Veggie of the Week: Winter squash!

by Becca Camacho

Autumn is truly here and that means a variety of winter squash are available at the market.  Due to their thick skins protecting the flesh, winter squash have a long shelf life so they can serve as pretty decorations then be turned into a delightful dish a few weeks later.  And, if you’re looking to continue to serve your family vegetables from the market long after the outdoor market season closes, you can store the squash in a cool place such as a basement storage and they will likely stay good for 1-2 months. Common varieties that you may see at the Fulton Market are Acorn, Delicata, Kabocha, Spaghetti, Butternut, and Sugar Pie Pumpkins just to name a few.  

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Winter squashes are a great source of iron, vitamins A and C, riboflavins and antioxidants that are good for us.  These winter delights are also a friendly food to many kinds because of their naturally sweet and nutty flavor.  Common flavors/ingredients that pair well with squash include garlic, sage, spices like ginger or cinnamon, cream, nuts, onions, maple syrup, cheeses, and greens, just to name a few.  We’ve pulled together a few of our favorite recipes using some of the more common winter squash varieties at the market as well as the best ways to roast butternut squash, a market favorite.  

Here’s a handy guide from the NYC Greenmarkets on identifying common winter squash varieties:

By Claudia Pearson.  From www.grownyc.org

By Claudia Pearson. From www.grownyc.org

Roasting Butternut Squash

There are two simple methods to roasting a butternut squash and the key to doing it safely and easily are in the tools.  The first way includes a good, sharp chef’s knife because it requires you to cut through the thick skin and cut the vegetable right down the middle.  If your knife is dull, you stand a greater risk of the knife slipping.  Place the squash on a board and carefully insert the tip of the blade into the middle of the squash so that your knife runs parallel with the length of the squash and you will be slicing through the bottom end.  Once the tip of the blade is in an inch or so, you can then push down on the knife so that you’ve cut all the way through the squash on the bottom end.  Then, turn your squash around and do the same for the top end.  Once you’ve halved the squash, scoop out the innards and the seeds and discard.  Then, just rub the flesh of your squash with olive oil, salt and pepper and roast, flesh side up in an oven for about 45 minutes at 400 degrees.  It is done when you can put a knife in it easily.

The second way to roast a butter requires a Y peeler, which is a tool that looks like a Y but has a sharp peeling blade in between it.  Using the Y peeler, start at the top of the squash and peel the skin away.  This is much easier than using other peelers, but you will still need to put a little muscle into it!  Once the skin is off, halve it and remove the innards and seeds and then cut into any shape you want.  You can do large crescents, large cubes, or small cubes.  Toss the cut up pieces of squash with salt and pepper and roast at 400 for about 40 minutes for larger pieces 25 minutes for a smaller cube.

Quick ideas for dressing up your roasted squash:

  • Before roasting, drizzle with maple syrup for a sweet, almost candied flavor.

  • Rub the flesh of a halved squash with a crushed garlic clove before adding the olive oil, then top with chopped sage.  When it is roasted, you could add cooked and crumbled pancetta or bacon.

  • Add chopped thyme and orange juice to your olive oil before roasting.

  • Combine a half a teaspoon of adobo sauce/chipotle sauce to the olive oil and brush the flesh.  This will give you a smoky and spicy side dish.  

  • To your olive oil add ½ tsp garam masala, ¼ tsp cinnamon, ½ tsp salt, ½ tsp tumeric and ½ tsp curry for an Eastern flavor.

  • Top arugula dressed in a simple dressing of apple cider vinegar and olive oil with roasted butternut squash cubes and cut up grilled or braised garlic lamb brats from Star Thrower Farm for a satisfying but very simple meal.

Acorn Squash

This is a smaller squash with the shape of it’s namesake.  It’s nutty flavor is attractive and it is easy to handle.

This Warm Kale Salad with Maple Roasted Acorn Squash allows you to pick up most of your ingredients at the market.  Grab some kale, maple syrup and your winter squash and head back to your kitchen!  http://jellytoastblog.com/2013/09/warm-kale-salad-maple-roasted-acorn-squash.html/

Combine acorn squash with another Minnesota favorite, wild rice, for a stuffed version.  This recipe is deceptively easy and filling enough to serve as a meal by itself.  Or, pair it with a simple salad for guests.  And, if you have heartier eaters, it would be nice roasted chicken thighs or tender slices of pork tenderloin.  
http://www.chow.com/recipes/13566-roasted-acorn-squash-with-wild-rice-stuffing

Butternut Squash

We did highlight how to roast this squash, but there are other methods of enjoying this pretty orange vegetable.

Butternut Squash and Leek Soup
Food & Wine 1989, serves 8

4 ½ pounds butternut squash, halved lengthwise
5 tbs unsalted butter
4 large leeks (white and tender green), chopped
5 cups chicken stock
1 ¼ tsp salt
½ tsp freshly ground pepper
½ c sour cream
3 tbs chopped chives
8 slices of bacon, fried crisp and crumbled.

Preheat the oven to 350.  Place the squash, cut-side down, on a baking sheet and bake until tender, about 40 minutes.  Let cool slightly.  Using a spoon, scoop out and discard the seeds.  Scrape the squash from the skin.

Meanwhile, in a large/heavy saucepan, melt the butter over low heat.  Add the leeks and thyme and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened and lightly browned, about 40 minutes.  Discard the thyme sprigs.

Stir in the stock and the squash.  Simmer the soup over moderate heat for 20 minutes.

In a blender or food processor, puree the soup in batches until smooth.  Pour the soup back into the pan and season with the salt and pepper.  (The recipe can be prepared to this point up to 2 days ahead.  Reheat before proceeding.)

To serve, ladle the soup into bowls and garnish each serving with 1 tablespoon sour cream, 1 teaspoon chopped chives and a sprinkling of the crumbled bacon.  (**We suggest substituting the bacon for cooked and crumbled chorizo to make it spicy!)

Butternut Squash Risotto

Blue cheese pairs beautifully with butternut squash in this risotto recipe.  Try topping it with chopped walnuts. http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/food/views/Butternut-Squash-Rosemary-and-Blue-Cheese-Risotto-231601

Kabocha

This Asian variety is green and has the shape of a pumpkin, which is why it is also often known as a Japanese pumpkin.  Spice up your plate this winter with one of these recipes.

This red curry kabocha dish is an easy weeknight vegetarian meal. Clean up is a cinch as it uses only one pot.  You could add tofu or shrimp if your family requires a heartier dish.  http://www.chow.com/recipes/30268-thai-red-curry-with-kabocha-squash

Thai Curry Coconut Bisque recipe is creamy and delicious.  Impress guests by adding a scoop of fresh crab meat to the center of the bowl just before serving. http://seattletimes.com/html/foodwine/2004081133_recipesquash19.html

Spaghetti Squash

This is a really fun squash that, when cooked, give you noodles similar to spaghetti or angel hair pasta, thus it makes a great substitution to actual pasta for those watching their carbs.  The flavor is the squash is very mild so we recommend pairing it with a sauce.  

To make your spaghetti squash simply prick it all over with a metal fork.  Then put it in a dish and bake it, whole, in the oven at 375 degrees for about an hour.  By pricking it, you’re allowing it to vent and let some air out while so that it doesn’t explode in your oven.  Then, when it is cool enough for your to handle, cut it down the middle and remove the seeds and innards.  Finally, take a fork and scrape it lengthwise along each half and this will free up the strands, giving you your noodles.  Try one of the sauces below as a topping!

Sage Brown Butter Sauce
Makes 4-6 servings or tops one spaghetti squash

1 stick unsalted butter (8 tablespoons)
15 fresh sage leaves, rough chopped
⅓ c chicken broth

Melt the butter in a medium frying pan over medium heat.  You will see it froth and develop a milky texture.  Once that texture has browned, about 4-5 minutes, add the sage and the broth and reduce to a simmer.  Continue to simmer until it thickens slightly, just a few minutes.  Season with salt and freshly ground pepper and serve.

Creamy Mushroom Sauce
Makes 4 -6 servings or tops one spaghetti squash

2 tbs olive oil
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 large shallot, sliced thinly
1 pound fresh mushrooms, such as crimini, oyster, or hen of the woods (have market vendor Mississippi Mushrooms help you choose a mix!)
¼ c white wine
½ c vegetable or chicken broth
¼ c half & half
¼ c cream cheese, cut into small chunks
¼ c chopped fresh parsley
½ c shredded parmesan or parmesan-reggiano

Heat the olive oil in a skillet then add the garlic, shallot, and the mushrooms.  Cook 3-5 minutes on medium-high heat until soft, taking care not to burn your garlic.  Deglaze your pan with the white wine then add in the broth and the half &  half and stir.  Once the broth and cream are warmed through add the cream cheese and stir until it has melted into the sauce.  Finally, add in the parsley and let cook about 30 seconds.  Ladle this sauce over your spaghetti squash and top with the parmesan.  

***This sauce is also fantastic over fresh noodles from Broder’s and would be great over a variety of the proteins you can buy at the market like Wild Run Salmon or Auntie Annie’s Chicken.

Pie Pumpkin

They’re not just for carving, pumpkin is a fantastic ingredient for using in both desserts as well as main dishes.  

Martha Stewart gives us this recipe for a pumpkin and pecorino gratin.  http://www.marthastewart.com/337163/pumpkin-and-pecorino-gratin?czone=food%2Fproduce-guide-cnt%2Fproduce-guide-fall&gallery=274288&slide=337163&center=276955

The NY Times shows us how to make pumpkin pie using real pumpkins versus your canned version.  Give it a try this Thanksgiving! http://dinersjournal.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/11/14/how-to-make-fresh-pumpkin-pie/

Have seeds from your pumpkins and don’t want to make plain baked salt and pepper seeds?  Try this sweet and spicy recipe for your pumpkin seeds, featuring garam masala and pumpkin pie spice.  http://mamaguru.com/sweet-and-spiced-roasted-pumpkin-seeds/

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  1. The 2013 Winter-Stock-Up-Share Info is Here! | csanewark - November 3, 2013

    […] squash illustration above is by Claudia Pearson, from http://www.grownyc.org – we found it on this site here, where they also posted some great winter squash […]

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