Fall’s squashes are oddly shaped vegetables with knobby textures and contrasting patterns. They’re placed on brownstone stoops, in front yard Halloween displays, or on kitchen tables as decorating pieces. The thought of preparing some varieties of squash is an idea that few people have attempted. After all, who wants to eat the centerpiece on the table? Sure, we’ve all carved faces out of pumpkins, in which the flesh is removed for the making of a pie, and the pumpkin seeds are roasted in a few spices. Besides pumpkin, there are additional varieties of squash, such as delicata, spaghetti, turks turban and acorn that few people try. Perhaps, they’re too beautiful to dissect? Did we forget it’s the inside that also counts?
Dad introduced acorn squash to our family right before my sister and I left the house for college. It’s shape is a perfect oval with thick and rounded ridges running lengthwise from the stem to the bottom. The skin is dark green with splashes of orange and yellow. There’s also varieties that are white, but really they’re pale green or yellow. Cutting into the squash reveals a yellow interior, in which the center is full of seeds. Like most squashes it’s a tough vegetable to cut. Dad’s recipe instructs an acorn squash to be sliced horizontally, in which the slices are similar to large rings with a scalloped outer edge. Roasting the acorn rings in brown sugar and butter caramelizes the yellow flesh into a sweet side dish. The first time Dad prepared them, the recipe became an instant success in our house. His version is simply delicious, and the inside is sweetly displayed, too.
The interior flesh of an acorn, like most squashes, has a mild flavor. It’s the added sweeteners and spices that enhance the taste. Improvising my father’s recipe, dark amber maple syrup replaces the brown sugar. Rosemary, grown as a large bush around my parent’s home, is a favorite Fall herb. It has a sharp, warm, distinguishable flavor with a herbal, piney scent. The maple syrup and fresh rosemary on acorn squash creates a caramelized, gourmet, candy-like comfort dish.
The weather is cooler, the air is crisper, and the oven is back on after a few months of intense Summer heat. It’s great to return to the kitchen roasting vegetables and meat using fresh rosemary that grows quite happily on my brownstone stoop. This maple and rosemary recipe will work with most oddly shape squash encountered at a grocery store or the farmer’s market (except for the ornamental squashes that are grown specifically for decoration and not for flavor). Don’t let Fall’s signature vegetable’s tough exterior threaten a taste bud’s curiosity. Other wise, there’s plenty of squashes sitting pretty in decoration displays waiting to be halved and roasted.
Maple Rosemary Roasted Acorn Squash
2 small acorn squash or 1 large one; cut in half and discard seeds (or roast them); cut into 1/2 inch wedges leaving the skin on (guests will easily remove the skin once the squash is roasted and served)
1/8 to 1/4 cup fresh rosemary; chopped
Maple syrup; Grade A/Dark Amber; to taste (honey is a sweet substitute)
Salt and fresh black pepper; to taste
1. Preheat oven to 400°F.
2. Mix all ingredients in a bowl (or over the baking sheet lined for foil if less dishes is desired).
3. Place baking sheet in the oven. Stir occasionally and roast for 25 to 30 minutes.
4. Serve warm and enjoy.
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