Grilled Acorn Squash with Almonds and Melted Fennel and Leeks
Chef John Stephenson
Almonds, fennel, leeks, sumac and a sprinkling of kasseri cheese add contrasting textures and flavors to this veg-centric dish. Acorn squash is in season most of the year and makes a colorful and healthy addition to the menu at Hathorne Restaurant in Nashville.
1 large acorn squash
1 lb. leeks
1 lb. fennel bulbs
4 oz. whole, skinless raw almonds
Salt, to taste
Lemon juice, to taste
2 oz. kasseri cheese
1. Split squash in half, starting from stem end, and scoop out seeds and stringy parts with a spoon. Cut squash halves into half-moon shapes about ½-inch thick.
2. Preheat oven to 350 F. Oil and season squash slices with canola oil and salt. Place on baking sheet and cook 20 to 30 minutes until fork tender. Set aside to cool.
3. Meanwhile, destem fennel, reserving stems for later. Cut fennel lengthwise in half; remove core. Slice fennel in half rounds about ¼-inch thick.
4. Cut off ends of all leeks; reserve one leek and split remaining leeks lengthwise in half. Cut halved leeks into ¼-inch slices. Rinse fennel and leeks to remove all dirt; dry in colander.
5. In wide, shallow skillet or rondeaux, combine fennel and leeks with just enough canola oil to coat bottom of pan. Cook mixture over low heat, turning frequently, until it melts; it should be cooked down and almost break apart. Season with salt and lemon juice to taste.
6. Split reserved single leek in half and place on sheet pan. Bake at 425 F. for 30 to 45 minutes until it is completely dried and has a dark brown burnt color. Blitz the burnt leek into ash in food processor.
7. For almonds: Toss raw almonds in oil and coat with salt. Roast in 350 F oven for 10 minutes, turning baking sheet every 5 minutes to toast evenly. Cool at least 30 minutes, then pulse into crumbs in food processor.
8. For fennel oil, pick all green fronds off fennel stalks. Add to blender container and process until chopped. Add oil; pulse until pureed.
9. Pour oil into strainer lined with cheesecloth to strain out solids; reserve oil for plating.
10. For service, dust plate with leek ash. Place a row of melted fennel-leek mixture on top of ash; top with roasted squash slices. Lightly drizzle squash with fennel oil. Sprinkle almond crubs and kasseri on top of squash. Dust with ground sumac and fennel pollen.
Photograph courtesy of Almond Board of California