Culinary Adventures in Squash

“Butternut squash and Acorn squash have been known to cause an allergic reaction called contact dermatitis in many individuals, especially in food preparation where the squash skin is cut and exposed to the epidermis.”

Contact dermatitis is what happens when you come into contact with plants like poison ivy and poison oak. Apparently, this can also happen when squash skin is cut and peeled. I didn’t know this before I made my baked acorn squash or my butternut squash puree, but that’s okay. I didn’t end up getting dermatitis even though I aggressively (and without gloves) peeled both of those squashes. By the way, it is very difficult to peel an acorn squash due to its washboard-like structure. A paring knife, regardless of how sharp it is, will only go so far and a peeler is useless. Butternut squash is slightly easier mostly because it does not resemble a washboard, but its bottom curve does render a peeler pretty useless.

I cooked both of the squashes similarly. I cut them into pieces and tossed them with olive oil, salt, and pepper. They were baked on high heat and flipped with a spatula halfway through baking. With the acorn squash, I sprinkled dark brown sugar over the chunks after I turned them. It was served by itself as a side dish alongside steamed broccoli and a grilled pork tenderloin.

Other than salt and pepper, the butternut squash was unseasoned. My intent was to use it in a risotto, so after I baked it, I pureed/mashed it. I’d like to say that even though my blender has a “puree” button, it doesn’t puree very well so I had to mash it quite a bit with my rubber spatula. I am in desperate need of a food processor that holds more than one cup for this very reason. While the butternut mash cooled, I made my risotto. Once the rice was cooked, I added in about 1.5 cups of butternut mash before adding the Parmesan cheese. The risotto had a great hearty texture with the addition of the squash, not to mention a great creamy orange color. I served it, again, with grilled pork tenderloin (which, by the way, I’m getting pretty good at making). I regret not taking a picture of it because it was very gorgeous; I do recommend cooking squash as a side dish and look forward to growing it on my own next summer.

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