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Acorn squash is neither my least nor most favourite of the winter squash family. I use butternut squash by the bushel but acorn not so much. I like acorn, but it’s fussy to deal with if you are doing anything that does not leave the skin in tact. Even scooping cooked squash out of the shell can be a bit of a pain with all those grooves. Acorn squash has great flavour and texture, is low in calories and high in fibre, vitamin C and A but so are the others and I generally choose the smooth squashes instead.
That said, a ring of maple-glazed acorn squash is so pretty. And not many squashes are of an appropriate size for stuffing. You wouldn’t serve someone half a pumpkin, now would you? I had envisioned doing something like that for today’s blog but when it came down to it, I really wanted pasta. I decided on penne tossed with caramelized onions, mushrooms, and roasted squash with wilted arugula. Sorry, there is no recipe, just an ingredient list and some basic procedures.
Squash Mushroom and Caramelized Onion Penne
- ½ lb pasta, cooked al dente
- 1 medium acorn squash, peels and cubed
- 1 lb mushrooms, quartered
- 6 cloves garlic, minced
- 3 medium onions, julienned
- 2 sprigs rosemary
- 4 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
- 4 tablespoons chicken stock
- 4 cups baby arugula
- salt and pepper to taste
- Toss squash with olive oil, salt and pepper and bake for 20 minutes, until cooked through.
- Caramelize onions adding balsamic near the end of cooking. Set aside.
- Sautee mushrooms with garlic and rosemary. Salt and pepper to taste.
- Return caramelized onions to the pan, add arugula and chicken stock. Toss with mushrooms until wilted.
- Add squash cubes and pasta to pan. Toss gently until liquid is absorbed.
- Add salt and pepper as required.
The best thing about squash is that it can take almost any flavour profile, from curry to bolognaise. Your options are virtually endless. Hope you enjoy National Acorn Squash Day.
What’s a spot prawn anyways?
Spot prawns are the largest of the 7 commercial species of shrimp found in Canada’s west coast waters. The prawn’s body colour is usually reddish brown or tan with white horizontal bars on the shell and distinctive white spots on the first and fifth abdominal segments. Large females can exceed 9 inches (!!) in total length.
Is that a girl prawn, or a boy prawn on my plate?
Spot prawns are protandric hermaphroditic meaning that each prawn initially matures as a male and then passes through a transition stage to become a female. In British Columbia, spot prawns usually live for about 4 years, starting their lives as males and maturing at one year of age. They function as mature males for 2 years and then transform into females in their final year of life. [So, that had nothing to do with eating spot prawns, but the biology geek in me just had to share!]
What do the conservationist have to say about spot prawns?
Wild, trap-caught, B.C. spot prawns are a SeaChoice “Best Choice” option based on the five sustainability criteria used for our fisheries assessments: inherent vulnerability to fishing pressure; status of wild stocks; nature and extent of discarded bycatch; effect of fishing practices on habitats and ecosystems; and effectiveness of the management regime. Horray – guilt free dining!
MOST IMPORTANTLY: What do spot prawns taste like?
The spot prawn is known for its sweet, delicate flavour (without a hint of fishiness) and firm texture. The fresh spot prawns I have had this year are amongst the best prawns I have ever eaten. Spot prawns are nothing like the bland and mushy tiger prawns that are imported here from asia. Vancouver magazine named spot prawns their 2008 Ingredient Of The Year.
So, did you eat them or what?
Oh, I ate them. And ate them again. Let’s recap the last few weeks:
Meal #1 – Fine Dining: Spot Prawn Spaghetti
This was part of an overall stellar meal at Zambri’s – a victoria restaurant institution, and one of my favorite places to have dinner. This dish was very simple and very very delicious. Think fried hot peppers and golden garlic, some bread crumbs, the prawns and a whole lot of browned butter. Divine.
Meal #2 – Homemade – BBQ Spot Prawn Scampi
A few weeks after the meal at Zambri’s I found myself on the docks in Lund, a little town on the Sunshine Coast. I was in Powell River visiting my friends Janet and Graham, who also happen to love good food. Graham took me down to a boat where we bought 2 pounds of live spot prawns for $12!
Taking my precious cargo home, we put the prawns in a pot and into the fridge, hoping the cold would stun them. This gave me a chance to check out the prawns in more detail. They are surprisingly colourful, and have a wicked sharp serrated beak/nose–something to be careful of if you are handling them in your home.
From the fridge they went right onto the BBQ for a few minutes, while I prepped this scampi sauce (hmmm… maybe I love spot prawn season because I also love butter!?). From the BBQ, the were heaped on a platter and instantly devoured by five hungry people. Nobody seemed to mind taking the heads off – it’s surprisingly easy, and kind of satisfying in a “eat what you kill way”. Don’t forget to keep the heads and the shells for stock.
Meal #3 – TENTATIVE: Garganelli Pasta with Spot Prawns and a Lemon and Thyme Butter Sauce
I still have a few weeks before the close of the spot prawn season. I’m thinking of trying this recipe put together by Vancouver chef Rob Feenie. Who wants to come over?
ps – Graham also shared some of this stilton (fresh off the plane from England), which was so very yum – the perfect blend of sharp and smooth (and yes, I broke my own “no cow cheese rule” just for a little bit of this imported beauty.