The Story of Our Tasty Tromboncino

It is not actually a butternut, this squash. It is long, curvy and unruly...

It is not actually a butternut, this squash. It is long, curvy, unruly.

The Story of Our Tasty Tromboncino

It grew out of the compost heap—the plant a tangle of broad leaves and vines, the fruit unexpected, heavy. They call it tromboncino—an Italian word that means “little trombone.” It is named for its shape, the way the thin neck slides down into a flared, rounded bell.

Our story began when we ate one last fall. We bought the squash at a farmers market in Orleans. We cut it into sections as it was too big for a single meal. One night we boiled and mashed it with maple syrup and butter; another night we roasted it in chunks. When we got down to the bell, we hollowed out the seeds and threw them in the compost—then made ourselves a rich, silky orange squash soup.

We had no idea that, come spring, those seeds would sprout. We didn’t realize they would take over the compost pile and grow out through the wire that holds in the banana peels, corncobs, and oyster and lobster shells. We did not foresee them tangling with the tomato vines or stretching across the lawn and into the peach grove. But they did—they sprawled.

After all of this, we got a single fruit. An army of stink bugs showed up and marched across the leaves, slowly sucking out their juice and leaving them dry. Tiny blossoms wilted and fell, but one, long orange fruit sprouted and made it through. It was a survivor, our tromboncino.

We knew just how to honor it—served in a butternut squash and kale bread pudding we had first heard about from my friend Siobhan. The recipe calls for a traditional orange squash, but a tromboncino is just as sweet, if a bit lankier and trickier to peel. Siobhan had found the recipe in Bon Appetít, and it has become a regular at her dinner parties. It is rich and decadent—yet still homey—and it always hits the spot.

The night we went for it, we lit our first fire. We bought cream and good white wine and Dijon mustard, and we baked a loaf of simple whole wheat bread. We chopped up kale and an onion and wilted them down in a large pot with olive oil and salt. We peeled the squash, let that sticky sap ooze out, and then cut it into chunks and roasted it until it was tender, soft.

Then, we layered it all together: the bread soaked in cream and wine and eggs, the kale, the sweet squash. We sprinkled grated cheddar cheese across the top. We tasted for salt, deemed it just right, and stuck the casserole pan in the oven. Then, we sank into the couch, watched the fire dance, and waited for our first sweet bite of late fall.

Butternut Squash and Kale Bread Pudding


This recipe comes from the November 2009 issue of Bon Appetít. Choose any butternut-like winter squash. For the bread I like a crusty loaf of whole-wheat sourdough.

The Story of Our Tasty Tromboncino

1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Put the squash in a greased 9- by 13-inch casserole dish, toss it with olive oil and a few pinches of sea salt, and roast until it is tender (about 20-25 minutes).

2. Meanwhile, whisk together the eggs, 1-1/2 teaspoons salt, the half and half, the white wine, and the mustard. Add the bread, stir well, and set aside.

3. Heat up a large slug of olive oil in a soup pot over medium heat. Add the onion and sauté for 5-8 minutes, or until soft and translucent. Add the kale and cook, stirring frequently, until the kale is just wilted—about 5 minutes.

4. Turn the oven down to 350 degrees F. Add the bread and cream mixture and the kale to the pan with the squash. Fold the ingredients together until you have an even mixture of liquid, kale, bread, and squash. Sprinkle with the grated cheddar cheese and cover the pan with foil. Bake for 20 minutes, remove the foil, and bake another 15-20 minutes, or until the custard is set and the bread feels springy to the touch. Turn the oven to broil and cook until the cheese becomes golden. Serve hot.


Elspeth Hay lives in Wellfleet

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