By Jennifer Meehan
The arrival of fall changes everything: The days get shorter, the weather gets cooler, and loads of winter squash start showing up at the farmers markets. Squash is one of my favorite market finds because of its wide variety, long season and versatility in the kitchen.
Though winter squash is a fall crop (not winter as one would obviously assume), its thick, hard skin allows for long storage, making it available long into the frigid winter months that might otherwise keep you away from the Greenmarkets. When I saw a crate full of assorted squash at Maxwell’s Farm stand last week at Grand Army Plaza, I went over to find out a little bit more about them.
Luckily, Bill Maxwell, the owner of the farm, was there to tell me about his farm and the squash crops. Maxwell’s Farm is located 80 miles west of New York in Warren County, New Jersey.
Bill actually grew up in Long Island, but was living in New Jersey and working as a journalist when he woke up one day in 1984 and decided to start a farm. He had been gardening on small plots before, so it wasn’t a drastic transition. He went from backyard gardening to owning a 5-acre plot and from there began a slow expansion. The farm has since grown to 60 acres, and Bill harvests about 500 different crops each year.
Bill and I talked about acorn squash: apparently, acorn squash is actually a pretty easy crop to grow – it can be directly planted in the soil and takes about 3 months to mature for harvest. A bigger challenge, though, is trying to cut through its thick skin! Bill doesn’t have a favorite way of eating the squash because the demands of running the farm means he rarely has enough time to prepare it.
Ryan Angulo, Executive Chef at Buttermilk Channel, isn’t quite ready to give up summer yet and likes to grill his acorn squash. To prepare, he halves the squash, and tosses them in just enough oil to lightly coat, then seasons with salt while the grill is heating up. He places the squash flesh-side down on the grill and cooks until it’s just tender. He then halves a couple of lemons, lightly oils the flesh side and grills them face down. When done he arranges the squash on a plate, squeezes a half of grilled lemon over each squash, and puts the other half on the plate for an extra drizzle, if needed. To finish, he grates a nice hard cheese over the squash and serves it up. Ryan says the dish is great hot off the grill or at room temperature.
What’s your favorite way to cook squash? Let us know in the comments!