By mid November, some people who try to eat locally are already getting tired of squash. Winter squash are remarkable in their ability to last for months in the right conditions, so they are common in winter CSAs, are cheap in fall and winter at the grocery store, and are still around the house if you grew a bunch in your back yard this past summer. To keep your meals interesting and exciting, mix it up! Squash can be enjoyed with a variety of flavor and spice combinations, and it can be served in many different forms. If you’re not very familiar with the huge variety of different winter squash, click here for wikipedia’s list. Whenever you cook with squash, I encourage you to save the seeds and roast them – they’re usually just as good as pumpkin seeds, even if they are a bit smaller. Check out my suggestions below, and try some of your own concoctions!
Textures and Preparation Methods:
Puree: Boil squash, scoop out of skins, and blend or mash. This is good for squash with very hard, bumpy, or thick skins that would be hard to peel before cooking.
Roast: Use a peelable squash (like butternut), remove skin, dice or cut into strips, toss with oil, and roast on a baking tray.
Bake: Cut small varieties of squash (delicata or acorn) in half, scoop out the seeds, oil rim, and bake upside down on a cookie tray.
In a very scientific after-school taste test, “roasted cubes” won over “squashed squash.” After serving snacks to hundreds of kids, I’ve come to appreciate how much texture matters. Some people love smooth pureed dishes, while others really need a crunch to be satisfied. The exact same vegetable can become loved or hated depending on the texture. Experiment with taste tests and learn what you and your family prefer.
Sweet: Using pumpkin pie spices and brown sugar or maple syrup makes squash a treat. Cinnamon, ginger, and nutmeg are my favorite spices to use when preparing a sweet squash dish. If roasting, I usually add the sugar after so that it doesn’t burn.
Curried: I like to use a combination of curry powder, cumin, corriander, tumeric, and cayenne to spice up a squash recipe. A cilantro garnish adds a great twist.
Citrus: My dad loves to mash squash, mix in orange juice, place in a casserole dish, top with cheddar cheese and nuts, and then bake. I like how orange juice or zest perks up squash recipes.
Green Herbs: Parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme, as the song suggests, are a long-lived combination of yummy green herbs. Along with garlic, squash made with them reminds me of stuffing and thanksgiving.
Plain Savory: When cooking for kids, it’s important to keep things simple. Garlic, onion, salt, and pepper are good flavors to fall back on to. Maple syrup never hurts!