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Alana Peckham’s elegant dishes have won the Best Small Plates category in our Restaurant Awards two years running; she combines French technique and local ingredients with unexpected sides that sometimes nod to her Chinese heritage. Here she discusses her favourite fall vegetable: butternut squash.
How to Buy “Choose a squash that is heavy for its size. A light squash could mean that there is too much air inside, that it’s lost its moisture and started to decay. The skin should be firm and there should be no signs of moulding or spots. Check the bottom; that’s where mould will appear first.” The best squash comes from Gabriel Fernandez of Sapo Bravo farms in Lytton (250-455-2392); he delivers to the restaurant every Friday and sells to the public at the Trout Lake Farmers Market.
How to Cook “Oven roasting is the best way to cook squash: it concentrates the sugars for even caramelization and brings out the flavours.” Cut the squash in half and scoop out the seeds. Season with kosher salt and rub on some olive oil. One hour in a 350º F oven should do the trick (place the squash flesh-side down on parchment paper). The skin will brown, making it easy to peel away, and the flesh should give no resistance when pierced with a knife. One small- to medium-size squash will yield about two cups of cooked squash—perfect for making flan. Purée the roasted squash with whole milk, cream, eggs, grated parmesan, nutmeg, and a pinch of kosher salt. Pour into small, pre-greased ramekins and bake in a hot-water bath. The smooth texture and concentrated sweet flavour pairs nicely with green salad—a beautiful starter to a rich fall meal.
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