Tuesday, August 24, 2010

avocado squash?

While working with a client this week to create some recipes that would support her new approach to healthy eating she presented me with an ingredient I had never seen or heard of before: avocado squash.

It looked like the adorable offspring of a zucchini and an avocado, pear shaped and heavy. Cutting it open revealed a thin green skin and pretty creamy yellow flesh. A quick internet search revealed that this variety is beginning to find its way into farmer's markets. Maybe Hook Mountain Growers can tell us more?
I decided to saute this pretty squash up with some garlic and red lentils, creating a dish we could then serve with a whole grain to make a complete protein. The sauteed squash was delicious! It had a delicate, but surprisingly very flavorful presence with, unbelievably, some overtones of actually avocado flavor. How do they do it? I am now in love with avocado squash and have to figure out where to buy it. The one we worked with came from the Saturday green market at Abingdon Square  in the West Village, my old home stomping ground but not on my path on Saturday mornings now that I have moved to Queens. Any suggestions on where else to find it would be much appreciated!

Red lentils are so easy to work with because they cook quickly. I decided to try a risotto-like cooking technique for this recipe, ladling simmering water into the pan, adding more as the liquid became absorbed into the lentils. 

Grains and legumes are a natural combination. I had some cooked bulgar and red quinoa left over from another recipe and thought they would be perfect with my red lentil "risotto". The two grains tasted great mixed together and may now be my favorite new combo. 

Red lentil and Avocado Squash "Risotto" 

Red Lentil and Avocado Squash "Risotto" 
-any summer squash can be substituted for this avocado squash
3 Tbs. extra virgin olive oil
3 garlic cloves minced
1 summer squash, cubed
1 tomato cubed
1/2 teas. salt
1 teas. freshly ground pepper
1 cup red lentils
3 cups of simmering water or broth
1/4 cup fresh herbs, finely chopped (I used thyme and oregano, delish!)

•Heat oil in a saute pan, add garlic and cook about 3-4 minutes till garlic is golden and fragrant. 
•Add the summer squash and saute for 5 minutes, till squash begins to soften but is still firm.
•Add the tomatoes and cook for another minute. 
•Add the cup of lentils and the salt and pepper and stir the pan to combine the ingredients. 
•Begin adding a 1/2 cup of  boiling water or broth to the pan and stirring to distribute evenly. Continue to add the liquid by half cups, allowing the liquid to absorb into the lentils before adding more. The lentils should cook in about 10-15 minutes, using abut 3 cups of liquid. The lentils are done when they completely lose there shape and become mush. 
•Stir in the fresh herbs at the end to finish and drizzle a little extra virgin olive oil on top if you so desire. 

Serve with a steamed grain or pilaf such as rice, bulgar or quinoa.

I looked at the beautiful picture of the finished product and instantly thought of Chardonnay and Sangiovese as two good matches for this dish. I immediately love the idea of the creamy nature of this dish paired with a Chardonnay (but nothing with too much oak...) Choosing a wine with a complementing characteristic for this dish seems to me the way to go. Keep in mind that another technique used for pairing wines with food is to pick wines with qualities that contrast to those in the dish. Utilizing this school of thought, one might decide that a crisp, lean wine like a Sauvignon Blanc would be ideal. While both wines would provide a delightful experience (as Deb's dish looks wonderful), I personally would choose a Chardonnay. Perhaps even a Burgundy with it's minerally, earthy characteristics. While we're on the topic of Burgundy, a red (Pinot Noir) would also be an exquisite match. Pinot Noir from Burgundy typically display wonderful fruit intertwined with that mushroom-y, earthy quality I love so much. A beautiful Burgundy, red or white, would surely be a great choice for Deb's dish. Keep in mind Burgundies are rarely "cheap". They tend to be in the pricier range. That being said, this dish seems to me so elegant - and if it tastes as good as it looks, it certainly is worthy of a "higher-end wine". In my eyes, a special, beautiful bottle of red or white Burgundy and this dish make for a perfect date night. (plus perhaps a good movie rental to follow).

As mentioned above, Sangiovese would also make a great accompaniment. This varietal typically produces medium-bodied wines. As this seems to be a fairly "heavy" dish, you don't want to pair it with a wine that is too light, or the wine will be overpowered. At the same time, I wouldn't pair it with a heavy Cabernet, or the wine will wind up taking over the dish. The flavors and different characteristics of Sangiovese will vary widely depending on where the grape is grown. Typically, this varietal makes for a savory wine, with tart cherry flavors and herbal qualities. It is a grape that is often blended with other varietals too, so of course what it is blended with will greatly affect it's flavors and aromas. Choose a Tuscan Sangiovese, like a Chianti to enjoy with this beautiful dish! I'm sure you won't be disappointed!


  1. The avacado squash, also known as Bulam, is a hybrid summer squash and the flavor is better than zucchini and just as prolific. I believe its origins are from Asia and I know of a farm called Juno's Farm that produces these and sells at select farmers market. I just discovered this variety this season and will definitely grow them next year. Zucchini is one fruit I refuse to grow since it's so germane but the Bulam intrigues me!

  2. The 'avocado' squash does NOT have any flavor of avocado. I think you are mistaken in your belief of this through a misunderstanding of its name. It is called Avocado Squash due to its shape and outer skin color....

  3. Thanks for your comment. Indeed the name of the squash is derived from its shape and color. My surprise was that I detected "overtones of actually avocado flavor" as well. Granted they were subtle, perhaps more based on texture than taste, but recognizable to me none the less. Perhaps I am overly suggestible? :)


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