Musings of a Master Chef: Squash

by Certified Master Chef James Corwell

This time of year, my cooking is inspired by all things squash.  It is versatile, meaty, and satisfying on many levels regardless of flavor profiles or cooking techniques.  Squash comes from a Narragansett Indian word askutasquash and considered an ancient crop that goes back 10,000 years.  Squash is also part of the three sisters of native American agriculture, and when grown together with corn and beans serves as ground cover, trapping in moisture for the corn stalks that trellis over the beans. 

As a child, I saw squash as something entirely different.  My kid mind, I took the word “squash”, literally and as such it never registered as something wonderful.  It may have been my McDonald’s palette, perhaps it was the misguided culinary techniques of Mom, or the lack luster summer variety offered year round that sat in the refrigerator like the third cousin to lettuce and broccoli.  Or maybe, it was just the name and some terrible marketing.

Back then squash was the antithesis of an orange – super kid friendly, sweet, and depicting a vibrant color.  No, it was a verb that invoked things I did in mud, with broken action figures, and wild-eyed enthusiasm. At that time, delicious youthful eats just did not include enjoying squash.

Today, my pallet has matured and that is a an entirely different story.  Squash has become one of the most dynamic cooking mediums I have in my culinary repertoire that I use to satiate my healthful yet tasty desires.  Thank you, Aztecs! Roasted, seared, curried, candied, or pickled squashes are one of my favorite go to ingredients of all time. 

Thankfully, from Acorn to Zucchini, my old perceptions of squash have faded, and I am able to laugh at the amazing action vegetable that is so versatile beyond its name.  Here is a recipe that I am enjoying now for the holiday season.  I hope you enjoy it too.



Photo courtesy of Chef James Corwell

Salad of Pickled Butternut Squash, Mustard Greens, Cashews and Tamari Vinaigrette

Serves 2:


  • Asian Pear 1 each
  • Pickled Squash, recipe follows 1 each
  • Young Mustard Greens 2 cups
  • Sunflower Sprouts ½ cup
  • Tamari Vinaigrette, recipe follows 2-3 oz, or to taste
  • Cashews, toasted and Chopped 4 tbsp.


  1. Shave the Asian pear thin and portion onto the salad plates.
  2. Remove the pickled Butternut Squash from the liquid; let drain for 1 minute and portion over the shaved pear.
  3. Garnish the salad with mustard greens, and sunflower sprouts.
  4. Spoon some of the Tamari dressing over the mustard greens.
  5. Sprinkle with cashews before serving right away. 

For the Pickled Butternut Squash:


  • Butternut squash, small, peeled 1 cup
  • Rice Vinegar ½ cup
  • Sugar ½ cup
  • Salt 1 tsp
  • Togarashi, spicy 1 tsp


  1. Use a vegetable peeler to make thin strips of the butternut squash.
  2. In a pot, combine the rice vinegar, sugar, salt and togarachi; mix thoroughly and warm over low heat.
  3. Add in the squash strips and gently cook until the squash is just tender; transfer to a non-reactive container to pickle overnight.

For the: Tamari Dressing


  • Nutritional Yeast, more as needed 3 Tbsp
  • Tamari 2 Tbsp
  • Apple Cider Vinegar 2 Tbsp
  • Garlic, chopped 1 tsp.
  • Extra Virgin Olive Oil ¼ cup


  1. In a bowl combine all together and mix thoroughly. Note to taste for extra tamari or vinegar as needed.

Stay tuned for more exciting content collaborations with Chef James Corwell!

Chef James Corwell has begun the next chapter of his culinary career as the founder of Tomato Sushi LLC., bringing his international culinary experience to the table. With over 30 years of diversified experience and training, Corwell is no stranger to food innovation within  the  restaurant  industry  and  has  experience  with  culinary  instruction,  corporate brand development, and assimilation of emerging culinary trends.

Corwell is one of 68 certified master chefs. Corwell was awarded Best New Chef 2010 and Best New Restaurant 2010 by New Orleans Magazine where he spent two years as the operator and owner of Le Foret in New Orleans. Corwell also spent four years at the Culinary  Institute  of  America  at  Greystone,  one  of  Napa  Valley’s  premier  destination points, as lead instructor and executive chef at Wine Spectator Greystone Restaurant. There, he garnered accolades from the 2006 Aspen Food and Wine Festival. In 2004, Corwell became an ACF Certified Master Chef—the highest certification of merit.

Prior  to  this,  he  spent  three  years  as  owner  and  executive chef  at  Café  Sonoma, Manfreddie Pizza, and the Food Company in Wilmington, North Carolina. Corwell began his career in 1988 at the Cherokee Town and Country Club in Atlanta where he spent nine years as executive sous chef.  

Corwell  has  scored  numerous  achievements  in  the  culinary  sector  including  National Finalist in the Bocuse D’Or and Chaine Des Rotisseurs National Winner in 1992.

Corwell is also the chef in residence for New Harvest, a non-profit promoting innovative technologies  that  address  global food  insecurity,  and  the  growing environmental andethical concerns associated with industrial livestock production. 

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