Farmers' Markets

On the Menu: How Three Local Chefs Are Using Fall Gourds Now

Delicata squash is on the fall menu at Potager.
Delicata squash is on the fall menu at Potager. Ben Whelan
As the last glimpses of summer flit away in Colorado, taking with them the bounty of corn, peaches, melons and other delectable warm-weather produce, chefs and their menus turn toward what autumn and the colder months will bring to the table. One of the first harbingers of the fall harvest is the humble gourd and other members of the cucurbits family, from butternut squash to pumpkin.

Here's how a few chefs around town are embracing these orange-fleshed treats across different cuisines:

1109 Ogden Street

At farm-to-table OG and Cap Hill anchor Potager, chef Paul Warthen’s delicata squash treatment is a study in textures as well as flavors. The stripe-skinned oblong gourd is cut into rings, gently roasted with olive oil and served with pickled Honeycrisp apples and salsa macha (a mole-like sauce of roasted chilies, toasted nuts and seeds, here with some fall-herb accents).

“Delicata is the first of the harder-skinned squash you see at the market”, explains Warthen, “but it's great because it is 100% edible from its skin to its seeds. It is a summer squash — though it lasts far longer than its relatives. But it is also the first to disappear from the markets in the middle of fall because it doesn't store well for as long, so you typically don't see it through the winter. The versatility of this squash is amazing; it can be used across the board: roasting, steaming, boiling, frying....”

As fall marches into winter, the succession of available squashes and pumpkins continues right along with it, bringing in more varietals for chefs to play with. “There is so much about the cucurbits family that is fascinating to I am excited to work with more varieties and ferment them with cider, pickle, smoke, roast...everything I can do," Warthen notes.

Currently, Potager's fall produce is sourced from Monroe Organic Farms, Red Wagon Organic Farm and Isabelle Farm.
click to enlarge Pumpkin curry at Daughter Thai Kitchen. - BEN WHELAN
Pumpkin curry at Daughter Thai Kitchen.
Ben Whelan
Daughter Thai Kitchen and Bar
1700 Platte Street Suite #140

While pumpkin and squash are not a staple in most Thai cooking, it is an essential ingredient in the cuisine of the more temperate, hilly regions of northern Thailand. There is also no differentiation in Thai between squash and pumpkin — everything is just referred to as "pumpkin." 

At Daughter Thai Kitchen, chef Oun Hardacre uses acorn squash as the center of her Gaeng Fak Tong (pumpkin curry), which is rich and sweet from the coconut cream base with a mild, dry chili heat and hints of fall spices used in the curry paste. “I like squash because it is both sweet and gives the curry a great texture," Hardacre says.
click to enlarge Wood-fired Pacific tile fish with autumn squash at Coperta. - BEN WHELAN
Wood-fired Pacific tile fish with autumn squash at Coperta.
Ben Whelan
400 East 20th Avenue
While less ubiquitous than its more common cousins the butternut squash and sugar pumpkin, in recent years the koginut squash has developed a following among chefs nationwide. One of its advocates on the Denver scene is executive chef Kenny Minton of Italian eatery Coperta.

“Koginut squash is a cross between butternut and kabocha which yields a creamier and nuttier texture when cooked," Minton explains. “Currently we are using it on a few dishes on our menu. It is diced and roasted on our wood-fired Pacific tile fish with autumn squash livornese sauce, as well as on our weekly rotating menu served with pork loin, koginut farroto (farro cooked in the style of risotto), sunflower seed and pickled pumpkin.

Coperta’s koginuts comes from a collaboration between seed company Row7 and Aurora's DeLaney Community Farms, which in turn is a partnership between Denver Urban Gardens and Project Worthmore, whose mission is to support refugees through sustainable agriculture and community building.

“At Coperta, our relationship with our farmers is very important. Being able to tell their story of how and why they grow the produce that they do is a crucial step in the dining experience here," adds Minton.

Feeling inspired? Try this recipe for a seasonal fall squash and cider soup.
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Ben Whelan has been living and cooking in Denver since 2014 and is an alum of Mizuna, Fruition and multiple concepts in the Culinary Creative group. He is currently the chef de cuisine at Lunchboxx in the Denver Central Market.