Throughout the summer, we enjoy our share of zucchini and summer squash. For the fall, we happily embrace their harder-shelled, flesh-and-blood, sweet-tasting brothers. Like summer squash, mild-tasting winter squash welcomes bold flavorings. Unlike summer squash, most winter squash varieties hold up well for weeks, sometimes months, allowing fans to fill up at local farmers markets and produce stands.
There are dozens and dozens of squash varieties; it’s worth spending time getting to know them. Acorn squash has long been an American staple, but it is certainly not the most interesting in terms of taste. Three favorites – butternut, spaghetti squash and kabocha – can be easily found in major grocery stores. More exotic renderings, such as buttercup, red curry, Hubbard and delicacies, are popping up in farmers markets in early fall.
Whatever kind of squash you decide to try, choose a squash that is heavy, rock hard and free of stains. Whenever possible, choose squash with their stems on – these last the longest.
Once you have purchased the squash, start peeling and slicing the squash. Not all squash need to be peeled, but if they do, peel with a vegetable peeler, then switch to a cutting knife to trim stubborn pieces before cutting into cubes.
If you do not peel your squash, be careful! Cutting through the tough skin requires a sharp knife and some pressure. Make sure your cutting board is stable and keep your eyes on the knife. Cut the squash in half, then scrape out the seeds with a spoon. Set the cut side down to cut into slices or smaller pieces. Get help cutting up the squash. The rewards are delicious!
Once the squash is peeled, sliced or sliced, you can store it in the refrigerator for three to five days. This makes it possible to make squash on weekdays for time-constrained chefs. You can freeze diced raw squash on a baking sheet until firm. Then pour the frozen pieces into a freeze-proof bag and freeze for up to six months so you can make fresh squash soups, stews and brais all year round. Cooked squash also stays well in the fridge and can be frozen.
The meat is not the only edible part of squash; the seeds can be rinsed, salted and slowly-roasted in a 200 degree Fahrenheit oven, stirring often, for an hour or more until crisp. They work well as a healthy desk snack or a crunchy addition to salads.
Note that most winter squash varieties are interchangeable in recipes with some subtle changes in taste, although their yield will vary as follows:
Kabocha: A 2 1/4-pound squash, peeled and seeded, yields 6 cups of dice (about 2 pounds)
Butternut: A 3-pound squash gives 3-4 cups of peeled cubes from onions and 1 1/4 pound peeled round plates from the neck
Spaghetti squash: A 3-pound squash yields 4 generous cups of grated cooked meat (about 1 pound 14 ounces)
Now that you are armed with knowledge of how to make squash, you can test your skills with these five recipes.
GRILLED BUTTERNED ROUND
Butternut squash is the gift that keeps on giving. I cut the onion-shaped end into cubes for frying, steaming or soup. The longer neck of the squash can be peeled and cut into round plates, which are perfect for grilling.
Serve these grilled squash rolls on brioche rolls smeared with mayonnaise and topped with grilled onions and pickles for a very satisfying burger without meat. Or sprinkle with herbs and a little lime juice and serve with cooked farro or French lentils.
Preparation: 15 minutes
Cook: 15 minutes
Gives 6 slices
- 1 very large butternut squash, about 3 1/2 pounds, with a thick “neck” of 3 inches or more in diameter
- Expulsion rapeseed oil, thistle oil or sunflower oil
- 2 teaspoons chili powder
- 1 teaspoon coarse (kosher) salt
Preheat a gas grill or prepare a charcoal grill for moderately low heat.
Cut the squash in half so you have the onion-shaped end and the longer neck. Save the onion-shaped end for other uses (eg peeled and diced for steaming). Peel the neck of the squash, lay it flat on a cutting board and use a large sharp knife to cut it into 3/8-inch thick rounds.
Place the rolls on a baking sheet and brush with plenty of oil. Sprinkle both sides with chili powder and salt.
Grill covered on low heat, turning once until tender, once pierced with a fork, about 15 minutes. Serve hot.
BISTET AGERN SQUASH, TWO WAYS
Baking squash whole for a short period of time will soften it a bit, making it easier to cut in half.
Preparation: 10 minutes
Preparation: 1 1/4 hours
Serves 2 servings
For the squash:
- 1 large acorn squash
- Expulsion rapeseed oil, safflower or sunflower oil
- Coarse (kosher) salt
- 3 tablespoons caper-raisin relish (see recipe below) OR 2 tablespoons butter and 1 tablespoon sriracha
- Chopped fresh herbs, such as chives, basil or coriander
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Pierce 1 large acorn squash in several places with the tip of a sharp knife. Place in a baking dish. Bake until squash begins to soften, about 20 minutes, then remove from oven.
Carefully cut the squash in half and scrape out the seeds. Brush the cut side with oil. Sprinkle it all with salt. Return to the baking tin with the cut side up. Bake until the meat is tender, when pierced with a fork, 40-50 minutes.
Pour some of the caper-raisin relish into each squash cavity. Or put half of the butter and sriracha in each cavity. Return to the oven to heat through, about 10 minutes.
Serve hot or hot topped with herbs.
This almost addictive sweet and sour caper raisin relish complements pretty much everything from simple steamed squash to grilled poultry. Try it over pasta tossed with grated Romano cheese for a dish with a bold flavor. Omit the anchovies if they are not your thing, but replace them with some dried mushroom powder or a splash of soy sauce for an umami punch.
- 1/4 cup dark raisins
- 2 tablespoons very hot water
- 2 tablespoons drained capers
- 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
- 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
- 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
- 1 clove crushed garlic
- 1 1/2 teaspoons finely chopped anchovy fillet or 1/2 teaspoon mushroom powder
- 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
Put 1/4 cup dark raisins in a small bowl. Add 2 tablespoons of very hot water and let stand for 5 minutes. Pour the water from the raisins.
Stir in 2 tablespoons drained capers, 1 tablespoon each: balsamic vinegar, fresh lemon juice and extra virgin olive oil. Stir in 1 clove crushed garlic, 1 1/2 teaspoons finely chopped anchovy fillet (or substitute 1/2 teaspoon mushroom powder), 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes, 1/4 teaspoon salt and black pepper.
Can be made up to 3 days in advance and stored covered in the refrigerator. Just before serving, stir in 1 or 2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil. Make about 2/3 cup.
KABOCHA HASH WITH MINTED RICOTTA AND CAPERROOSIN
Preparation: 30 minutes
Cook: 20 minutes
Provides 2 main courses or 4 servings of side dishes
- Capers raisin relish, see recipe above
- 1/2 cup ricotta cheese
- 1 tablespoon chopped fresh mint leaves
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper
- 4 cups (16-20 ounces) peeled kabocha squash in cubes (approx. ¾-inch piece size)
- 1/3 cup water
- 1 1/2 tablespoons coconut oil or expelled rapeseed oil or thistle oil
- 1 medium red or sweet onion, peeled, halved, cut into 1/4-inch cubes
- 1 small poblano or red pepper, cut out, cut 1/3-inch into cubes
- 1 small jalapeno, halved, seeded, finely chopped
Make caper raisin relish.
Mix 1/2 cup ricotta, 1 tablespoon chopped mint leaves, 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper in a small bowl. Leave at room temperature for up to 30 minutes or refrigerate for up to 24 hours.
Put 4 cups of kabocha squash cubes in a microwave-safe bowl and add 1/3 cup of water. Cover with microwave-safe plastic wrap, vented in one corner. Microwave on high (100% power), stir once or twice until almost tender, approx. 5 minutes. Let stand for 5 minutes. Drain.
Heat a large, well-seasoned cast-iron or non-stick pan over medium heat until hot. Add 1 1/2 tablespoons oil, then 1 chopped onion. Boil, stirring often, until golden, about 5 minutes. Stir in drained squash, 1 diced poblano and 1 finely chopped jalapeno. Cook, mash squash lightly until things start to get crispy and crispy, about 10 minutes.
Serve hot with ricotta and a little of the caper raisin relish.
SPAGHETTI SQUASH WITH SPICE WHALE PICADA AND PARMESAN
Spaghetti squash performs best in a steaming environment. A microwave turns out to be perfect. I boil one half at a time with the cutting side down in water. Then, after a cooling period, I use a large fork to pull it into long strands – hence the name. A container of cooked spaghetti squash threads keeps days in the fridge and reheats beautifully in the microwave. Season the threads like pasta – just with oil and pepper – or lavishly with a walnut picada and cheese.
Preparation: 20 minutes
Cook: 25 minutes
Make 4 to 6 servings
- 1 spaghetti squash, ca. 3 pounds, halved lengthwise, seeds removed
- 3/4 cup walnut pieces
- 3 tablespoons walnut oil or extra virgin olive oil
- 3 tablespoons chopped flat parsley,
- 3 tablespoons chopped chives (or green onion tops)
- 1/2 teaspoon chopped fresh rosemary or 1/4 teaspoon dried
- 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
- The finely grated peel from 1 lemon
- Coarse (kosher salt), freshly ground black pepper to taste
- 1 large clove of garlic, crushed
- 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
- Freshly ground parmesan cheese or Asiago cheese
Place one spaghetti squash half with the cutting side down in a fireproof dish that can withstand the microwave. Add 1 inch of water to the dish. Cover with a lid or microwave-safe plastic wrap that is vented in one corner. Microwave on high (100% power) until squash easily penetrates with the tip of a knife, about 10 minutes. Cool. Repeat to cook the other squash half.
Meanwhile, for the walnut picada, grate 3/4 cup walnut pieces in a small nonstick pan, just until fragrant, 2-3 minutes. Do not walk away as nuts may burn. Cool on a cutting board, then chop finely.
Mix chopped walnuts, 3 tablespoons walnut oil, 3 tablespoons chopped parsley, 3 tablespoons chopped chives, 1/2 teaspoon chopped rosemary, 1/2 teaspoon pepper flakes and lemon zest in a small bowl. Season with 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper.
Use the teeth of a large fork to pull the cooked squash from the skin into long strips. Place strips in a serving bowl. Turn with 1 clove of crushed garlic and 1 tablespoon of olive oil. Season with salt and pepper. Serve hot sprinkled with the walnut picada. Offer the grated cheese at the table.
APPLE AND BUTTER PLATE PAN DINNER WITH CHICKEN SAUSAGE
Serve this with cornbread or corn muffins and lots of soft butter for a satisfying fall evening.
Preparation: 20 minutes
Cook: 1 hour
Serves 4 servings
- 4 cups (16-20 ounces) sliced, peeled butternut squash
- 1 very large Honeycrisp apple, peeled, pitted, diced
- 1/2 large red or sweet onion, cut into 1/4-inch wide wedges
- 2 tablespoons expulsion rapeseed oil, thistle oil or sunflower oil
- 1/2 teaspoon coarse (kosher) salt
- 1/4 teaspoon pepper
- 4 fully cooked smoked chicken sausage or chicken sausage with apples, 12 ounces in total
- 1/2 cup unfiltered apple cider
- 2 tablespoons unfiltered apple cider vinegar
- 1 teaspoon fresh (or 1/2 teaspoon dried) thyme leaves or oregano or a combination
- Chopped fresh chives or parsley or a combination
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
Mix 4 cups peeled butternut squash diced, 1 apple diced and 1/2 onion diced on a large plate with rim. Turn with 2 tablespoons oil and 1/2 teaspoon each salt and pepper. Fry, stirring, every 10 minutes until the squash is almost tender, about 30 minutes.
Add 4 deep-fried chicken sausages, 2 tablespoons apple cider, vinegar and 1 teaspoon thyme to the pan. Fry while stirring once or twice until the sausages are hot and golden, 20-25 minutes. Sprinkle with chives. Use a spoon to serve to scoop up any juice.