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EST. 2011 BY LIZ RUEVEN
Seasonal Snippet: Winter Squash in Autumn

Seasonal Snippet: Winter Squash in Autumn

by Katy Morris

All photos: Emily H. Laux. Find more of Emily’s photos on Instagram @emilyhlaux

As the piles of vibrant summer produce phase out at your local farmers’ market, in roll the heaps of tough looking gourds. And as sweater weather arrives, we’re turning to comforting casseroles, soups, stews and curries starring winter squash of all kinds, waiting to be paired with warming spices of nutmeg, cinnamon and ginger.

Don’t be intimidated by their rough looking appearances! Prepped, seasoned and paired with the right ingredients, you’ll easily be able to create an array of hearty, sweet crowd-pleasers for Sukkot and beyond.

Watch for Marissa Latshaw’s creamy dairy-free Butternut Squash and Apple Soup later this week.

Here’s the dish on Squash and why we love them so:

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First off, what’s the difference between winter and summer squash?

Both are members of the “gourd” family, but are quite different when it comes to growing and preparing. The longer harvest time of winter squash gives it that tough, thick skin (most are inedible) versus the tender skin of the summer version. Summer squash, which are typically sautéed or fried, must be eaten quickly whereas winter squash are best baked or roasted and can be stored for several months.

 

Are they only available in the winter?

No. They are called “winter squash” because they are harvested in the fall but store well – and hence can be found almost year-round through the winter season.

 

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How should I pick the best ones?

Thick, blemish-free, matte-colored skinned ones with a tan, hard stem (still attached) are the ones to pick. They should also be firm and heavy. Note that if the stem is green, it means the squash was harvested before its prime.

 

Give me a run down of the varieties.

Our pleasure! Keep in mind, however, that most varieties are interchangeable in most recipes – another great thing to love about them.

 

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Butternut: Puréed roasted or baked – this bulbous squash is one of our favorite and most versatile varieties. It’s best paired with earthy, warming spices (like sage, nutmeg or ginger) to compliment its sweet orange flesh.

 

Delicata: This is that green and cream striped, “cylindrical” shaped kind that will surely catch your eye (and your palate). With an interior flesh that emulates the flavor of sweet potatoes, it makes a great puréed soup, or is great to make stuffed “boats” for an entrée or side. Delicata squash is commonly favored for its relatively “delicate” and edible skin. (Note that its thin skin means it’ll have less of a shelf life than other varieties).

 

Kabocha: Often called pumpkin’s sweet green cousin, Kabocha squash is typical in Asian dishes where it’s fried to make tempura. They kind of look like small, green pumpkins and have a beautiful bright yellow flesh that also make it a great contender for a puréed soup paired with ginger. (Little known fact: in some cultures, this type of squash is considered an aphrodisiac!)

 

Acorn: With these large, green, ribbed squashes, who needs a bowl? Acorn squash has super strong skin and boasts a vibrant orange flesh. We love them baked and stuffed and seasoned with brown sugar, nutmeg, butter or a dash or Parmesan cheese.

 

Spaghetti: We suggest roasting spaghetti squash, then scooping out the inside, breaking away the seeds, and serving almost like – you guessed it – pasta, given its stringy flesh and texture.

 

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What’s the best way to prep ‘em?

After washing well, cut the squash in half using a heavy knife. Separate the loose fibers and seeds using a spoon and voila! If you’re going to peel the skin, some suggest popping it in the microwave for 1-2 min after poking it with a knife to loosen it up. After letting it cool, you can slice in half, remove the seeds, and scoop or peel away the skin with ease.

 

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How should I store my winter squash?

 As we said, their thick skins make them stand up pretty well over time. They just need to be kept in a cool dry place (don’t refrigerate!) where they should be good for 2-3 months.

 

Why should I eat winter squash?

Underneath those hard, robust shells, winter squashes are chockfull of nutrients. They’re squashed with folate, niacin and loaded with vitamin A. Their beautiful color also brightens up fall dishes!

 

Do you love squash? Do you simmer them in soup? Shred into cakes and muffins? Roast with herbs? We want to know!

 

Watch for Marissa Latshaw‘s Butternut Squash and Apple Soup later this week. Her recently launched company, All Souped Up, has CT locavores buzzing!

photo: Liz Rueven
photo: Liz Rueven

 

 

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