Monday, August 11, 2014

Winter Squash Fun and Deliciousness

Green Striped Cushaw amidst Butternut

One of the most frequent questions I get is, "How do I cook this gorgeous (insert name of winter squash here)?"

So I've decided to put together a brief tutorial on the deliciousness and preparation of winter squash. Winter squash aren't grown in the winter- they are grown in the Summer and stored for use in the Winter, unlike Summer squash, which is grown in the Summer and eaten within a few days of harvest. On our farm, we grow a variety of Winter squash and they are all delicious no matter the season: butternut, spaghetti, red kuri, pie pumpkins, green stripped cushaw, and tan cheese pumpkins. All of these, except the spaghetti, can be prepared similarly and can be interchanged in recipes, whether it is a pumpkin curry, soup, bread, risotto, or pie. The Spaghetti Squash is a bit of a different monster, so I'll discuss him first.

Spaghetti Squash awaiting purchase

To cook the Spaghetti Squash, cut in half long ways, scrape out the seeds, and put it on a greased baking sheet. Put it in the oven at 350F until it gives and inch or so when you poke the outside shell. Then let it cool for 15 minutes or until you can handle it. Scrape out the insides and use in recipes.

My idea: I like to scrape it out, toss it in pesto, chopped onions, cherry tomatoes and Parmesan cheese. Other people use it as a substitute for pasta (hence the name). It is normally prepared in a savoury fashion. The other squashes or pumpkins can be used in savoury or sweet recipes.

The Butternut is famous for being featured in soup and ravioli. Simply roast the squash like the spaghetti squash or cut and peel the squash (as my mother prefers) and boil it in a bit of water (photos below of both methods). You can then add some veggie broth, garlic powder, a bit of sugar, and nutmeg. Bring this to a simmer and finish with some cream (or almond milk if you're vegan). It is so good. You might also want to use a blender depending on how chunky you like your soup.

Green Striped Cushaw

Pie Pumpkins
You can do a similar dish with the red kuri, pie pumpkin, tan cheese pumpkin, green striped cushaw or pie pumpkin. I also like to do savoury soups with my pumpkins. They start out in much the same way- roast the pumpkin or squash in the oven until tender and then scrape it out once it is cooled. In the meanwhile, saute some onion and garlic in a sauce pan. Add the pumpkin when its finished, add some veggie bullion, cream/almond milk, salt, white pepper, and thyme or sage, depending on the taste you're going for.

Red Kuri- a Japanese heirloom that is SOO GOOD

Don't forget to add Winter Squash to curries or risottos. There are tons of recipes out there, but these are some that are like what I like to prepare.

Thai-style Pumpkin Curry
A Spicy Pumpkin Curry
Basic Pumpkin Risotto

A final way to prepare Winter Squash is PIE!! Sure, everyone loves the traditional pumpkin pie, but I'm talking a yummy savoury pie perfect for a chilly day (like we're getting this August). You can use the left over soup if it's not too liquidy, or you can use the soup recipe above and just not add a lot of veggie bullion or cream to make a fresh filling. Simply make a pie crust, add the thick filling, and bake! It's so good. It's so good, I'm actually eating a huge piece of it right now. Just as good as veggie pot pie. Who doesn't love pie?

half eaten pie

Tan Cheese Pumpkin- I used this  to make the pie

So hopefully you will have some ideas now on how to prepare your winter squash. If they have a bad place in them, just cut them out. One winter squash can make quite a few meals, so if you find yourself with extra pulp after the recipe, just put it in a Tupperware container and freeze it. OR make some pumpkin bread and share it with the folks at the office and become everyone's new favourite person.

Below are pictures detailing the cut, peel, and boil method of cooking the squash, and the roast and scrape method of cooking the squash.

A Red Kuri, cut in half

Mom likes to peel the pumpkin

And then cut it up and boil it with a little bit of water.

And here's how I like to prepare pumpkin (or in this case, a Green Striped Cushaw):

A cut up Cushaw, seeds scraped out
the top of the Cushaw
flipped over and getting ready to go in the oven
scraping out the Cushaw and putting it in a tupperware to freeze for later.

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