Off the Menu: Hugh Acheson

Veggies get the starring role in this Georgia chef's new cookbook.

Medically Reviewed by Hansa D. Bhargava, MD on September 20, 2015
From the WebMD Archives

When Hugh Acheson wants comfort food, he makes a salad: bitter greens, radishes, sliced dill pickles, and feta, finished with a classic French vinaigrette.

"I'm not the kind of person who will sit down and eat a huge amount of ice cream," says the chef and judge on Bravo's Top Chef, fresh from his garden, where he'd been plucking basil leaves. "I'd rather eat salad. That's just the way I've always been."

Acheson's love of vegetables and other things that grow goes beyond the salad bowl, as he attests in his latest cookbook, The Broad Fork: Recipes for the Wide World of Vegetables and Fruits. His holiday table demonstrates his preference as well.

Yes, he serves a baked ham and turkey, livened up by his take on caponata, the classic Sicilian condiment (see recipe below). But the meat plays a role secondary to the roasted or whipped sweet potatoes, Brussels sprout leaves, leek bread pudding, and turnips he offers to his 12 or so guests.

This 44-year-old chef from Canada has made the South his home since the 1990s, when he moved to Athens, GA, with his wife, Mary Koon. The couple have two daughters, Beatrice, 13, and Clementine, 11, and both have taken to the kitchen with zeal.

Acheson himself first cooked professionally at age 15. "It became this endless topic that I could focus in on and learn more about. We all hope to find an occupation that thoroughly excites us every day."

Spaghetti Squash Caponata

Makes 4 servings


1 spaghetti squash (about 1 lb)

2 tbsp olive oil

kosher salt

freshly cracked black ­pepper, to taste

½ red bell pepper, diced

1 stalk peeled celery, thinly sliced

2 tbsp honey

3 tbsp cider vinegar

2 tbsp dried currants

2 tbsp capers, drained


1. Preheat the oven to 325°F.

2. Cut the spaghetti squash in half lengthwise. Remove the strings and seeds. Drizzle the inside of the squash halves with 1 tablespoon of olive oil, and season with salt and black pepper.

3. Place seasoned squash, cut side down, in a roasting pan and roast 45 minutes or until cooked through. Remove squash from the oven, flip over, and set aside to cool to room temperature.

4. Place a medium saucepan over medium heat and add the remaining tablespoon of olive oil. Add bell pepper and celery, and lightly sweat for 5 minutes. Add the honey and vinegar to the pan, raise the heat to high, and reduce liquid by half, about 2 minutes. Remove from the heat and set aside to cool.

5. Using a fork, carefully flake the squash strands out of the shells onto a cutting board. Chop squash into shorter strands and put them in a large bowl. Add the pepper, celery mixture, currants, and capers. Mix well, and adjust seasoning with more kosher salt and cracked pepper, if desired. Serve at room temperature, or store for up to a week in a sealed container in the fridge.

Per serving 133 calories, 1 g protein, 17 g carbohydrate, 8 g fat (1 g saturated fat), 1 g fiber, 10 g sugar, 439 mg sodium. Calories from fat: 52%

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