I was recently invited by the Palm Beach Gardens location of the Spice and Tea Exchange to take part in a tasting party they were hosting to promote some of their spices. I created two dishes to give away at the party being held at the store. I wanted to focus on a recipe that featured the spice blend I was using and would be easy for anyone to make. This Calabaza Squash Spread is one of the dishes I made. The other is a simple pickled veggie recipe that you can find here.
I decided on the Calabaza Squash Spread for a few reasons, first this was a big event and I was looking for affordable ingredients. The second reason is that Calabaza (Calabasa) squash is grown in Florida and often included in the CSA boxes that many of our local farms sell and people can only make so much squash soup! I really like Calabasa as it roasts really nicely and the texture is smooth with less of the graininess that other squash can sometimes have. Of course you could make the spread with another type of squash if it’s what you have.
Adding rich flavors like cheese, bacon and a strong spice blend gives basic squash a rich flavor that has even people who are not big squash eaters asking for seconds. The Mountain spice blend that I used from the Spice and Tea Exchange store was a bit like a bouquet garni but has added bite from juniper berry and lemon verbena giving a more tang than a bouquet garni. If you don’t have the Mountain spice blend then I would sub in the bouquet garni or other rich spice or even just sage and garlic!
John owner of the Spice and Tea Exchange.
Ready to serve! Here I am wating to feed everyone.
Party is underway and guests are giving the spread a try!
The Spice and Tea Exchange store is an adorable little shop in, Downtown at the Gardens, an open air shopping center in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida. The winter evening was perfect for our tasting party, with great weather encouraging lots of foot traffic in the shopping center. In addition to my offerings, restaurants in the plaza gave away tastes of dishes using more of the store’s spices ranging from pizza to Asian inspired chicken salad. And John the store owner offered up a vodka cocktail made from one of the popular teas he sells.
The event was a lot of fun, and other than tired feet from hours of standing it was great to get out and talk to people about my blog. I met fellow blogger Wonsha Joseph from @solelycurious, she and her significant other scope out what is fun to do and great to eat in South Florida. What was even more exciting was Wonsha had made my nutmeg wine cake! I also spoke to a counselor for postpartum depression who recently has incorporated better eating and home cooking as part of her counseling program, I hope she finds some of my recipes to share with her clients. We are really what we eat and good food can help us heal. Big thank you to Stacy Pace at the Palm Beach Lifestyle Group for setting up this great event can’t wait to work with her again!
Cheese and Bacon Calabaza Squash Spread
- 1 medium Calabaza/Calabasa squash
- 1 shallot or small onion
- 2 Strips of Bacon
- 1/3 cup heavy cream
- 1 1/4 cup mild cheese like Swiss or gruyere
- 2 tbs Mountain Spice Blend, ground
- 1 tbs Worcestershire sauce
- Olive oil
- Black Pepper and Salt to taste
Cut the squash into large chunks, drizzle with olive oil and salt. Place on sheet pan and roast at 375 degrees until very tender. About 30-45 minutes depending on the size of the squash. When cooked allow to cool and scoop the flesh from the peel. The spread will need roughly 2+ cups of cooked squash.
Fry the bacon until crisp. Cut into small bits and reserve the drippings. Cook the shallot in the bacon drippings until clear and soft.
Put the squash, shallots and heavy cream into a food processor. Whip until smooth. Add the spices, Worcestershire and 1 cup of cheese. Blend well. Taste and adjust seasoning.
Spoon the mix into a shallow baking dish. Sprinkle the remaining cheese and bacon bits on top. Bake at 350 degrees until the cheese is melted and the edges brown slightly. About 30 minutes. Serve with crackers.
Any hard squash like pumpkin, acorn or butternut could be used in place of the Calabaza.
Mountain Spice blend is a mix of Juniper berry, turbinado sugar, garlic, onion, green peppercorn, lemon verbena, shallots, ginger, oregano, pink pepperberry, parsley and lavender.