it's the flavor that it imparts that you want.
- This was a huge hit and it's something I will make over and over again. The cheese is not overpowering, the broccoli is just right, and the acorn squash adds a mildly sweet taste, resulting in a rather satisfying dish. Needless to say, I added more crushed red pepper to the leftovers and we enjoyed it even more!
Lower in beta carotene but higher in calcium than other varieties, acorn is not the most nutritive of the winter squashes but provides plentiful complex carbohydrates and few calories.
Sounded really good to me.
Keep this in mind as an alternative to beans cooked-to-death or boiled peas with butter, for meals when you have guests with tender taste buds.