Sunday, October 21, 2012

Squash with panache

Plop. Plop. Plop-plop-plop-plop-plop-plop-plop. It's raining acorns outside. Last year, the oak trees gave up so few that there were notes on begging for anyone who had a bucket of acorns in their garage to please share for their squirrels. The oaks have more than made up for their previous year's stinginess.

It's also the time of year when acorn squash plop, plop, plop down in the stores as well. They look very cheerful with their pointy tips, deep green and orange coloring and scalloped exterior. I think that's why many people just half them, cook them face down on a cookie sheet, then serve them drizzled with maple syrup. Pretty easy, and a half of squash is a hearty portion for one person, a healthy alternative to a baked potato drizzled with butter and stuffed with sour cream, cheese and bacon bits.

Yet, I never much liked them. I pondered whether it was the texture, which can be a bit more stringy than butternut squash or pumpkin, or was it the maple syrup? Thinking it might be the latter, plus the blandness of the vegetable once the coating was eaten, I decided to try to peel the squash and roast it.

Peeling turned out to be the most time-consuming part, because of its scalloped shell. But once that was done, the rest couldn't be easier.

Lori K's pork tenderloin with roasted acorn squash
Serves 2

1 acorn squash, seeds removed, peeled and diced into 1" chunks
1 tablespoon chili powder
1 teaspoon garlic salt
1 teaspoon cumin
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 pork tenderloin
Spice rub
2 quarters of cabbage
Salt and pepper to taste
Butter, optional

Preheat oven to 500 degrees.
In a dutch oven or enameled iron casserole, toss the squash with chili powder, garlic salt, cumin and oil until well coated. Cook for 15 minutes.
Coat all sides of the tenderloin with your favorite spice rub (I used Mas Guapo; it's spicy and a little sweet).
Remove the pan from the oven and lay the tenderloin on top. Cook for 20-25 minutes until the squash is very tender and the pork is 160 degrees in the center. Take out of the oven and wait 5 minutes for the juices to reabsorb into the meat.
While the meat is resting, put the cabbage in a microwave safe dish, season with salt and pepper to taste and cook for 4 minutes on high, or until tender but still bright green. Add a pat of butter while hot, if desired.
Remove meat to a cutting board and slice thinly. Divide onto 2 plates and pour any juices over the meat. Fill out plate with half the squash, and a cabbage wedge. Serve.

Note: There are usually two tenderloins in a pack; if you get a pack that's about 2 pounds, one will be just about the right amount for two people. You can cook both of them and have meat for sandwiches for the next few days.