Sizing Up Squash & Recipes
Look around – you may notice the weather has changed. Rain and cooler temperatures bring the feelings and foods of fall. Stay in season and indulge in hearty, local squash.
Add the nutritious, sweet flesh of squash as a complement to earthy spices, roasted meats and bean based dishes. While each has its own personality and nutritional content, most squash is a good, low calorie source of vitamin A, fiber, and minerals like calcium and potassium. Plus, squash lends natural sweetness and rich flavor to dishes with a sweet and sour component, like tangy Asian-style soups or green salads. With over a dozen types of regularly available squash, now is a great time to go for the gourd.
Tips for Choosing Squash
Most squash are harvested late summer through fall, then “cured” or “hardened off” in open air to toughen their exterior. This process ensures the squash will keep for months without refrigeration. Squash that has been improperly cured will appear shiny and may be tender enough to be pierced by your fingernail.
When selecting any variety of squash, the stem is the best indication of ripeness. Stems should be tan, dry, and on some varieties, look fibrous and frayed, or corky. Fresh green stems and those leaking sap signal that the squash was harvested before it was ready. Ripe squash should have vivid, deep color and a matte, rather than glossy, finish.
A Quick Guide to Common Squash
- Acorn – Forest green in color and deeply ribbed, this squash resembles its namesake, the acorn. It has yellow-orange flesh and a tender-firm texture that holds up when cooked. Acorn’s mild flavor is versatile, making it a traditional choice for stuffing and baking. The hard rind is not good for eating, but helps the squash hold its shape when baked. Best uses: baking, stuffing, and mashing.
Blue Hubbard – Good for feeding a crowd, these huge, bumpy textured squash are tapered at both ends and round in the middle. A common heirloom variety, Blue Hubbard has an unusual, brittle blue-gray outer shell, a green rind, and bright orange flesh. Only mildly sweet, they have a buttery, nutty flavor and a flaky, dry texture similar to a baked potato. Best Uses: baked or mashed, topped with butter, sea salt, and freshly ground black pepper.
Butternut – Named for their peanut-like shape and smooth, beige coloring, butternut is a good choice for recipes calling for a large amount of dense squash. Their vivid orange flesh is sweet and slightly nutty with a smooth texture that falls apart as it cooks. Although the rind is edible, butternut is usually peeled before use. Remember: one pound of butternut equals approximately 2 cups of peeled, chopped squash. Best uses: soups, purees, pies, recipes that focus on smooth texture and sweetness.
Delicata – This oblong squash is butter yellow in color with green mottled striping in shallow ridges. Delicata has a thin, edible skin that is easy to work with but makes it a poor squash for long-term storage; this is why you’ll only find them in the fall. The rich, sweet yellow flesh is flavorful and tastes like chestnuts, corn, and sweet potatoes. Best Uses: it’s a thin-skinned, quick-cooking squash. Try slicing in 1/4-inch rings and sautéeing until soft and caramelized (remove seeds first). Or cut in half and bake in 30 minutes, or broiled with olive oil or butter until caramelized.
Pie Pumpkin – these “mini pumpkins” are sweeter and often smaller than carving pumpkins. They are uniformly orange and round with an inedible rind, and have a rich pumpkin flavor that is perfect for pies and baked goods. They make a beautiful centerpiece when hollowed out and filled with pumpkin soup. Best uses: pies, custards, baked goods, curries and stews.
Spaghetti – These football-sized, bright yellow squash are different from other varieties in this family. Spaghetti squash has a pale golden interior, and is stringy and dense. Sliced in half and bake at 375 F degrees for 35-45 minutes and use a fork to pry up the strands of flesh that resembles the texture of cooked spaghetti noodles. These squash are not particularly sweet but have a mild flavor that takes to a wide variety of preparations. Best uses: baked and separated, then mixed with pesto, tomato sauce, or your favorite pasta topping.
Read on for some staff favorite recipes using seasonal squash.
Spiced Kabocha Soup
Recipe adapted from strongertogether.coop
Use butternut or Hubbard, as well as Kabocha to create this zesty, comforting soup. It makes an excellent appetizer or first course. Serve over white or brown rice for a heartier dish.
- 1 medium kabocha squash
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger
- 2 tablespoons coconut oil
- 1 yellow onion, diced
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 teaspoon coriander
- 1/2 teaspoon garam masala
- 1 jalapeno, seeded and minced
- 3 cups vegetable (or chicken) broth
- 1 cup unsweetened coconut milk
- 1 teaspoon cumin
- Salt and black pepper to taste
- 1 lime, cut into wedges
Heat oven to 375°F. Cut squash into halves or quarters; remove the seeds, drizzle cut sides with olive oil and bake 30 to 40 minutes or until very tender. Scrape the flesh into a bowl and discard the skin. Roughly chop the squash.
In a large soup pot, heat the coconut oil over medium-high heat. Sauté the onion for 6 to 8 minutes until soft. Add the garlic, ginger and jalapeño and cook another 2 minutes, stirring frequently. Stir in the spices and combine for one minute. Combine mixture with broth, coconut milk and squash and bring the soup just to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer the soup for 15 to 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat and blend with an immersion blender until smooth. Season with salt and pepper. Serve with lime wedges.
Squash, Bacon & Apple Hash
Recipe from strongertogether.coop
Enjoy this dish for any meal of the day. It also makes a unique holiday side dish, or try it topped with an egg for breakfast. Use a sweet, crisp apple such as a Honeycrisp, Rome Beauty or Empire.
- 4 cups diced butternut squash (3-pound squash)
- 2 teaspoons vegetable oil
- 1/2 pound bacon
- 1 cup diced yellow onion
- 1 apple, peeled, cored and diced into 1-inch cubes
- 2 teaspoons minced fresh sage
- Salt, to taste
- Ground black pepper, to taste
Preheat the oven to 400°F. Peel, seed and dice the butternut squash into 1-inch cubes. In a bowl, toss the squash with the vegetable oil and a pinch each of salt and black pepper. Place the squash on a baking tray and bake for 20 to 25 minutes, stirring halfway through, until the squash is tender. Remove from the oven and set aside.
While the squash bakes, cook the bacon in a large skillet over medium heat until crispy, turning occasionally. Remove the bacon from the pan and set aside on paper towels. Carefully drain all but 2 tablespoons of the bacon grease from the pan. Add the onion to the pan and sauté over medium-high heat for 5 minutes, then add the apple and cook another 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Crumble or chop the bacon into bite-sized pieces. Add the cooked butternut squash, bacon and sage back into the pan and let the hash cook, without stirring, for several minutes to build up a nice brown crust on the bottom. Sprinkle in a pinch each of salt and black pepper and continue to cook another few minutes until the hash is adequately brown and crisp.