Sunday, October 7, 2012

Squash Smiles

This week's recipe was inspired by local produce. 

It's fall, which means it's squash season. When I was growing up (in suburban Detroit), there was only one kind of squash – acorn squash. Why there was only one kind of squash is a question that can't be answered. It might have been my mother's favorite kind of squash or it may have been the only squash readily available in the suburbs of the 70s and 80s.

There was only one way to prepare it, too. Cut it in half and scoop out the seeds, bake it face down in the over for about a half an hour. Flip the halves right side up, add butter and brown sugar, and bake a little longer.

Nowadays, I use this recipe plenty (But I use maple syrup instead of brown sugar. I am in Vermont, after all!) But I also take advantage of the many varieties of squash available at a number of excellent local farm stands, and use them to stuff squash, mash squash, make squash soup, and so on.

Maybe I should have prefaced this post by explaining it's been damp and rainy for most of the last week. Which makes me a bit nostalgic, and definitely in need of fall comfort food.

Squash fries are the most recent addition to my squash recipe repertoire. At school, Emilyinthekitchen calls them squash smiles. Ain't that cute? I've found delicata squash to be the perfect variety for this form of squash yumminess as they slice up easily and are small enough that you can use one or two per recipe and not end up with half an open squash leftover in the fridge getting slimy while awaiting the next recipe.

Friday I shuffled the schedule around and right after lunch kids got to work scooping seeds out of the already-halved squash. 

“It smells like pumpkin!” more than one student exclaimed. As they finished slicing them up, the first few students done went around from table to table collecting the slices and tossing them in a bowl with olive oil. 

They got spread out on two large baking sheets and a cavalcade of students carried the sheets, as well as all the dirty cutting boards and utensils, down to the kitchen. Su stayed down there and made sure the dishes went through the Hobart while the smiles roasted, leaving us without the insane classroom dish scene we've dealt with the past couple of weeks.

Back in the classroom, everyone sweated over some practice NECAP problems (New England-flavored standardized tests). They will be taking the federally mandated tests this coming week. Just as we finished, Su came back in with a huge bowl of roasted smiles. A delectable odor filled the room – talk about a needed breath of fresh air!

I offered up the seasonings from last week, but most students were happy to eat the squash fries plain or dipped in a bit of salt. A small group of kids were curious about comparing tastes and tried a sprinkle of basil, dill, thyme, and black pepper. But in the end good old sodium chloride was the preferred seasoning.

One student had felt queasy last week after sampling seasoned potatoes too enthusiastically and had then told her mother she was never trying anything new again. Earlier in the afternoon she had expressed concern about a new food and I had reassured her that no one would be forced to try anything they didn't want to try. In the end, I was gratified to see that she did try (and appear to like) our recipe. A few others opted not to sample the fries. The part of this that amuses me most is that EVERYONE wants to handle the food and do the prep, even when they have no intention of trying what we make. Cooking is that much fun.

My happiest moment was the student who came up to me and said, “Someone gave my mom some of this kind of squash and she doesn't know what to do with it.” Even though she had been a part of the scooping and slicing, she didn't quite believe it was as easy as what we had just done to make squash fries. I am hoping that she comes into class tomorrow and tells me they made them at home this weekend...

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