feast magazine, january 2015: Opo squash fritters with smoked salmon and watercress herb salad.

opo squash fritters with smoked salmon and watercress herb salad.

Happy New Year!

Is it terrible that by the time the January issue of Feast hit the stands, I had completely forgotten what I had done for the column? I remembered nothing: not the ingredient, not the recipe. It’s the curse of working 2 months ahead combined with all the holiday distractions in recent weeks, I suppose. As it turns out, I did actually write a column for January, and it’s about Opo squash. If you’re longing for that bounty of zucchini we Midwesterners are so lucky to see during the summer, read on.

Opo squash (sometimes written as O-po, also known as Calabash), are light green gourds with an hourglass figure ranging from subtle curves to Marilyn Monroe, making them beautiful and bright. Cleaned and dried out, they’re sturdy enough to be used as water carriers; in fact, that was one of their original and very practical uses. While you may not be in need of an edible canteen these days, their texture, muted flavor, and water content make them a perfect substitute during the winter, when good zucchini is nowhere to be found.

opo squash fritters with smoked salmon and watercress herb salad.

In a way, I hate to make the comparison so soon, lest you think i’m relegating Opo squash to secondary status; rather, i’m trying to emphasize its flexibility in healthy recipes that I know we all make, especially around this time of year (zoodles, anyone?). It’s fabulous in quick breads to add moisture, simply sautéed with herbs and spices as a side dish, or this way, which may be my favorite: a crispy little fritter which can serve as a vehicle for whatever you’d like to top it with.

It’s a tradition of mine to begin the new year with one thing for breakfast: a luxuriously-sized, smoked salmon-topped bagel with all the capers and red onion and tomatoes in the land. I don’t know why I do this: there’s no historical significance to this, no superstition involved, no memory of anyone from my childhood performing this ritual. It’s simply an indulgence and my own way of marking the new year, just before all the pesky virtuous eating begins. This was my way of handing this tradition over to you, albeit in a slightly healthier way than my own. Maybe you can make this for guests coming over this month, but they’re simple and comforting enough to make for just yourself, and are particularly lovely on a cold winter night when you want something a little less heavy.

opo squash fritters with smoked salmon and watercress herb salad.

Let Opo squash be your new heathy buddy that also knows how to have a good time. If you want to know more about this guy, head over here to this month’s Feast column about it. While you’re there, grab the recipe for these Opo Squash Fritters with Smoked Salmon and Watercress Herb Salad. Honestly, these things are delightful when left completely unadorned, so make them, eat them, and think about what you’d most like to top them with.

Go forth and read (my article, but also the rest of the magazine this month, or better yet, subscribe! Well worth it, people.

See you in a few days with some New Year’s resolutions, some plans for 2015 which I will either accomplish with varying degrees of success or fail at miserably (who knows!), and of course, food, food, food.

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  • Reply Brianne January 4, 2015 at 4:42 pm

    Ooh, I dig this. And I love your ritual with the bagel! How interesting that an acceptable zucchini substitute could serve as a water carrier! I’m going to go think about that for a bit…

  • Reply elizabeth January 5, 2015 at 8:30 am

    What is it about New Year’s and wanting to eat salmon? Last year I made little salmon-ricotta wraps, and this year I cured some gravlax. Whatever it is, I’m glad we’re on the same wavelength.

    I’ll have to look out for some of this squash as a way to mix things up (we all know we can use the distraction of the new this time of year). But there will be no “zoodles” (oh, kill it all with fire) made in my kitchen.

  • Reply Ashley January 5, 2015 at 4:49 pm

    I admit to eyeballing Opo and other interesting veggies at the grocery (Kroger started carrying a lot more interesting produce in the last few years than I remembered as a kid…or maybe that was just the location we went to). But I never sought out how to use it, for which I can thank you. I love zucchini fritters (Nigella’s, with mint, of course!). And you even threw watercress in to boot, which I used for the first time last week….in a smoothie. Total cop out, I know.

  • Reply movita beaucoup January 6, 2015 at 5:11 am

    I’m very excited to hear about your New Year’s resolutions, as I have many that I plan to break.

  • Reply natalie @ wee eats January 6, 2015 at 12:04 pm

    i love that your ingredients are usually things i’ve never even HEARD of ! what is an opo squash?!?! shannon knows.

  • Reply Amy @ Elephant Eats January 13, 2015 at 11:05 am

    I’ve neither seen nor heard of an Opo squash, but I will be on the lookout. These little fritters look so yummy! Haha, I love that you have that breakfast tradition with no actual signicifance to it. A good bagel and lox reminds me of Sundays growing up- my dad would always take me to the bagel store with him to pic up some hot, fresh bagels, some lox and some spreads. Now you have me totally craving that, and alas, I’m not allowed to have cream cheese right now 🙁 (dairy free for breastfeeding). Off to read your Feast article!

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