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|Our Featured Seasonal Vegetable: Butternut Squash |
|Butternut squash has a lot going for it. This member of the gourd family lends a delicious flavor to soups, ravioli, risotto, casseroles, breads, you name it. The blazing orange flesh makes for a gorgeous presentation. |
Butternut squash is at it's prime in February. And,
like other members of the winter squash family, butternut will stay fresh for months when stored in a dark, dry place.
"To me, it's probably the most versatile of all the squash," says Nashville chef Jamie Watson, this month's featured chef. "You can go savory or you can go sweet with it. I've done pastries using butternut squash that are delicious."
Alice Waters of Chez Panisse tops pizza with roasted butternut squash slices, as well as mozzarella and Gruyère cheeses. She garnishes the finished pie with fried sage leaves, fresh parsley, and a squeeze of lemon juice.
Trey Foshee, executive chef at Georges at the Cove in San Diego, prepares a rich risotto combining butternut squash, apples, mascarpone and Parmesan cheeses, and toasted hazelnuts. The possibilities are endless.
Health Benefits: Good source of beta carotene, fiber and vitamin C. Also contains calcium, iron, and B vitamins such as folate, thiamin, and riboflavin.
Vital stats: Top winter squash-producing states by acres harvested: Michigan, New York, California, Florida, and Massachusetts.
Preparation: We like it baked, roasted, sautéed, fried, microwaved, and steamed. Shredded or puréed butternut squash can be used in ravioli, soups, soufflés, pancakes, and pies.
How to buy/store: Look for rock-solid butternut squash without blemishes or bruises. Large butternuts with a long neck and a relatively small bottom have pure meat and no seeds in the neck. Store whole in a cool, dry place with good ventilation. Avoid refrigeration. Will last months.
| Our Favorite Butternut Squash Recipes|
Recipes Courtesy of Our Featured Jamie Watson
Roasted Butternut Squash with Capellini
Roasted Butternut Squash Soup
Moroccan Squash Tagine
Recipe credit: New Vegetarian (Chronicle Books, 2009), by Robin Asbell
Reprinted with permission from Chronicle Books
Recipe and photo from the Gluten-Free Goddess blog by Karina Allrich
Recipe published with permission of Karina Allrich
Butternut Squash, Apple, and Hazelnut Risotto
Recipe from: Executive Chef & Partner Trey Foshee, George's at the Cove, La Jolla, CA
Sesame, Quinoa, Butternut Squash, and Pear Salad
Recipe credit: A Harvest of Pumpkins and Squash (Chronicle Books, 2008), by Lou Seibert Pappas
Reprinted with permission from Chronicle Books
| Q&A with Our Featured Chef|
11 Vaughn's Gap Road
Nashville, Tenn. 37205
|Nashville chef Jamie Watson leads a busy life. One moment he might be singing Simon & Garfunkel while preparing an Italian pork dish during a cooking segment on Nashville's WSMV-TV. Later in the day he might be teaching knife skills to students at the local Viking Cooking School. That evening he might be serving a seven-course menu at his "underground" supper club, held in a secret location in the metro area.
© Russ Corley
'There's a better way to save money than by scrimping on the food you put in your family's belly.'
Watson does have a day job. He recently opened Delicioux, a Nashville café serving lunch and freshly baked breads and pastries. The classically trained Watson is passionate about serving local, seasonal cuisine. And while he's worked with legendary figures in the culinary world - including André Soltner and Jacques Pépin - Watson says his grandmother has been his biggest food influence.
How did you become a chef?
As a kid watching Julia Child on TV, I remember always wanting to cook. It all began with my grandmother. She instilled in me a respect for food. She had a passion for food and she would tell me: 'There's a better way to save money than by scrimping on the food you put in your family's belly.' She always had a garden while we were growing up in California, and later in Oregon. This was in the 50s, 60s and early 70s. She never used chemical fertilizers. Instead, she used a natural fertilizer like compost.
How would you characterize your own cooking and approach to food?
As a cook and especially as someone who gets paid to cook, your ultimate responsibility is to find the best ingredients you can, and present them the way they are supposed to taste. I'm huge on trying to eat as local and as seasonal as possible. I look at the season and what nature is offering, and then ask myself: 'What can I do with what nature is providing?'
What about living in Tennessee and that part of the country? Compared to a place like California it has a shorter growing season. Is that a challenge?
I don't think it's a challenge. We have a wonderful bounty. It's a realignment of your expectations. We have access to some incredible products, including some of the finest pork in the nation and great seafood. Cooking in Tennessee ... no, it's not a challenge. It's a joy.
|'Cooking in Tennessee ... no, it's not a challenge. It's a joy.'|
You operate an "underground" supper club that serves a limited number of diners a generous tasting menu in a surprising location? How did that come about?
The whole rage right now is with these underground dinners. The whole premise is they move from location to location. I thought it would be interesting to get involved, but I didn't want to move from location to location. Mine is in the same spot in the Nashville metro area. We do a Saturday supper club twice a month. It's an e-mail invitation list and you don't know the location of the event unless, of course, you're on the list.
What do you serve?
We do a seven to nine course tasting menu. They're all seasonally driven. We also do regional dinners. Our last one was Spain. We'll build the menu around things that are available to us and cook them in the manner of that region. For example, we might substitute catfish for European seabass, or branzino, and prepare it in a Spanish manner.
What advice would you give home cooks when preparing a meal?
I'm inundated with people who are watching Top Chef, Iron Chef America, you name it. They say "I can do that" and they all want to be able to cook at that skill level immediately. When I'm teaching, my beginning advice is always: 'Patience. And don't be intimidated.'
What do you like to do when you're not in the kitchen?
I read cookbooks the way some people read novels. I love music. An exciting, thrilling night for me is a nice glass of something red, either from California's Alexander Valley, France's Rhone Valley, or the Rioja region of Spain. That and a good sci-fi flick.
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