Sometimes, you need a little sour to appreciate the sweet.

royalsI grew up with a loyal baseball fan. My dad watched his hometown team, the Kansas City Royals, dutifully. He took us to games and taught my brother and me how to keep stats. We were just dumb lucky enough to live across the street from the father of Royals owner Ewing Kauffman, so we got to watch a couple of games every season from a suite. (“Be on your best behavior!” my mother would tell us on the ride to the stadium.)

My home was in high spirits when the Royals made the 1976 American League playoffs. We cheered, then cried, when our team lost to the Yankees in game 5. The image of shortstop Freddie Patek’s defeated posture and post-game tears is still etched in my mind. I insisted on wearing the “I’ve Got Royalmania” t-shirt my dad bought me to school the next day.

I left Kansas City after college and sporadically watched the Royals play. I ignored them through the losing years; watched only the post-season play in ’85 (sweet), last year (sour) and this year (sweet again).

But my dad. He’s a true fan. He went to games and kept vigil by the television set through all those rough seasons. I’m so, so happy that in his 80s, he got to see his team win a World Series in breath-taking, fantastical play.

KC fans would celebrate their team’s win regardless of history or circumstances. But the fact that we’re World Series champs after 30 years of sometimes dismal seasons makes it so much sweeter.

My dad is coming for Thanksgiving this year. I’m making him this dish as an homage to his favorite team. Acorn squash (sweet) is roasted until tender and nutty, then doused with a concoction of sugar, garlic and apple cider vinegar (sour). The sauce both tempers and plays up the squash’s natural sweetness and offers a bracing counterpart to its tender texture.

I have the perfect name for it:

“Royal” Squash

acorn squash

I got this idea from Katie Lee on Food Network’s “The Kitchen.” I love Gabrielle Hamilton’s fried zucchini agrodolce. I took Lee’s use of acorn squash and paired it with Hamilton’s sourly sweet Italian sauce. The result was good enough to serve a Royal. (Or at least, a Royal fan.)

  • 2 acorn squashes
  • 1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 3 tablespoons sugar
  • 2 garlic cloves, peeled and thinly sliced
  • Dash of red pepper flakes
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh mint

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees. Grease a lined baking sheet and set it aside.

Cut the tops and bottoms off of your acorn squash. Cut the squash in half vertically and scoop out the seeds.

Using a very sharp knife, cut the squash halves horizontally into 1/2-inch to 3/4-inch slices. Don’t worry about taking the skin off! It gets meltingly tender in the oven and keeps the flesh from falling apart.

Place the squash slices on your baking sheet. Douse with olive oil, salt and pepper. Roast for 30 minutes, turning the squash over every 10 minutes.

While the squash cooks, heat the cider vinegar and sugar in a small saucepan. Boil until the mixture is slightly reduced. Remove from the heat and stir in the garlic and red pepper flakes.

Remove the squash from the oven and place it on a plate. Sprinkle the mint over it, then pour your agrodolce (the cider/sugar/garlic & pepper mixture) over. Serve immediately or at room temp.

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