Fruits of the Vine For Fall

Goodbye, zucchini – hello, cold weather friends


Winter squash has staying power. It was considered one of the “Three Sisters” by Native Americans along with corn (maize) and beans. Planted together, they grew in a symbiotic relationship, with the squash growing up the stalks of corn and providing ground cover to prevent weeds, and the beans providing nitrogen for all three crops.

While winter squash takes longer to mature, it also can be stored longer if kept cool and dry. Its flesh is more dense, requiring some planning ahead for preparation. Smaller fruits can be baked whole (prick skin when it starts to soften in oven) or large specimens can be cut in half and baked. The quickest solution is to trim the outer shell and cut the flesh into smaller pieces to steam or boil.

Don’t toss the seeds. They can be lightly cleaned, drizzled with oil, dusted with salt and toasted in the oven at 250° for one hour. Use as a snack or garnish.

The hearty vegetable, with a bland to sweet flesh, can play host to a variety of flavors and presented as a soup, mashed or sliced. As a native plant it is the perfect addition to the Thanksgiving table. Let’s pass on the marshmallows this year and try one of the tasty recipes offered by New Hampshire chefs.

Pumpkin Ratatouille

By Chef Constantine Brianas
Unums, Nashua

Serves 6

1 small pumpkin, cut into cubes and par cooked by steaming
1 small zucchini, cubed
4 ripe plum tomatoes, cubed
4 thick stalks of asparagus, rough chopped
1 eggplant, cubed
1 large shallot, minced
2 firm apples, cored and cubed
2 peaches, with pit removed and cubed
1/4 stick of butter
1 cup tomato sauce
1 teaspoon fresh sage, minced
1/2 teaspoon fresh grated ginger
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground cinnamon
vegetable broth
fresh ground salt and pepper

Peel and cube pumpkin and steam or par cook until almost soft.

Sauté cubed vegetables in butter with minced shallot until starting to soften. Add par-cooked pumpkin, apples and peaches. Stir in tomato sauce, herbs, spices and sugar and simmer for 10 to 20 minutes or until fruits are soft. Add vegetable broth as needed to get the right consistency. Salt and pepper to taste.

Can be served immediately, or turned into a casserole dish, topped with seasoned, buttered bread crumbs and Romano cheese. Bake until top is browned in oven at 400°.

Creamy Buttercup Squash Soup

Colosseum Restaurant, Salem
Serves 6

2 tablespoons olive oil or unsalted butter
1/2 cup diced onion
3 cups buttercup squash, peeled, sliced and medium diced
1/4 cup brown sugar
2 cups vegetable broth
1 cup heavy cream
salt and pepper

Melt butter in heavy large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add squash and onion and sauté until slightly softened, about 15 minutes. Add sugar and cook until caramelized. Add stock bring to boil. Reduce heat to medium-low. Cover and simmer until squash is tender, stirring occasionally, about 30 minutes. Cool slightly.

Working in batches, purée soup in a blender. Return to stovetop and add cream. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Pumpkin Risotto

Chef Aylmer Given
Aylmer’s Grille at the Woodbound Inn
Serves 4

1-4 small 4- to 6-inch pumpkins
1 1/2 cup diced pumpkin
4 cups chicken broth
1 cup Arborio rice
1 tablespoon chopped garlic
1 tablespoon chopped shallot
1/2 cup diced onion
2 ounces Parmesan cheese
1 ounce fresh herbs, such as rosemary, chervil, thyme
4 ounces butter
4 ounces heavy cream
salt and pepper to taste
2 ounces olive oil

Cut tops from small pumpkins, remove seeds and wash completely. Rub with olive oil and bake on sheet pan for 8-10 minutes. Allow to cool for service.

Toss diced pumpkin in 1/2 of the melted butter and season with salt and pepper.

Preset oven to 350°. Place pumpkin onto sheet pan and roast 8 to 10 minutes, until they are starting to brown.

In sauce pot, begin to sauté onions in remaining butter until softened. Add rice and stir with onions to coat the rice grains. Add 1 cup of the hot chicken broth and bring to simmer stirring thoroughly. The rice will begin to absorb the liquids, once it does add another cup and keep stirring, continue until all chicken broth is absorbed. Finish with heavy cream and Parmesan cheese, then add the roasted pumpkin. Season with salt and pepper and chopped fresh herbs, then place the completed risotto into the pre-baked pumpkin shells. Garnish with fresh herb sprigs and serve immediately.

Orecchiette & Zucca

Chef Luca Paris
Luca’s Mediterranean Café
Serves 4

1 1/2 cup butternut squash, diced
1 teaspoon garlic
1 teaspoon fresh sage
salt and pepper to taste
1 cup prosciutto/pancetta
1 cup sherry
2 cups cream
1 lb. orecchiette (blanched)
2 ounces extra virgin olive oil
1/2 cup shaved Parmigiano

Heat oil in sauce pan and add pancetta and cook until crisp. Add squash and garlic. Remove pan from heat and add sherry (may flambé). Reduce to allow alcohol to evaporate. Add cream and reduce heat to thicken sauce. Add pre-cooked pasta, fresh sage and shaved Parmigiano.

Thanksgiving Spaghetti Squash

Executive Chef Mike Warman
Buckley’s Great Steaks, Merrimack

1 2-3 lb. spaghetti squash
1/4 cup light brown sugar
4 tablespoons salted butter
1/2 cup toasted pecans (chopped)
1/2 cup golden raisins
salt and pepper

Cut squash in half lengthwise, remove seeds and membrane. Roast in 350° oven, cut side down, for one hour or until skin is pulling away from the flesh, or sharp knife can be inserted with minimal resistance. Remove from oven, turn cut side up, dot with butter and sprinkle with half of the brown sugar. When cool enough to handle, scrape stringy flesh from skin using a large spoon or two forks. Season with salt and pepper; place in serving bowl. Warm pecans briefly in oven, toss with raisins and remaining brown sugar and sprinkle on top of squash.

Butternut Squash, Potato and Gruyère Gratin

Chef Bob Graf
Inn at Danbury
Serves 6

1 large butternut squash (2.5 lbs.)
5 medium potatoes (3 lbs.)
2 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 large onion, finely chopped
2 tablespoons fresh sage, chopped
1 teaspoon fresh thyme, chopped
1 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
2 cups shredded Gruyère cheese
1/2 cup unsalted butter
2 1/2 cups heavy cream
1 cup dry Riesling

Preheat the oven to 350° F and butter or spray a 9″ x 13″ glass baking dish, set aside.
Thinly peel, seed and slice the squash and peel and slice the potatoes. Boil potatoes for 5 minutes then add the squash and cook 3 more minutes. Drain water and set aside. Melt butter in a medium skillet then add onions and sauté until golden brown.

Add sage and thyme and continue to sauté for another minute. Add the dry Riesling, bring to a boil and reduce by one third. Next add the cream, salt and pepper and continue to simmer until slightly thickened.

Layer half the potatoes and squash in the bottom of the glass baking dish, followed by half the cheese and sauce, repeat until all ingredients are used, saving some cheese for later. Cover the dish with foil and place in 350° oven for 45 minutes.

Remove foil top and add more Gruyère cheese and bake uncovered for another 15-20 minutes until golden brown.