smoked squash, herb marinated feta, garlic dressing

January 3, 2012

I don’t do a lot of smoking. I won a smoker a few years back for a photo of some meat, and guess what – I never used it. It stayed in garage, unopened in the box. Well, honestly, that was mainly because it was one of those that used these dicey pellets of reformed wood and with me being the hippy that I am I didn’t want to smoke my food with a bunch of unknown substances that hold that reformed wood together. I imagined it to be kinda like smoking food using MDF. Nah, not for me.

One book, which shall remain nameless because honestly it isn’t all as bad as this, recommends smoking in a wok using sugar as the fuel if you want to smoke food indoors. Since it is winter and raining here in Seattle, that seems like a good idea. Guess what – it tastes like burnt sugar, and that is being polite.

Instead I decided to try my hand at using the wok smoking technique but with proper wood chips – apple wood chips to be precise – I thought that might be a rather nice way to cook delicata squash. Turns out it is, especially if you smoke for 10 minutes and then finish in a very hot oven or under a broiler to caramelize.

A favorite restaurant of mine here in Seattle, Sitka & Spruce (which unfortunately seems to have doubled their lunch prices and halved the portions of their oh so lovely food) does some great stuff with marinaded feta, and frankly I want some of that action too. I have been pairing feta with a lot of stuff recently and I really enjoy the sharpness of it with this smokey rich squash. Pair that with a lovely spice and herb tang from the marinade and I reckon this whole thing is a bit of a winner.

Smoked Squash with marinaded feta recipe

1 delicata squash

handful of wood chips of choice

1 packet of decent feta cheese

olive oil

a few sprigs of rosemary

2 tablespoons fennel seed

2 tablespoons coriander seed

sherry vinegar – about 1 tablespoon

1 clove of garlic, peeled

small bunch of chives

salt and pepper to taste

24 hours ahead of time break the block of feta up into 1″ squares. Toast the fennel and coriander seeds briefly in a hot pan until fragrant. Yank the leaves off the rosemary stalks. Put the feta in a bowl with the coriander and fennel seeds and throw in the rosemary. Cover liberally with olive oil, and a few grinds of black pepper. Let this sit covered, in the fridge for a day or so.

Cut the squash in half lengthwise and scoop out the seeds. Cut these two halves across in to half-rounds about 1/2″ thick.

Toss with a little salt and pepper.

Soak your wood chips of choice in cold water for about 20 minutes. Line a good sized wok with a double layer of foil. Drain the wood chips and place in the bottom of the wok. Torch the wood chips with a blow torch (plumbers blow torches are the best for this, and lighting charcoal barbeques!) until they are smoking. Turn the heat up under the wok to keep the smoke going constantly. Put a small rack in the wok – making sure it sits an inch or so above the smoking chips. Carefully put the squash on to this rack in a single layer. Cover the wok and smoke the squash for about 8 minutes. Turn the squash over and smoke for 7 or so more minutes.

As the squash is smoking make the dressing. Smash the clove of garlic up with a little salt until it is paste-like. You can use garlic confit here, which will give a far superior taste (just gently simmer garlic cloves in olive oil for 20 minutes to confit them). In a small bowl whisk together 1 tablespoon of sherry vinegar with 3 tablespoons (roughly) of good olive oil. Whisk the garlic in to this. Season with salt and pepper.

Finely chop the chives.

Once the squash seem to have taken on a mellow smoke aroma, remove them from the smoker. Finish them under either a very hot broiler, or a hot oven – 450F or so until nicely browned – say 5 minutes for the broiler, 15 minutes for the oven.

NOTE: I have a very hot ceramic salamander style broiler that does a brilliant job of very even browning on food – it does in a few minutes what it takes an oven 20 minutes to do. I do a lot of root veg under it these days, cutting down my cooking time. If you broiler isn’t so even, I suggest sucking up the extra time and roasting them in an oven.

Take the feta out of the olive oil marinade. Worry not if some of the spices stay on the feta. Arrange the feta and squash in a bowl, and toss with the chopped chives. Pour over the garlic dressing, and finish with some good sea salt. You know, the British stuff.

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  • j-lon January 3, 2012 at 9:14 am

    If that smoker in your garage that uses the pellets is a Bradley smoker and you’re looking to give it away, let me know…. But really you should just use it. A friend of mine has one and it turns out very nice stuff. She made some smoked pecans with it the other day and they were delicious. She’s smoked cheese. I’ve made smoked pork shoulder and chicken in it and those things came out well too.

  • ewa January 3, 2012 at 9:52 am

    Hello! First I must say I love this blog and recently made citrus cured salmon that you’d posted a recipe for. Not the same kind of salmon but it was sooo tasty. I thought I’d write a few words since I’m a great fan of smoked anything. A while ago I found a great method of smoking in Darina Allen’s ‘Forgotten skills of cooking’ and I tried it a good few time. Simply use a chocolate/biscuit tin, line it with tin foil, put your smoking agent (I use sawdust and a little bit of Lapsang tea) on it, put your rack over it (I use disposable BBQ trays – you can shape them easily). The great advantage is that those tins are airtight and no smoke escapes, however there is a little aroma – so it’s good for smoking indoors, perfect I can say. I put the smoker on the hob. Cannot be simpler. Never tried smoked squash, but certainly will.

  • foodMAD January 3, 2012 at 4:22 pm

    Looks GOOD! I will have to try that marinated feta myself. Beautiful shoots!

  • Brooke January 3, 2012 at 6:48 pm

    This is Right. Up. My. Alley! But now I need to buy a wok. Dangit.

  • la domestique January 3, 2012 at 9:15 pm

    I’m loving everything about this post- the smoked squash, the marinated cheese! Thanks for the inspiration.

  • Emily January 4, 2012 at 12:53 am

    Wow. That last photo of the feta in the oil is wonderful.

  • Brian @ A Thought For Food January 4, 2012 at 3:04 am

    Bold, bright flavors… the perfect vegetarian entree

  • Deanna January 4, 2012 at 11:56 pm

    I had smoked sweet potatoes for the first time two months ago and fell in love. I keep meaning to throw some in the smoker when my dad has it running, but I always forget. I can handle a stove stop smoked squash though. I’ll just be sure to make sure the exhaust is clean, because our smoke detectors are incredibly sensitive.

  • Eating Okinawa January 5, 2012 at 2:25 pm

    Hey there – long time reader, first time commenter. I feel so strongly about the issue I had to write.

    You have a smoker and you do not use it?? For shame! My husband makes some amazing home made, self-shot smoked venison sausages that are incredible. He uses a Bradley which uses the pellets (pucks, really). I admit it creeped me out too, since my father is also a smoker and only uses chips…but it’s an amazing way to cook.

    If it is a high quality pellet company, it should be only compressed wood, no glue or fillers. I implore you, please try it out. I want to see what you can do!

  • Jan Z. Parker January 14, 2012 at 7:55 am

    Hi, Matt.

    I found you from a blog, another blog and another blog. I’m uncertain how long I’ve been on the computer actually. One thing for sure is certain, your photos are amazing, and I’m suffering from blog envy. The camera I use is beyond me, and I look forward to any postings regarding any food photo/blog workshops in Seattle. Thanks.

    Warm Regards.

  • Peter January 14, 2012 at 10:44 pm

    I’ve had a smoker for 10 years now, and I love it. I have also done the wok thing, which works well for certain things, but there’s nothing so good as the big one out back.

    I’ll definitely try out the smoked squash and feta combination next time I make feta. Great pictures.

  • Joanna January 15, 2012 at 9:51 pm

    Can’t wait to try this out! We use a big chief smoker (until we get our little smoke house built) with homegrown apple/maple/alder wood. Smoked cheese is like crack!
    I just found your site looking for a blood sausage recipe. We raise our own meat (pigs, cow, chicken) and have a freezer full of interesting parts we want to turn into sausage this month.

    Looking forward to poring over your charcuterie posts….

  • Kelly Senyei February 16, 2012 at 5:59 pm

    I’ve been on the hunt for smoker recipes and can’t wait to give this a shot! I will eat anything involving feta, so this is a perfect option. Thanks for sharing!