Squash That Reigns Supreme
A vegan-friendly side dish
by Jennifer Burns Levin
We grew up on baked acorn squash halves with butter and brown sugar in the cavity, but the kingdom of squash has since opened its jewel-toned gates. So many choices are in the markets now, and you should buy winter squashes soon to store in a cool, dark place for the winter.
|Anthony Boutard of Ayers Creek Farm in Gaston cuts winter squashes at the Hillsdale Farmers Market. Marina di Chioggia is in front; Musque de Provence (or Fairytale) variety in back.|
Thanksgiving presents plenty of opportunities for squash recipes. Maybe it’s due to an overdose on sugary baked acorn squash halves, but I like savory preparations involving meats or cream, which provide a balance for winter squash’s natural sugars. The dense-fleshed squashes that hail from the Cucurbita maxima family — the Japanese kabocha squashes and the large, very hard squashes like the hubbard, the grey sweet meat and the bumpy Italian marina di Chioggia — make wonderful soups with cream, chestnuts and bacon, or filling braised lunches with sautéed ground pork over rice.
But as delicious as the meaty squash recipes are, I was searching for a special Thanksgiving recipe that would be less filling, and one that could be used to make a hearty holiday dish for my vegan friends. Last year, I found an old medicinal recipe for “Queen of Hungary water,” an herb tincture that was supposedly the world’s first perfume. Various sources in the 16th and 17th centuries distill rosemary in an alcohol or oil base, and the “water” is applied as a skin tonic or imbibed. Rosemary and squash combine well, so I thought I’d marry the old Queen of Hungary to my squash purée. After accidentally making some teetotaling guests tipsy on my bourbon-based purée, I settled on a lighter combination of olive oil and white wine.
The combination of olive oil, clean and fruity white wine and herbal rosemary layers different flavors with the sweet squash. Olive oil works beautifully, giving the squash whip a rich taste without butter, cream or bacon. Don’t use too much fresh rosemary, since a little goes a long way, but plenty of oil is just fine. The Riesling used to thin out the purée shouldn’t be too sweet. Other white wines are not quite right for this recipe: Pinot gris is too subtle, and chardonnay’s oak interferes.
Jennifer Burns Levin writes about local food at culinariaeugenius.wordpress.com, where you can find more seasonal recipes.
Squash Whip Queen of Hungary
4 cups roasted winter squash (kabocha varieties, sweet meat, marina di Chioggia)
1/4 to 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons minced fresh rosemary
1 cup dry Riesling
1 teaspoon sea salt
To make the Queen of Hungary water: Combine minced rosemary and Riesling and allow to macerate for at least 2 hours on the counter, or overnight in the refrigerator.
To roast squash: Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Cut squash in large pieces with the skin on, and brush exposed flesh with olive oil. Bake cut side down until a knife can slip easily into the flesh. You may roast the squash the day before and reheat the next day while making the purée.
To make the squash whip: Measure out 4 cups of roasted squash. Beat well with a wooden spoon or push through a food mill. Add the salt and the rest of the oil (or to taste). Stir in about half of the marinated minced rosemary and 1/2 cup Queen of Hungary water. Add remaining Queen of Hungary water slowly until the purée is desired consistency. Serve warm.