October 8, 2016
I have been glued to the TV this week watching the wrath of Hurricane Michael. Our hearts and prayers go out to those affected by this force of nature. We pray you and your loved ones are safe.
The leaves are now changing here in the Memphis area. Those brilliant shades of red, yellow and green are only around for a short period of time before the gloom of impending winter begins to head our way.
One of the reasons I love late summer and autumn so much is because I love all squash. I love yellow summer squash, zucchini squash, acorn squash, and especially butternut squash. My family didn’t have a garden when I was growing up but my grandparents truck patched produce in addition to farming hogs, cotton, and soybeans. Also, folks used to drive around our neighborhood selling pick-ups full of fresh seasonal produce, so there was never any shortage. My mom always said fruits and vegetables taste better when they are in season. I believe that to be true. Today, we can get most any fruit and veggie any time of the year, but the taste is just better when it's in season.
My grandparents grew lots of different produce and sold much of it in the 1940s and 50s to the South’s Grand Hotel, the Memphis Peabody Hotel, before it closed in the early 1960s. Thankfully, it reopened in 1981 after being restored to its former splendor. My mom talked about working the truck patch and how she hated strawberries, one of my favorite fruits, because of picking them in her youth. She hated them even though she was paid to “work them.” She didn’t seem to mind working the other produce like the watermelons and squash. I am not sure why she had it in for only the strawberries. Odd.
Today, I decided to cook the butternut squash I bought a few days ago. Now, everybody knows the trouble with butternut squash is cutting it in half to bake it. Ordinarily, I take my big butcher knife and hit it with my kitchen hammer until the job is done. My kitchen hammer is one I pilfered from my son’s childhood workbench. I use it in the kitchen because it looks different from the utility hammer, so I am not likely to use the dirty utility hammer on our food by mistake. This cutting with knife and hammer is a dangerous endeavor and one I didn’t feel up to today, so I washed the butternut, placed it on parchment on a pan and baked it for 30 minutes in a 450o F oven. Here’s what it looked like at the end of the 30 minutes. Wouldn’t you agree that it looks fully cooked?
I let it cool for about an hour so I wouldn’t subject myself to possible second-degree burns while trying to cut it in half. Once I got it open and scooped out the seeds, I realized that it wasn’t quite cooked completely through the thickest part of the squash.
I wouldn’t say it was an epic fail only a slight fail. It seems that I should have cooked it a bit more, risking overcooking of the thinner part, or taken the risk and cut it in half with my trusty knife and hammer. I only lost a small bit of the delectable flesh, but any loss of this tasty squash causes mourning. I scooped out the soft, cooked flesh, drenched it in 2 tablespoons of butter and 2 tablespoons of brown sugar.
I don’t have a photo of the dish after I stirred in the butter and brown sugar because I was too busy tasting it! We are going to have it with cedar-planked salmon cooked on the grill this evening, as it is 70o with a light breeze—perfect for sitting on the patio, having a cocktail, and cooking on the grill!