Squash Squashed

I hate squash.  Or did for the first 35 years of my life, anyway.  In fact, squash is the primary reason that I developed such a passion for the culinary arts.  I know that makes about as much sense as a fur coat in Tahiti, but it’s true.

Growing up, my only exposure to squash was via my great-great-grandmother Ethel.  As a small child, I remember her slicing yellow squash, and boiling it to within an inch of its own existence.  God love her heart. Although I believe butter makes anything better, in this case it was no help. The resulting “dish” was a bland, stringy, heinously textured yellow glop.  Merely thinking about the taste and the mouth-feel of boiled and squashed yellow squash will, to this day, bring on fits of gagging.  Excuse me for a moment…..

So I went about the next 30 years knowing to the pit of my being that squash was to be feared, detested, and marginalized.  Like a vegan at a Beef Producers Expo, it could not be trusted.

One fine spring day, while dining with my mother at a national café style chain restaurant, she ordered a side of squash casserole.  It looked something like southern cornbread dressing.  Provocative.  Can anything that looks like southern cornbread dressing be that bad?

I prodded it with a fork. It seemed to have texture.

I sniffed it.  Nutty. Sweet. Oniony.

I tasted it.  Clearly, they had gotten her order wrong.  This wasn’t squash.  This was something yummy.  Something sweet and herbilicious, with a soufflé-like texture and a nice, buttery, bread crumb crust.  Sort of like corn pudding.

It slowly began to sink in that perhaps I did not, in fact, hate squash.  Could it be that I had been so duped for 30 years by the vegetable gods?

Knowing that a national restaurant chain was unlikely to share its recipe with me, I set out to create something similar. I’ve been through several iterations, but eventually settled on one that is consistently delish and super simple.  I don’t often use any mixes, prepared foods, or other cheats when cooking, but in this case I do.  Using a sweet cornbread mix shaves off much time, and makes this Squash Pudding sort of a no-brainer to prepare.

So squash was really my first understanding that maybe I didn’t really dislike the foods I thought I did.  Maybe I didn’t detest duck.  Maybe, just maybe, the super greasy, heavy flavor of the Duck in Bing Cherry Sauce that turned me off to duck so many years before was just a bad way to experience duck.  And maybe, just maybe, sampling the overcooked mutton roast with mint jelly at my church’s Sedar Supper was not the best time to decide if I liked lamb.  And maybe beets didn’t always taste like dirt.

I also figured that if my mind could be changed about squash, then other people’s minds could be changed about mushrooms, sweet potatoes, cabbage, or whatever food they swore off forever after a really bad first impression.  Thus, my foodie mission became clear.  Create believers out of non-believers. Mushroom lovers out of mushroom haters.  In the process, I have found adventure in places and deliciousness in flavors I would never have believed I would.  I LOVE a well prepared duck.  A breast pan seared to medium rare in a light, citrusy sauce.  And properly done lamb, especially of the Greek variety, is among my favorites.

I would like to say that now  I know that there is really no food that can’t be made palatable with the proper preparation.  However, I am still trying to figure out how to like beets.  They still taste like dirt to me.  If you have a suggestion, let me know, because I would love to conquer that demon!

To pay homage on this Thanksgiving to the vegetable that changed my perspective, I am sharing three recipes using different squash varieties.  I hope you try one you haven’t had before, and find a new favorite along the way.

Indian Squash Pudding

  • 6 medium-sized yellow summer squash
  • 1 medium sweet onion, chopped
  • 1 -8oz box sweet cornbread mix
  • 1 can chicken broth
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 t salt
  • 1 t ground black pepper
  • 1 cup seasoned bread crumbs
  • 3 T butter, cut in small pieces

Preheat oven to 350*

Wash the squash, and cut the ends off.  Slice squash into ½ inch thick slices.  Place in a small stockpot with chicken broth and onions.  Bring to a boil over medium heat and boil for 10 minutes.  Remove from heat and allow to cool for 10 minutes.  Beat in cornbread mix, salt, pepper and eggs.  Pour into a 3 quart casserole.  Sprinkle bread crumbs over the top, and dot with butter.  Bake for 1 hour.

Roasted Acorn Squash

Roasted Acorn Squash With Maple and Cayenne

Serves 4

  •  2 acorn squash
  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • 2 tablespoons maple syrup
  • 1-2 teaspoons cayenne pepper

Preheat oven to 400*           Line a baking pan with foil.

Cut the squash in half long ways.   Scoop out the seeds (an ice cream scoop is great for this).  Cut a small layer off the outside of each half, so that it will sit flat in the baking sheet. Place 1 tablespoon butter and 1 tablespoon maple syrup in the cavity of each squash.  Sprinkle with cayenne pepper, using ¼ to ½ teaspoon each, depending on your tolerance for heat.  Bake for one hour, basting each half with the butter from its cavity a few times.

Orange Scented Butternut Squash Pie

Orange Scented Butternut Squash Pie With Pecan Crumble

Makes 1 pie.

  • 1 large butternut squash
  • Juice AND zest of 1 small thin-skinned orange
  • 1/3 cup evaporated milk
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon allspice
  • 1 t cinnamon
  • 2 beaten eggs
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 9” pie crust, your favorite recipe
  • ½ cup chopped pecans
  • 4 tablespoons softened butter
  • 1/3 cup flour
  • 1/3 cup brown sugar

Place oven rack on lowest position.  Cut squash in half long ways.  Place cut side down on foil lined baking sheet, and bake at 400* for 60-75 minutes.  Squash should be blistered and brown on the outside, and very soft inside.  Allow to cool for 20 minutes, and scoop pulp out of the skin. This may be done a day or two in advance.

Reduce oven heat to 350*

Mash squash, and measure out 3 cups into a mixing bowl.  Add orange juice and zest, milk, salt, spices, eggs and sugar.  Beat for two minutes.  Pour into pie crust, and bake for 30 minutes.  While it is baking, cut butter into brown sugar and flour until you have large crumbs.  Toss in pecans.  Remove pie after 30 minutes, and sprinkle the pecan mixture over the top.  Return to oven and bake for 45 more minutes, or until the center is set.

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36 Comments on “Squash Squashed”

  1. 2012/11/09 at 4:56 pm #

    I love squash but my favourite in your post has to be Orange Scented Butternut Squash Pie with Pecan Crumble………….vegetables and dessert all in one.

  2. 2012/11/09 at 5:52 pm #

    What an awesome way to find such a cool passion. Maybe I can try to use that particular logic on hubby to get him to try certain foods that he refuses to try. Being funny, he says he won’t eat anything that starts with “ass” or has the word “choke” in there…so he won’t try asparagus (one of my faves) or artichoke (even in a cheesy artichoke dip). Apparently, choke trumps his love of cheese.

  3. 2012/11/09 at 6:17 pm #

    I can totally relate to this post, I had the same with carrot cake and beetroots (as well), until I actually ate a piece of carrot cake and a salad with beetroot. The cake was yummie sweet, and I loved it (although I cannot bring myself to make it haha). The beetroot salad was with a tangy orange dressing and included all sorts of great vegetables. But beetroot and orange is definitely a winner.
    I also don’t eat squash, being from Holland we feel squash is pig-food… But your pictures look awesome, so maybe I’ll give it a go :-)

  4. 2012/11/09 at 6:18 pm #

    Mmmm… I love me some squash. On pizza, as spaghetti noodles substitutes, grilled, sauteed, fried–yep, I love squash. Thanks for the fabulous recipe suggestions!

  5. 2012/11/09 at 6:49 pm #

    The orange scented pie looks deeevine!

  6. 2012/11/09 at 7:32 pm #

    Beets don’t taste like dirt — they taste like SWEET dirt. Try pickled beets, you might find them more to your taste.

    I’ve never been a big fan of butternut squash, probably because the name always sets me up for disappointment. Zucchini aren’t my favorite, either, unless disguised as zucchini bread. Acorn squash, on the other hand, is a wonderful way of flavoring butter and brown sugar.

    My mother used to cook yellow summer squash with milk and nutmeg. There was nothing fancy: just slice the sauce and cook it in milk. She might have put some butter in it, because “no fat, no joy.”

    • 2012/11/09 at 9:25 pm #

      I never liked zucchini until I had it cooked with crumbled bacon, cheddar cheese and tomatoes…..man, was it good! Now I like it many ways….

      • 2012/11/15 at 7:23 pm #

        Next time try leaving out the zucchini. That will let the flavor of the crumbled bacon, cheddar cheese, and tomatoes come through.

  7. 2012/11/09 at 7:41 pm #

    Your great-great-grandmother’s recipe for squash reminds me of an incident from my college days. Our eating club had hired a true Yankee woman as a cook. After a couple of servings of unidentifiable greenish mush we told her we wanted her to use only frozen vegetables, not canned. The bowls of glop continued, and we again told her to use frozen vegetables.

    She swore she was, and showed us a freezer full of frozen vegetables. One of the more astute among us asked her how she cooked them. You can porbably guess the answer: “I boil them for twenty minutes. You don’t know who’s touched them.”

    She was also the cook who turned 50 pounds of rib eye into the blandest stew you can imagine. She didn’t last long after that.

    • 2012/11/09 at 9:26 pm #

      Oh, man….she sounds like one of the cooks from high school. Or like any of the cooks from high school.

  8. 2012/11/09 at 8:37 pm #

    Looks great!!!! Think I will try it!

  9. 2012/11/09 at 8:49 pm #

    Spaghetti squash is the best squash, IMHO. Just bake it, drizzle a little EVOO, salt & pepper … and you’re in for a treat! Your Roasted Acorn Squash recipe looks very good; have to give that a try.

    • 2012/11/09 at 9:28 pm #

      I love to do spaghetti squash in a simple lemon butter, with shrimp, and also as a carbonara…..makes me feel less guilty for the heavy sauce.

  10. 2012/11/09 at 8:50 pm #

    I wouldn’t call beets an exciting vegetable, but I don’t think they’ve ever reminded me of dirt. Just a wild guess suggestion – you do peel them, don’t you??? (Once they’re cooked, the peel slips off very easily.) If you leave the peel on, maybe that’s what you’re tasting.

    If that’s not the problem, then I got nuthin to help with the beet problem. Sorry :)

    • 2012/11/09 at 9:30 pm #

      I’m gonna give them another go. A chef friend told me to blanch them, then peel them, then toss them with olive oil and sea salt and roast them until caramelized……I really, really want to like them.

      • 2012/11/09 at 9:49 pm #

        Yeah, that sounds like it might almost make them interesting! Good luck.

  11. 2012/11/10 at 12:31 am #

    I may have to try roasted acorn squash again. My mother always made it for herself and my dad when I was growing up. Us kids would not touch it. But, it smelled really good when it was cooking. I tried to make it several years ago and it was a bit tasteless. Your recipe looks like it has a nice kick to it :-).

  12. 2012/11/10 at 9:16 am #

    I do like squash, although I didn’t when I was younger. Never saw a squash casserole before but I like it!

  13. 2012/11/10 at 10:12 am #

    I’m drooling – and off the store to buy some squash!

  14. 2012/11/10 at 1:39 pm #

    I always want to mush through the stuff with my toes and fingers. A bathtub filled with squash would be the ultimate spa indulgence.

    Recently, I’ve gotten really into spicey pumpkin mixtures. Stuffed in bolani or ravioli or just eaten by the spoonful, it is really good roasted and mixed with cayan and course black pepper. Thanks for making me hungry! ;)

    For beets, try yellow and red, peeled and roasted,, and then grated into a bit of a bitter salad with walnuts and blue cheese or goat cheese. Dress with oil and vinegar and it is yummy!

  15. 2012/11/10 at 3:19 pm #

    I love what you said about every food being delicious if it is prepared properly. I agree! There are a few foods that if your first taste is one that is badly prepared, it is hard to come back from. Avocados are something that springs to mind, as a bad one is truly horrible. I still have yet to have a nice brussell sprout. I want to like them, but I just can’t. With beetroot, I roast them whole in their skin, then peel them. They are beautiful with other roasted root vegetables like sweet potato, pumpkin, potato, carrot etc, made into a salad, drizzled with olive oil, garlic and a side of pesto.

    • 2012/11/10 at 10:52 pm #

      Oh My God. Avocados are among my favorite things. But it has to be the dark skinned haas varieties. Those green skinned varieties are gross.

  16. 2012/11/10 at 6:20 pm #

    I love squash and that pie looks scrumptious–very worth a try! Btw, I’m thinking beets still taste bad, no matter how they’re cooked, lol!

    • 2012/11/10 at 10:51 pm #

      I’m sure you’re right about the beets, but I so keep hoping somebody will prove me wrong.

  17. 2012/11/10 at 9:47 pm #

    Summer squash was one of those vegetables that I didn’t like for a long time — but I ate it anyway, because I liked the name and the yellow color. (I ate oysters for similar reasons.) At some point, I began liking them … probably when I grew my own. Nice recipes, as usual.

  18. KorubettosHaiku
    2012/11/11 at 1:04 pm #

    Butternut squash soup is absolutely delish : ) You should try it. One off-putting food for me has always been… cabbage or kale. I will not eat it in any form. Funnily enough I don`t mind spinach (but wouldn`t be in a hurry to eat it either). Interesting article : )

    • 2012/11/11 at 7:22 pm #

      Oh, I love butternut squash soup….but I also love cabbage, fried in some bacon and onions….mmmmmmm

  19. 2012/11/12 at 6:20 am #

    still don’t like squash tho!lol.

  20. 2012/11/12 at 9:04 am #

    Looks delicious. But where i am from Squaw is a racist term for natives…. I even feel guity typing it out….. But your recipe looks awesome :)

    • 2012/11/12 at 11:06 am #

      I actually thought I had removed all references to the word. As someone of Cherokee heritage, I grew up with it, and it didn’t have the same connotations…

  21. 2012/11/12 at 1:15 pm #

    This post reminds me of my husband. He always declares how he hates squash and zucchini, when really I think he hates how it was prepared when he was growing up, which sounds a lot like how your great great grandmother made it.
    I got him to try a zucchini pasta that I learned how to make in Italy and he actually liked it! Then I made some baked zucchini sticks with panko, which I found on Pinterest, and he liked it! I think a lot of the time when people say they don’t like something it’s because they only had it one way growing up. The other day I made some pumpkin sausage sauce over pasta and he’s telling me how he “hates” pumpkin. Hopefully he’ll try it today because there really isn’t a pumpkin flavor and I think he would actually like it.
    Your recipe looks delicious! And it looks like something my husband would actually try!

  22. 2012/11/13 at 10:54 am #

    What an enjoyable read!

  23. 2012/11/15 at 7:28 pm #

    For some reason my mother used to make squash pie instead of pumpkin pie every once in awhile. They come in similar cans, and don’t taste that different, but I never understood the point.

  24. 2012/11/17 at 6:55 pm #

    Love, Love, LOVE squash season!!

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