Squash season is upon us: five of T.O.’s top chefs show us how they’re treating fall’s star fruit
For Toronto chefs worshipping at the altar of fresh and local, squash is the ingredient of the moment. Cowbell’s owner and chef, Mark Cutrara, tells us that the locavore movement has led to a better infrastructure for getting Ontario-farmed versions to cooks, who are doing more than just puréeing the fruit for soup. Culinary innovators around town are transmuting squash into ice cream, gratin and gnocchi. We look at five delicious dishes from five Toronto menus that make the most of this year’s bountiful squash harvest.
At this midtown trattoria, chef Andrew Milne-Allan is replacing gnocchi’s predictable potato with squash. The appetizer will feature poached versions of the dumplings, made with roasted butternut squash, flour, parmesan and a bit of egg. The creation, served on a fondue of taleggio cheese, suits the season and the restaurant’s name: Zucca means winter squash in Italian.
Zucca Trattoria, 2150 Yonge St., 416-488-5774.
Executive chef John Sinopoli’s take on squash is a baby roulette side dish. He prefers to let the food speak for itself, so the preparation is decidedly simple: “It’s like something your mom would make,” he says. The squash is cut in half, roasted, and then the cavity is filled with maple syrup, butter, walnuts and fresh thyme.
Table 17, 782 Queen St. E., 416-519-1851.
“It’s not just butternut squash anymore,” says chef Kevin McKenna. “There are so many different types and textures.” The baby and acorn varieties have found their way into dishes here, but the most interesting take is the autumn squash orecchiette on Globe’s pre-theatre table d’hôte. The pasta comes with smoked grape tomatoes, purple sage, dry baby spinach and Monforte Toscano cheese.
Globe Bistro, 124 Danforth Ave., 416-466-2000.
Mark Cutrara is making use of acorn and butternut squash in a menu that changes weekly, if not daily. One of his more creative uses, though, is found at the end of the meal. The maple tart with pumpkin ice cream is like a deconstructed pie: the dairy portion of pumpkin purée and warm spices (nutmeg, cinnamon and clove) is served atop a maple butter tart.
Cowbell, 1564 Queen St. W., 416-849-1095.
Diners indulging in chef-owner Jean-Charles Dupoire’s braised lamb shoulder will find it accompanied with an acorn squash gratin. Layers of the squash are mixed with cream, eggs, parmesan, cardamom, cumin and allspice. “It’s a remarkable time,” Dupoire says of squash season. “We can put squash on the plate and do some wonderful stuff with it.”
Loire, 119 Harbord St., 416-850-8330.