Don’t know your Butternut from your Buttercup? Your Acorn from your Delicata? Check out the newsletter from a family of farmers in the Gatineau Hills for a handy little index of “funky-shaped winter cucurbits.” The Ferme Lève-Tôt CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) provides fresh local organic vegetables to Susan Jessup of 42 Fine Foods, a gourmet take-out joint in New Edinburgh. Jessup is now busy preserving, pickling, pureeing, and baking various kinds of squash and pumpkin to make the most of the bright orange-fleshed bounty. “It’s how our ancestors survived,” she says.
We asked Jessup and a few other local-food loving chefs around town to tell us how they are wading into squash season this year.
42 Fine Foods
In addition to combining squash with a root like Jerusalem artichoke for an earthy autumn soup, Jessup says the beautiful colour and flavour of squash and pumpkin pair perfectly with her Indian lamb curry. She is also turning squash into a quick pickle for sandwiches, which she recommends eating with pâtés and meat pies. Stop into her shop over the next few weeks and you’re likely to find pumpkin muffins with toasted pumpkin seed or dried cranberries as well as Chai spice pumpkin or gingered pumpkin scones. 42 Crichton St., 613-741-0099, www.42finefoods.ca
Many different kinds of squash appear on the seasonally-inspired Zen Kitchen menu. Chef-owner Caroline Ishii buys squash through the farmers directly, including Waratah Downs and Acorn Creek. These days she’s using squash in a risotto, a Thai curry, and as tempura, as well as part of the braised vegetables on the chef’s tasting main plate. “I often use the butternut squash for creaminess in our soup and roasted veg as it’s often easier to dice, but for the risotto we often use a few different types like butternut and acorn,” says Ishii. “I love kaboucha or a simliar type squash for tempura or slow roasting because it holds it shape well and you can eat the skin.” 634 Somerset St., 613-233-6404, www.zenkitchen.ca
Chef Steve Mitton offers an interesting twist on standard squash soup by smoking the pumpkin before whizzing it into a creamy puree and then topping it with sour cream, maple strands, and toasted pumpkin seeds. 110 Murray St. 613-562-7244, www.murraystreet.ca
Black Cat Bistro
When temperatures began to drop outside, Chef Patricia Larkin started serving classic butternut puree with butter and maple syrup to accompany a dish that is rarely seen on Ottawa menus — sweetbreads. Time-consuming to prepare, the sweetbreads are brined overnight and then fried slowly in butter until the flavour becomes nutty and the exterior is crisp. Larkin acknowledges that a lot of people are scared of sweetbreads, but she’s pleased to see this dish already has its share of fans. Thinking ahead to this week’s menu, she says she hasn’t yet decided what she’ll do with a fresh shipment of spaghetti squash that arrived on Wednesday night from Mariposa Farms. 428 Preston St. 613-569-9998, blackcatbistro.ca