Squash has started popping up on menus all over the state, signaling that fall is officially here. From butternut to delicata, squash is one of those ingredients that can be used in an assortment of ways. Whether in soups or bisques, roasted or puréed, chefs all over New Jersey are putting their own twist on this autumnal category.
—Using the freshest ingredients to create exquisite Italian cuisine, il Nido incorporated early autumn squash into their dish with romaine baby gems. Paired with a rich, sharp Gorgonzola and topped with a local cider vinaigrette, the delicata squash creates a sweet and savory dish perfect for the fall. Served with a side of farro salad and Asian pear slices, these gems are bursting with seasonal flavor.
il Nido, 184 Route 9, North Willow Point Center, Marlboro; 732-851-6347
—The Kitchen Step is using this fall favorite in both starters and main dishes. Executive chef Ryan DePersio transforms ingredients to craft an ever-changing seasonal menu. Paired with sweet ricotta toast, the roasted butternut squash, radicchio and candied walnuts lay under a drizzle of balsamic reduction. For a main course, the sweet, yellow flesh of delicata squash works beautifully with roasted sea scallops, wild mushrooms and scallions, all under a citrus dashi broth.
The Kitchen Step, 500 Jersey Avenue, Jersey City; 201-721-6115
—Following suit with the squash-seafood combination, the Peter Shields Inn is doing a smoked trout salad, paired with a creamy and delicate butternut squash bisque. Another beautiful presentation of this fall favorite, but much smoother and delicate-the perfect starter to begin your meal. Executive chef Carl Messick adds toasted squash as a side to many other dishes, including the Duroc pork chop (served with a parsnip puree, pine nuts and apple-smoked bacon) and casarecce pasta that’s tossed with prosciutto, sage and brown butter.
Peter Shields Inn, 1301 Beach Avenue, Cape May; 609-884-9090
—Osteria Crescendo isn’t shying away from using squash on the menu, even if it’s just used as a side for a main dish. But, don’t think you’re getting something simple. Chef Robbie Felice is putting his unique Italian flare on this iconic autumn vegetable. Plated with a juicy Berkshire pork chop, topped with a chili honey glaze, the shredded spaghetti squash cuts the sweetness of the sauce, as well as the quince mostarda (a mix of fruit, sugar and mustard). The roasted “Lancaster Amish” chicken is served over a creamy polenta and paired with calabrian rubbed squash—transforming seemingly simple ingredients into an elevated dish, as Felice does best.
Osteria Crescendo, 36 Jefferson Avenue, Westwood; 201-722-1900
—Executive chef Bruce Lefebvre has been crafting delicious and creative dishes at the Frog and the Peach since 2012, and continues to do so into the fall season. His newest addition to the menu features a beautiful pan-seared arctic char, placed atop a thick and sweet honeynut squash puree. The creamy base adds a vibrant color to the plate and pairs well with the seared arctic char. Also on the plate is an einkorn berry risotto and compressed apple—a dish as unique as it is flavorful.
The Frog and the Peach, 29 Dennis Street at Hiram Square, New Brunswick; 732-846-3216