Ok, truth be told, they’ve been coming for awhile. Right out of the CSA gate, I had to contend week after week with summer squash and zucchini in particular. But for the past month, the misnamed “winter” squash have been taking up positions around my kitchen and I have found myself surrounded.
So, when this beautiful slate-grey, almost blue squash turned up in my CSA box this past week, I was committed to opening it up and discovering what the heck it was. And, yes, I could have referred back to the email from Waratah Farms to discern that it was “confection squash,” but that was apparently too easy. Instead, I was committed to splitting it open, hauling out the guts, cooking it, eating it … and asking questions later.
My challenge was that this was going to be “Friday night dinner.” I’m sure there are many out that have similar approaches to dinner on Friday night and who ascribe to the “less is more” philosophy. For Anne and I both, Friday night dinner demands to be a night “off” from chores, responsibility … and cooking. For me in particular, it is the one night a week I don’t particularly want to cook (I need a night off too). However, we still need to eat — so it usually falls to Anne to decide if she wants to order in or if it will be a simple night of finger foods. In my mind, it is a night to open a bottle of wine, curl up beside Anne, and relax … so any food that comes should go with the wine, be comfort food, and say let’s snuggle.
“I’m cooking tomorrow night,” I told Anne on Thursday. I had taken the day off work in a bid to both extend my Thanksgiving long weekend even further and to catch up on some recharging after returning from my whirlwind trip to Saudi Arabia. She asked what I’d be making trying to hint at certain things she was craving. “Squash,” I said. As much as she loves squash, the face she made was evidence that squash was not Friday-night fare.
So I set out to prove otherwise….
I’m not sure why, but for some reason when I looked at this squash I thought “fritter.” I think it is because I saw in this cold blue skin “yucky squash,” like a Hubbard or some such entity. “Yucky squash” demanded I introduce a measure of sin to make it palatable. And, in my mind, nothing says ‘sin’ like deep-frying.
Personally, I think deep-frying gets an undeserved bad rap. If you use a real deep fryer (not a pot of oil on the stove) and you maintain a hot and even cooking temperature, the heat will immediately ‘seal’ the food and prevent the absorption of most of the oil. I know this to be both theoretically and practically true because I can see how much oil I put into the deep fryer and how much I filter back at the end … and, in most cases, only a few tablespoons or at most a 1/4 cup of oil gets ‘lost’ in the food, a much much better process than pan-frying.
Still, whether sinful in reality or not, deep-fried foods say ‘comfort’ which in my books is synonymous with Friday night fare.
So what did I do? I slow roasted the squash on the barbecue while I relaxed during the day. The intention was to caramelize the sugars in the squash, deepen the flavour, and remove as much water as possible from the flesh. I then let it cool before scooping out the pulp, mashing it, and setting it aside for later. Secondly, I again wanted to create a gluten-free recipe for the fritters. My success with gluten-free pancakes a few weeks previous and then the success of my zucchini cake had me inspired that I could create moist and fluffy without gluten. Best of all, this would produce an even healthier result. Finally, I decided to make a dip to go with the fritters, borrowing on the idea of tzatziki but kicking it up a notch by adding some feta for thickness and flavour. I wasn’t wholly sure about this; I waffled on the idea of instead using a simple drizzle of maple syrup. However, because I was going to serve these with ginger-molasses chicken wings, I figured I had enough sweet going on already, so I opted for savoury instead.
Note: Again, if you don’t want to create this gluten-free, substitute all-purpose flour for the rice, potato, and quinoa flours and omit the guar gum. You may also reduce the buttermilk by a few tablespoons.
The yoghurt-feta sauce turned out amazing and it tasted good on the fritters. However, dipping the fritters into the sauce, all you good taste was the sauce. Not bad, but it didn’t really let the squash sing through. I instead tried a drizzle of maple syrup over the fritters instead, and the results were much better. Either way, though, the fritters with satisfying exterior crunch and tender and fluffy interior were a hit and are sure to become a regular treat at home. The good news, as well, is that while a whole squash produces an abundance of fritters … they store well, reheat amazingly in the oven, and provide excellent return on investment for the effort of squash and deep fryer.
These fritters pack an incredibly satisfying crunch on the outside with a sweet moistness on the inside … but they are filling. It’s hard just to have 3 or 4, but having any more will be sure to spoil your dinner. Happy TGIF to you all.
Prep time: 20 minutes prep +75 minutes for squash to roast
Cook time: 4 minutes/batch x 5 batches = 20 minutes
Total Time: 2 hours
Yield: About 2 dozen fritters
- 1/2 cup brown rice flour
- 1/2 cup quinoa flour
- 2/3 cup potato flour
(not to be confused with potato starch)
- 1/3 cup medium-coarse corn meal
- 1 teaspoon paprika
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/4 teaspoon guar gum
- 3 lbs whole squash (e.g. confection, kabocha, butternut)
→ produces 2½ cups squash puree
- 1 egg
- 1 teaspoon chives, chopped
- 1 cup buttermilk
- 3/4 cup Greek yoghurt
- 1/4 cup Greek feta, crumbled
- 1 clove garlic
- 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
- 1 tablespoon chives, chopped
- 1 tablespoon fresh dill, chopped
- freshly ground pepper
- Preheat barbecue or oven to 350ºF.
- Clean the squash and cut it in half from top to bottom and remove the seeds and ‘guts.’
- Place the squash on the bbq or in the oven, cut-side up, and roast for 45 minutes. Turn the squash onto the bottom and roast for 15 minutes more. Finally, rotate squash onto top, and bake another 15 minutes. Outside of squash should give when pressed with finger. Remove from heat and let cool.
- Meanwhile, if making the yoghurt-feta sauce, mix everything together in a medium sized ceramic bowl.
Use an immersion blender or add ingredients to a small food processor, and process until smooth and feta is full incorporated.
Cover and refrigerate until fritters are ready.
- When cool, remove the flesh from the skin (or peel the skin away) and discard any dry, crusty bits of squash (while these are tasty, they are the wrong consistency for the recipe). Puree the squash in either food processor, using an immersion blender, or by hand with a ricer. You should produce about 2½ cups of puree.
- Fill deep fryer following manufacturer’s instructions, and heat to 350ºF.
- In a medium sized bowl, sift the flours and add the cornmeal, baking powder, baking soda, guar gum, and seasonings. Set aside.
- In another medium sized bowl, add the squash puree and beat in the egg and add the chives.
- Add the buttermilk.
- Gradually fold in the dry ingredients.
Add more buttermilk if necessary, but the batter should be thick enough to hold its shape, stick tenaciously to a spatula, but still be able to ‘drop.’
- When deep fryer is ready, prepare to cook the fritters. Use two tablespoons to carefully drop the batter in ‘balls’ into the hot oil (careful you don’t splatter yourself or your dog): use one tablespoon to scoop a ball of batter and use the other to push it into the oil. Repeat until you have 5-6 balls in the oil. Don’t overcrowd the oil. Give the basket a shake to prevent sticking, and using a timer, cook about 4 minutes until dark golden.
- Serve in batches or keep each batch warn in the oven until ready.
- Serve with yoghurt-feta sauce or drizzle with maple syrup and enjoy.