Super Squash: Celebrating the versatile vegetable

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Most people may not think of squash as an everyday kind of a food, but they should.

Described as “one of the tastiest and most cookable, handsome, affordable and nutritious foods that one can find,” The Everyday Squash Cook: The Most Versatile & Affordable Superfood by Rob Firing, Ivy Knight and Kerry Knight will help even a novice cook discover why you should be having a (culinary) love affair with these vegetables.

Nutrient dense, spectacularly flavourful and highly transportable, squash comes in many different varieties throughout the year and can add appealing, high-value nutrition to your dinner table.

For those not familiar with the many kinds of squash and the wonders that can be done with them, this book provides an introduction to nine of the varieties and a plethora of innovative recipes packed with flavour.

At the same time, the book provides practical information on squash that the average individual may not know but should. For example, the more orange-fleshed varieties of squash, like butternut or pumpkin, are especially nutritious. A typical serving provides more than 450% of the daily recommended value of Vitamin A, which is essential for good vision and eye health, strengthens the immune system, maintains healthy skin and can fight cancer.

Other varieties of squash, which are well described, have all sorts of wonderful properties such as being high in Vitamin C, potassium, B6, manganese, thiamine and magnesium.

Reading the many recipes in this book, it is easy to glean that incorporating squash into your weekly rotations of family meals is not only simple but also enticing. The recipes don’t veer into the exotic, calling for countless hard-to-get or costly ingredients but instead come off as practical, easy to make and entirely appetizing.

While there are playful recipes like the one for “squashsicles” or spiced squash popsicles that seem like a great early Fall treat, there are other desirable delights that can be made relatively simply such as the “Savoury Buttercup & Sausage Bake with Currants,” the “No Mess Baked Rigatoni with Sausage, Butternut and Tomato,” or the “Roast Chicken Stuffed with Squash and Wild Rice.”

A wonderful addition to your collection of cookbooks, The Everyday Squash Cook provides an excellent argument to include squash in your everyday life.

But don’t have to take my word for it, the following recipes speak volumes for themselves.


Butternut “Bacon”

Butternut_baconWhen Rob Firing told us about butternut “bacon,” we were sceptical – nothing can compare to the king of breakfast meats! But Rob showed us that butternut “bacon” can come pretty close. This is an amazing vegan recipe for the easiest and most magical-tasting fake bacon ever. Set it out on a platter and watch it disappear…


Makes 24 to 36 “bacon” strips

1 butternut squash, peeled and seeded

grapeseed, peanut or vegetable oil

kosher salt and fresh cracked black pepper


Using a Y-shaped vegetable peeler, peel the butternut squash. Next, peel the flesh into long strips, applying firm pressure for adequate thickness. Peel as many strips as you wish (about 6 to 8 strips per person); reserve any unused squash for another dish.

In a frying pan, heat 1/8 inch of oil (just enough to “float” the squash strips) over medium heat. Once the oil is shimmering, carefully place the a few strips of squash in the pan, being careful not to overcrowd. (We recommend doing a trial strip first, as butternut “bacon” cooks extremely quickly.)

Cook the bacon, flipping once, until the edges are lightly browned and a little crispy, about 10 to 15 seconds per side. Be careful not to overcook – dark, fully crisp “bacon” will taste burnt.

Transfer the cooked “bacon” to a plate lined with paper towel to absorb excess oil. (If cooking a large batch, keep warm in a low oven.) Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Tip: Try putting 2 or 3 strips of butternut “bacon” on top of a serving of green salad – it’s a simple, elegant and tasty garnish. We also like to use any extra we have on hand in Breakfast Tacos and BLTs.


Fish Cakes & Zucchini Salad

FishCakesSmoked fish, whether trout, sturgeon or mackerel, can be a lovely appetizer served on its own, or you can transform it into these marvellous fish cakes, which are crispy on the outside and soft and moist on the inside. Served over a simple zucchini salad, an appetizer-sized amount of smoked fish is easily stretched into a dinner for five.

Makes 4 to 5 fish cakes

Fish Cakes

2 cups flaked smoked trout, mackerel or other fish

1 tbsp capers, drained and chopped

1 tsp hot sauce (or more to taste)

¼ cup finely chopped red bell pepper

2 green onions, white and green parts, finely chopped

1 tbsp Dijon mustard

2 tbsps mayonnaise

1½ cups mashed roasted butternut or acorn squash

1½ cups mashed potatoes

kosher salt and fresh cracked black pepper

1 cup dried breadcrumbs or panko breadcrumbs

1 egg

pinch of cayenne (optional)


Zucchini Salad

1 zucchini, peeled into ribbons

1 bunch of watercress, stemmed

honey-cider vinaigrette


Make the fish cakes: In a food processor fitted with the metal blade, pulse the smoked fish just until crumbled (be careful not to over-process; you want the fish cakes to have some texture). Transfer the fish to a large bowl. Add the capers, hot sauce, red pepper, green onions, Dijon mustard, mayonnaise, squash and potato and stir well to combine. Finely dice 2 to 3 strips of zucchini and stir into the mixture.

Season with salt and pepper to taste, then stir in the egg until well combined. Using your hands, form the mixture into 4 or 5 patties. Cover and set aside in the refrigerator.

Prepare your breading station: In one bowl, combine the breadcrumbs and salt and pepper to taste (if you like, add a pinch of cayenne for some kick). In another bowl, beat the egg.

Dredge the fish patties in the breadcrumbs and dust off the excess, then dip them in the egg wash and end with a final coating of breadcrumbs. Cover and refrigerate.

In a frying pan, heat ¼ inch oil over medium-high heat (when a drop of water sizzles in the pan, it is hot enough). Cook the patties (be careful not to crowd the pan; you may have to cook these in batches) for 3 to 5 minutes each side, until golden brown. Keep warm in a low oven until all patties are fried and warmed through.

Make the salad: Meanwhile, toss the watercress and zucchini in a bowl with the vinaigrette.

To serve, make a bed of salad on each serving plate and top with one or two fish cakes. Garnish with salsa or tartar sauce and a lemon wedge alongside.


Pork, Squash & White Bean Chili

ChiliReplacing some of the legumes traditionally used in chili with butternut squash (diced to a similar size) adds a subtle sweetness and makes this version more nutritious without increasing calories. Rob likes to serve this with the Cheesy Squashy Cornbread.

Makes 8 to 12 servings

1 lb medium ground pork

1 onion, chopped

1 can (28 oz) diced tomatoes, with juice

1 can (5½ oz) tomato paste

2 cups peeled cubed (½ inch) butternut squash

1 clove garlic, minced

1½ tbsps chili powder

½ tsp cayenne

½ tsp ground cumin

2 bay leaves

2 tsps salt

1 tsp fresh cracked black pepper

1 can (14 oz) cannellini or white kidney beans, rinsed and drained

In a large saucepan over medium-high heat, cook the ground pork until browned, about 8 minutes. Pour off all the fat except about 2 tablespoons. Reduce the heat to medium and stir in the onion. Cook until the onion is browned, about 3 minutes. Add the tomatoes, breaking them up with the back of the spoon. Stir in the tomato paste. Add the squash, garlic, chili powder, cayenne, cumin, bay leaves, salt and pepper and stir to combine. Reduce the heat to low, cover and cook for 15 to 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Stir in the beans and continue to cook until the squash is tender, about 15 minutes.


Butternut Brownies

BrowniesIt might sound strange, but adding butternut squash is the key to absolutely scrumptious brownies. The delicate squash flavour is overshadowed by the chocolate, but you won’t believe the difference its presence makes to these moist and rich brownies.

Makes 16 brownies

1½ cups diced (¼ to ½ inch) butternut squash

6 tablespoons butter

6 ounces semi-sweet chocolate, chopped

¼ cup unsweetened cocoa powder

¾ cups all-purpose flour

½ tsp kosher salt

¼ tsp baking powder

1 cup granulated sugar

2 eggs

2 tsps pure vanilla extract

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Grease an 8-inch square baking pan or line it with parchment paper, allowing a few inches to hang over each side. Butter the parchment paper (if using) and set pan aside.

Bring a saucepan filled with enough water to cover squash to a rolling boil, then add squash and cook for 6 to 10 minutes, or until tender. Drain well and set aside.

In a double boiler over medium-high heat, combine the butter, chocolate and cocoa powder, stirring constantly until smooth. Remove from heat and set aside.

In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, salt and baking powder.

In a mixing bowl, cream together the sugar, eggs and vanilla. Add the chocolate mixture and mix until combined. Add the flour mixture and mix until well blended. Fold in the squash.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan. Bake in preheated oven for 35 to 40 minutes or until a toothpick poked in the centre comes out clean (a little melted chocolate is fine!). Remove from the oven and cool in the pan for about 15 minutes.

Grab the ends of the parchment paper and lift the slab from the pan. Place on a wire rack to cool completely before cutting into squares.

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