More Fun with Gourds

This blog post is brought to you by Marit Hanson, code name Intern 3.

To begin this post, I need to refer back to a previous one– specifically, to Jessica’s Corn Bread creation.

As…interesting…as the final product may have been, in Jessica’s defense, I have yet to see a prettier cornbread than the one she concocted during our kitchen cooking adventure. We both agreed that had the sugar been added, the cornbread would have undoubtedly been pleasing to the eye and the palate.

For my own foray into cooking with The Mitsitam Cafe Cookbook, Recipes from the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian, I chose Hazelnut and Honey-Roasted Acorn Squash. I picked this recipe partly because I am currently obsessed with all things squash and partly because (as Jessica mentioned) it had only four ingredients.

Given my history with gourds, I probably should have known that preparing acorn squash was bound to be a challenge. Then again, even if pumpkins and squash weren’t determined to thwart my attempts to carve/prepare them, there are two things that would have made preparing this recipe much easier for me:

1)    A large, sharp knife. Emphasis on both large and sharp. Don’t be fooled by its size; acorn squash has relatively small seed pods, which means that the shell and flesh are very thick. A large, sharp knife will make quick work of parting the squash in two. Anything else (like, say, the smallish steak knife I used) will result in a fifteen-minute game of Stab the Sqaush.

2)    Actually knowing how to prepare acorn squash. Having baked acorn squash once or twice before, I assumed that I knew the best way to prepare it. I assumed wrong. As this blog shows, there are several tricks to make tackling this little squash easier, such as halving it vertically rather than horizontally. Since this recipe calls for the acorn squash to be sliced into wedges as well, use the natural ridges on the outside of the squash as guidelines. Also, don’t do as I did and attempt to cut the wedges with the “bowl” of the squash facing up; it will inevitably flip toward your face and you will nearly take off one of your fingers with the knife.

Aside from this little hiccup (and a brief session of hacking away at the hazelnuts with another small knife – a food processor, like the book suggests, would have been a better option), my Mitsitam cooking experience was decidedly less eventful than Jessica’s. Baked tender and golden and drizzled with honey butter and hazelnuts, the acorn squash was delicious.

Hazelnut and Honey-Roasted Acorn Squash

½ cup hazelnuts, toasted and skinned

½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter at room temperature

2 tablespoons honey

2 medium to large acorn squash, unpeeled, seeded, and cut into 1-inch-thick wedges

Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

Preheat the oven to 350°F.

In a food processor, pulse the nuts 5 to 6 times, or until coarsely ground.

Add the butter and process for 15 to 20 seconds, or until combined. Scrape into a medium bowl. Add the honey and whisk until smooth.

Oil a rimmed baking sheet. Arrange the squash wedges, skin side down, on the prepared pan. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and spread with the hazelnut butter. Roast for 30 minutes, or until fork-tender. Remove from the oven and serve hot.

Next up: The December intern bake-off! My fellow interns had better brush off their skills with a spatula, because I plan to bring my A game to this pursuit of pastry prowess!