5@5 - Chef Tony Conte's Five Tips on Cooking Fall Squash
October 27th, 2010
05:00 PM ET
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5@5 is a daily, food-related list from chefs, writers, political pundits, musicians, actors, and all manner of opinionated people from around the globe.

Despite this week’s climatic tomfoolery, we are indeed in the midst of autumn - and if the fall season means anything for food, it’s squash, and lots of it.

Chef Tony Conte is the executive chef of The Oval Room in Washington, D.C. Conte arrived on the capital city’s dining scene after a stint as executive sous chef at Jean-Georges Vongrichten's critically acclaimed, three-Michelin-starred Jean Georges restaurant in New York City. Since then, he’s been cranking out Mediterranean-influenced modern American cuisine to the District's power players and food lovers alike.

For Conte, the best way to celebrate autumn's most ubiquitous gourd is by squashing it into your usual culinary repertoire - and here's how.

Five Tips on Cooking Fall Squash: Tony Conte

1. Looks can be deceiving
"When picking out a squash or pumpkin, the picture-perfect, lightweight ones may not be the best bet. I like them to be very heavy and feel dense, not hollow - and it should be firm.

If it’s soft, it’s rotting from the inside out. Blemishes on the flesh can be from how it was grown or they may have been bruised in transit, which doesn’t harm the flavor or mean that it’s overly ripe or unusable - quite the opposite.

When shopping ask at the farmers markets or grocery store for the 'number twos.' These veggies (apples too) don’t look perfect but they are excellent for cooking and are going to be peeled anyway. And the number twos are far less expensive."

2. Make it hot
"Add some ground chili (Thai, chipotle, ancho, or your favorite smoky and hot pepper) to bring out another layer of flavor from these sweet root vegetables. Ninety-nine percent of the time, we incorporate some sort of chili into our squash/potato dishes. Butternut squash and sweet potatoes are sweeter than they’ve ever been and adding that layer of kick - whether for heat or smoke - brings out an amazing flavor.

We typically add dried chili powder or flakes, olive oil, and garlic before roasting in the oven. You can serve alongside a steak or a nice pork loin for a great fall entrée."

3. Make it sweet
"Almost any recipe for squash or potatoes starts off with roasting the vegetable first. The heat brings out the natural sugars, makes the color more intense and makes the flesh much easier to work with or to make into a purée. The sweet applications of squash, namely butternut or acorn are limitless. You can use the purée to fill ravioli, make a cheesecake, pie, or even ice cream.

4. Don’t throw anything away
"The seeds inside squash have a variety of uses. Toss them on a baking sheet with olive oil and salt and put in the broiler to make a toasted snack. You can also cook the seeds in a skillet with some water until they are soft, grind them down and add as a natural starch before straining when making a soup."

5. Don’t be afraid to experiment
"Squash is a very versatile and forgiving vegetable so have fun! Try juicing the raw squash and reducing the juice to make a vinaigrette dressing. Also try making a dumpling or gnocchi - or take it a step further and try pickling for a unique flavor."

What's your squash specialty? Spill the beans in the comments.

Is there someone you'd like to see in the hot seat? Let us know in the comments below and if we agree, we'll do our best to chase 'em down.

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Filed under: 5@5 • Fall Vegetables • Squash • Think • Vegetables

soundoff (32 Responses)
  1. Lee Budziszewski

    Very good post.

    November 17, 2012 at 9:54 pm |
  2. joann

    This guy was 22? Hard to believe. he looks 40.

    September 11, 2011 at 7:09 pm |
  3. Jon

    Squash is good but I find that this Roasted Chicken with Rosemary Butter recipe is much more appetizing... http://bit.ly/asdXSd

    November 2, 2010 at 11:03 am |
  4. janelyn

    I grate yellow squash(and Zuccini if you have them) into a bowl with chopped onion and celery. Add a couple eggs and Stove Top stuffing into the mix along with ancho pepper, salt, and oregano. Make into patties and fry in oil(I use olive oil with some garlic cloves over medium heat-garlic cloves later removed) Absolutly great .

    October 30, 2010 at 9:23 pm |
  5. GGinSanDiego

    All time favorite soup:
    – Squash Soup with Crispy Shrimp
    Remove peel and cube squash. Saute cubed squash and 1/2 cup onion until lightly golden.
    Boil until soft then puree.
    Right before serving, wrap pre-cooked jumbo shrimp, cleaned and tails removed, in bacon and fry until bacon is crispy.
    Remove to paper lined platter to drain off excess juice.
    Re-warm soup.
    Make a balsamic vinegar reduction (1/2 – 3/4 cup vinegar, boil until thick as syrup, do not burn).
    Dish up soup into shallow soup bowls, add 3 -5 crispy shrimps in each bowl, drizzle with balsamic reduction.

    October 30, 2010 at 6:34 pm |
  6. Judy

    Acorn squash – halve, scoop out pulp and seeds, put 1 t. butter/oleo and 1 T. honey (any flavor) in each half. Bake 400F. for prox. 1 hour, or until cut edges are well browned. Been doing this for over 60 years – it's the best! Even good the second day, heated in a MO.

    October 29, 2010 at 7:28 pm |
  7. Krazy Cook

    we cut squash into 2 inch thick medallions – microzap them for about 60 seconds – top with whatever and then grill them
    the possibilities are endless and you will be surprised as what you come up with

    October 29, 2010 at 4:11 pm |
    • LiSC

      Can you clarify what you mean by medallions and which squash you're talking about? I'm not sure which way to cut and what it should look like. Thanks!

      November 2, 2011 at 6:46 pm |
  8. Janet

    Here's a healthy recipe from the fruits & veggies more matters site that incorporates a lot of the flavors of the season, "Apple Stuffed Acorn Squash." My kids like it because it's got a nice sweet taste from the apple, cinnamon and raisins.

    October 28, 2010 at 12:32 pm |
  9. Lydia

    I love this time of year and the food that comes with it!

    October 28, 2010 at 12:58 am |
  10. Crystal


    one large butternut squash
    about a cup of cooked spinach
    250g feta cheese
    6-8 shallots, finely chopped
    2 cloves of garlic, crushed
    salt and pepper
    olive oil
    dried rosemary


    Wash the butternut and slice it in half longitudinally, leaving two elongated halves. Scoop out all the seeds from the lower half.

    Sautee the shallots and garlic in a little oil until soft. Make sure you have removed as much water as possible from the spinach and mix into the onions. Heat through, then remove from heat.

    Stir in the crumbled feta into the mix (reserve some for topping), season to taste with salt, pepper and rosemary. Scoop the mixture into the hollow of the butternut.

    Drizzle with olive oil, sprnkle with feta and rosemary and wrap tightly in aluminium foil.

    Place in the oven for about an hour, testing for doneness with a skewer or sharp knife. Serve when soft.


    October 27, 2010 at 11:07 pm |
  11. Dawn

    Butternut squash - peeled and cut the size of large french fries. Little extra virgin olive oil and salt & pepper. 400 degree oven for about 40 minutes or until soft or crispy depending on what you like

    Spaghetti squash - after baked and inside soft. scrape it off completely, still inside the rind, add a tomato cut up and basil. cook another 4 or 5 mins.

    October 27, 2010 at 10:27 pm |
    • Earl Hatleberg

      Don't forget to dust the oven roasted squash or sweet potato (w/garlic, pepper and OO) with finely ground rosemary. Once they carmelize, WOW.

      October 29, 2010 at 5:58 pm |
  12. pbbay

    You can cook squash with 2 cans of coconut milk, strips of chicken or shrimp, one onion, green beans, garlic,salt, black pepper, red hot pepper, curry powder, a minced ginger and basil (its a Filipino Dish). Make sure to cook some rice too! God Bless and enjoy!

    October 27, 2010 at 10:27 pm |
  13. stinkystain

    i like brown sugar on mine :)

    October 27, 2010 at 10:02 pm |
  14. DBSM

    roasted squash, black beans and tomatillo sauce with or without cheese is the yummiest combo ever.
    Well, roasted squassh, topped with creamed spinach, topped with romano or parmesan is pretty yummy too.

    October 27, 2010 at 9:46 pm |
  15. rob

    "Add some ground chili (Thai, chipotle, ancho, or your favorite smoky and hot pepper) to bring out another layer of flavor from these sweet root vegetables." Last time I looked, squash grow on vines and are not root vegetables.

    October 27, 2010 at 9:39 pm |
    • Lydia

      I think by root vegetables, the author meant sweet potatoes, as they creep into the article here and there, but yeah... a little confusing on the wording.

      October 28, 2010 at 12:54 am |
  16. Laura

    @ dieselddonx, couldn't agree with you more:) and the added benifit of pumpkin helps settle little ones tummies if not feeling well or having an issue w/ #2:)

    October 27, 2010 at 9:14 pm |
  17. dieseldonx

    And squash as a part of home-made dog food. Let's be kind to our canine friends – and they love it, in my experience

    October 27, 2010 at 9:09 pm |
  18. Laura

    Besides the obvious pumpkin seeds, love using the pumpkin in dog treats:) (Yes I am one of those crazy nuts, but due to having furry children that have a wheat alergy, love using alternatives since less expensive). Dehydrating sweet potatoes as well for treats, and they love it!!! (Just bake for an hour, peel (the peel of the potatoes is bad for dogs, but the rest is great for them), cool, and cut up into small strips, and dehydrate. Get 8 paws up for doing this:)

    October 27, 2010 at 9:08 pm |
  19. Elaine

    Glad someone setting the record straight about roasting rather than boiling or steaming squash. By the way, I think you mean climatic tomfoolery.

    October 27, 2010 at 8:33 pm |
    • Rachel

      Adjective: (of an action, event, or scene) Exciting or thrilling and acting as a climax to a series of events.

      October 27, 2010 at 10:21 pm |
    • ksbradley21

      Can you post how to roast an butternut squash, I have only every cooked in a pan of water until the meat is soft. Roasting sounds yummy.

      October 28, 2010 at 4:03 am |
  20. RabiaDiluvio

    and not a word about pumpkin or squash in sauces or as a baking ingredient. Mmmmm.

    October 27, 2010 at 8:11 pm |
  21. NicM

    If you have a cold place to store them squash will last well into winter. I've found blue cheese goes nicely with roasted squash too and can make a nice hot salad by tossing with some greens or rework the same ingredients for a killer pizza! Fall is my favorite food season.

    October 27, 2010 at 6:25 pm |
  22. Evil Grin

    I actually like roasted pumpkin or butternut squash with butter. And cold yellow squash and bean salad is good in the summer. Of course spaghetti squash makes an excellent substitute for noodles.

    October 27, 2010 at 5:55 pm |
  23. A squash Haiku

    From vine to a jar
    A vegetable for Baby
    Have wash cloth ready!

    October 27, 2010 at 5:48 pm |
    • Rachel


      October 27, 2010 at 10:25 pm |
    • DP

      I like.

      October 27, 2010 at 11:11 pm |
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