Discover fun facts about squash

Acorn squash, foreground, and butternut squash, background, available at the Historic Lewes Farmers Market. BY JACK CLEMONS
October 24, 2011

Each time I visit the Historic Lewes Farmers Market I learn something new – last week I discovered a few fun facts about squash (the vegetable, not the racquet court game). This time of year many vendors have stacked colorful arrays of winter squash on display (see photo). Acorn squash varieties include some with evocative names such as honey bear, black beauty, confetti and carnivale.

Fall brings the gold and greens of ripe winter squashes, so different from their hot-weather cousins. Summer squashes (think zucchini) are tender with edible thin skins and seeds scattered throughout the inner flesh. They need to be treated gently, kept from bruising and are best eaten shortly after leaving the field so they don’t lose moisture.

Winter squash, on the other hand, are rugged – as well as somewhat misnamed. Grown in the summer and harvested in early fall, they’re technically considered a warm-weather crop. The word “winter” in their name refers to their ability to be stored for months in a cool, dark place (perhaps your grandmother’s root cellar). Their skins are inedible, thick and hard enough to resist even the sharpest knife blades. The flesh is firm and mild and you’ll find the seeds concentrated in the center of a cavity in the squash.

The flesh of any winter squash needs to be peeled and cooked before incorporating it into a recipe (or served pureed, drowned with melted butter). One advantage butternut or acorn squash have over the larger types of squash is how easy they are to prepare for cooking: cut them in half, place the pieces in a baking pan and roast until soft. Once they’re ready, the seeds fall away into a tidy pile (unless you’ve already removed them) and the flesh separates readily from the skin.

Pureed squash is an ideal ingredient for a satisfying soup. This recipe calls for buttermilk to add a tangy contrast to the smooth squash, but you can safely omit it if you need to avoid dairy products in your diet. Either way, the result is a creamy soup that’s low in calories with a rich texture and warm flavors. To give it a spicy kick, you can garnish each bowl with a sprinkle of curry powder.

Since the farmers market invited me to conduct a cooking demonstration tomorrow, I thought I’d make good use of the abundant squash harvest for inspiration. Although I’ve cooked acorn squash many times, I’d never before tried its smooth-skinned relative, the butternut. Unlike pumpkins, which are filled with stringy pulp and slimy seeds, butternuts have just a small pocket of seeds inside the base, so they’re easier to core and a great price performer.

Butternut squash has a soft flavor with hints of pumpkin and traces of hazelnut. It’s perfect as a simple side dish, seasoned with smoked paprika and roasted until browned. For a different flavor combination, use the same technique, substituting thyme or sage for the paprika and whisk in lemon juice instead of vinegar.

The elegant butternut is a fine substitute for pumpkin puree in a breakfast muffin or a pie. With a quieter taste you can feature the flavor notes from different spices. In the muffin recipe, I’ve included the basic cinnamon and nutmeg, along with spicy grated ginger.

For the apple and butternut squash pie in the photo, I used ground coriander to add a subtle citrus hint. I didn’t use a recipe: layer sliced apples in an uncooked flaky crust; stir together eggs, cream, pureed squash and spices; and pour over the apples. When it came out of the oven, it resembled the surface of the moon – the apples sent up bubbles as they cooked, leaving holes all over the top of the custard – delicious nonetheless.

Since I still haven’t decided what to make at the farmers market demo on Saturday morning, maybe you’ll want to stop by at 10 a.m. and find out which squash has won my heart.

Butternut Squash Soup
1 butternut squash
1 T butter
1 diced onion
1 tart apple, peeled & diced
1 minced garlic clove
3 C vegetable stock
1/2 C buttermilk (optional)
salt and pepper, to taste
grated nutmeg or curry

Preheat oven to 375 F. Cut butternut squash in half lengthwise, remove the seeds, place cut side down on a foil-lined baking pan and bake until tender, about 45 minutes. When cool enough to handle, scoop out flesh and reserve; discard skin. Melt butter in a saucepan over medium heat. Stir in onions and apples; sauté until softened, about 5 minutes. Add garlic and cook until fragrant, about 2 minutes. Pour in the stock and butternut squash. Bring almost to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Using an immersion blender or food processor, puree the soup until creamy. Stir in buttermilk, if desired, and cook until heated through. Add salt and pepper to taste and garnish with grated nutmeg or curry. Yield: 4 servings.

Roasted Butternut Squash
1 butternut squash
2 T olive oil
1 t balsamic vinegar
1 t smoked paprika
1/2 t garlic powder
1/2 t salt
1/2 t pepper

Preheat oven to 450F. Coat a baking pan with nonstick cooking spray; set aside. Peel and seed the squash and cut into 1-inch cubes; set aside. In a large bowl, whisk together the olive oil, vinegar and spices. Add the squash cubes and toss to coat thoroughly. Spread the squash in a single layer in the prepared baking pan. Roast for 25 minutes, turn squash with a spatula and cook an additional 20 minutes. Turn again and continue cooking until nicely browned. Yield: 4 servings.

Butternut Squash Muffins
1 1/5 C butternut squash puree
1/2 C applesauce
3 eggs, beaten slightly
1/3 C sugar
1/2 t grated ginger
1/3 C vegetable oil
1 C flour
1 C whole-wheat flour
1 t baking soda
2 t baking powder
1 t cinnamon
1/2 t nutmeg
1/2 t salt

Preheat oven to 350 F. Coat the inside of a 12-cup muffin tin with nonstick cooking spray or paper cupcake liners; set aside. In a large mixing bowl, whisk together squash, applesauce, eggs, sugar, ginger and oil. In a separate bowl, sift together flour, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt. Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients and pour in liquid ingredients. Stir quickly, just until combined. Spoon mixture into prepared muffin tin. Bake for 20 minutes, or until a tester comes out clean. Cool for 10 minutes before removing from pan.

Welcome to The Cape Gazette Archive.
This content is provided free of charge
thanks to our sponsor:

Close ad in...

Close Ad