Celebrity chef Mark Peel explains how to make squash a seasonal sensation

Tuesday, November 28, 2017
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Chef Mark Peel shows us why squash is a great vegetable to use, even though most think it difficult to prepare.

From Campanile to The Tar Pit, seasoned chef Mark Peel is known for his culinary excellence -- making him a perfect person to wax poetic about squash at his new eatery, Prawn Coastal Casual.

"They come from the Americas -- just like corn, tomatoes and tobacco," said Peel. "Squashes are available all year around, even though they're mostly associated with winter and fall."

The brightly colored vegetables are often ignored, as it takes a bit of know-how to deal with them. But don't be scared off -- Peel offers a tutorial on butternut, spaghetti and kabocha varieties.

"Give it a little whack on top and apply pressure to open. You can't really see the fibers until it's cooked in here but they're there," said Peel.

Scrap the messy threads and mess and you'll have colorful squash flesh for your dish.

"Cut it into quarters, chop it up and just roast the quarters. It comes out sweet and savory, really good on its own," Peel said.

The beauty of squash is that it's full of fiber, loads of nutrients and no fat, so it can really help perk up a dish.

At Peel's new Pasadena restaurant, he incorporates roasted kabocha squash in a spicy Indonesian scallop bowl -- complete with peanuts, chili paste and rice in a lemongrass garlic broth.

His vegan barley quinoa grain bowl is deconstructed with roasted cauliflower and broccolini, shitaki mushrooms, squash, chickpeas, with pickled peppers in a spicy vegan broth and tofu vinaigrette.

When you buy squash, go for the heaviest. Light ones indicate dryness. To roast, Peel suggests 350 degrees for a half hour, but cook time varies depending on the dish.

Of course, there's giving his menu a try, which he boasts is a pretty good deal.

"The most expensive thing we have is $19 and that's a lobster roll," Peel said. "Everything else is under $16."