Squash: Pick a favorite from the masses
One of my least favorite foods growing up was acorn squash. No matter how my dear mom prepared it - loaded with brown sugar and butter or alongside a tasty pork chop - there was just nothing I could find appealing about that vegetable. Fast-forward several decades: either my taste buds have evolved or squashes just taste better now. I am eagerly seeking squash recipes of all kinds - for breads and cakes, jams, soups, lasagnas, you name it.
My husband Mark grew many kinds of squash in his garden this year. We have delicata, acorn, spaghetti squash and pumpkins of many kinds.
One of the most unique of his harvest is the beautiful French heirloom Brodé Galeux d'Eysines, which means, 'embroidered with warts from the Eysines.' (Eysines is a small city in the southwest of France.) I don't think he realized this pumpkin would be so delightful in appearance. They are a beautiful pale pink color and covered with squiggly veins of protruding warts. We are enjoying them as decoration now, but I can hardly wait to cook with them.
The bumps are sometimes called sugar warts, because they are caused by a buildup of sugars under the skin. The pumpkin's flavor is concentrated just under the skin and again in the seed mass.
The flesh is orange and has a delicate, slightly nutty flavor and has a fragrance with a hint of sweet potato and apple. The delicate flavor will combine nicely with just about any spice from subtle nutmeg in breads and cakes, to pungent curries for savory dishes.
The texture of the cooked fruit is very smooth, not stringy like many orange skinned pumpkin varieties, so it will be perfect for making pumpkin butters and soups.
You can roast a whole pumpkin, then scrape out the flesh and use the shell as a tureen for your soup, if you want to get fancy. Be careful not to scrape away too much of the flesh; you need the shell to be strong enough to support the soup. (If it isn't strong enough, you can clean out another pumpkin to use as a tureen. Try it - it could be just the thing to get someone to try something new to eat. Here is how:
Whole Roasted Pumpkin
Set oven to 400ºF.
Wash pumpkin well, then cut the stem end and clean out just as you would to make a jack-o-lantern. Put the lid back on and rub skin lightly with olive oil. Put the pumpkin on a baking sheet and place in oven. There is no need to wait for the oven to preheat. Roast for about an hour; the amount of time will vary based on the oven's actual temperature and the water content of the pumpkin. When a knife can easily pierce the flesh inside the shell, remove the pumpkin and let cool. Scrape flesh from inside the pumpkin being careful not to puncture the skin.
Use flesh to make the soup, serving it from the pumpkin shell turine.
Here is a simple pumpkin recipe to try:
Brodé Galeux d'Eysines Pink Pumpkin Soup
5 cups low sodium chicken stock
4 cups pureed fresh Brodé Galeux d'Eysines pumpkin (or other squash)
½ cup diced onion
1 shallot, chopped fine
1 clove garlic, cut in half
½ cup heavy cream
Freshly ground white pepper
¼ teaspoon nutmeg
1 teaspoon chopped fresh parsley
In a large pot combine the chicken stock, pumpkin, onion, shallot and garlic. Over medium heat, bring to a slow boil, reduce heat to low and simmer for 30 minutes uncovered.
Puree the soup in small batches using a food processor or an immersion blender until a smooth and silky texture is achieved.
Continue simmering soup for 30 more minutes, uncovered. Add salt, pepper and nutmeg to taste. Stir in heavy cream. Stir gently to combine all ingredients. Adjust seasoning as needed.
Pour into carved Brodé Galeux d'Eysines pumpkin or individual bowls. Garnish with fresh parsley.
Adapted from Feeding on Pixels.blogspot.com
Another favorite squash of mine is the delicata. And for the past several years I've enjoyed what Gourmet Production's does with them - it is nothing short of ambrosial. If you haven't tried them, you must.
They are simple to prepare and in fact, Chef James Joyce has prepared a YouTube video showing exactly how to do it. View the video at http://www.youtube.com/watch?vxD0iRFDoHoM or follow these simple directions:
Gourmet Production's Delicata Squash Rings
Makes about 30 rings
3 delicata squash
You simply wash the squash and then Chef Jim cuts off the ends and hollows the squash out with a thin, long knife blade, which is fast and efficient. He then cuts the hollow squash into uniform ½ inch thick rings and places them in a bowl. He generously splashes olive oil over the squash, which will help them brown nicely and adds to the flavor. He seasons them with salt, pepper, dried thyme and minced shallots and then tosses the mixture to coat the squash rings well. He then pours the excess olive oil onto a baking sheet, rubbing it around with a squash ring and then arranges the rings on the bake sheet.
Bake at 400ºF for about 20 minutes or until golden brown. Enjoy warm or at room temperature.
Another fun favorite squash to eat is spaghetti squash. If you haven't eaten it, you are in for a visual treat as well as a nutritive one. I like to roast spaghetti squash and then use forks to rake the flesh into tiny spaghetti like strings. It is fun to see a pile of bright yellow 'spaghetti' develop from your efforts. It is delicious and a great way to get more veggies into your diet. Though this is a pretty quick recipe, if you are short of time you could top your spaghetti squash with prepared pasta sauce. But give this recipe a whirl:
Spaghetti Squash with Pomodoro Sauce
Makes 4 servings
1 spaghetti squash (about 1 ½ pounds)
Vegetable cooking spray
2 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
1 small onion, finely chopped
2 teaspoons olive oil
1 28-ounce can diced plum tomatoes or 6 fresh tomatoes, chopped
3 tablespoons tomato paste
1 teaspoon white wine vinegar
1 teaspoon dried oregano, or fresh to taste
1 teaspoon dried basil or fresh to taste, plus more for garnish
½ teaspoon red pepper flakes
Preheat the oven to 375ºF. Halve squash lengthwise and scoop out seeds. Coat a baking sheet with cooking spray and lay squash halves, cut side down on the sheet. Bake 35 to 45 minutes, or until you can easily pierce shell. While squash bakes, sauté garlic and onion in oil over medium heat for five minutes. Add tomatoes, tomato paste, white wine vinegar, oregano, basil and red pepper flakes and cook, stirring occasionally for 30 minutes. Reduce heat if sauce begins to boil.
Remove squash from oven. Scrape crosswise with the tines of a fork to pull strands of squash from the shell. Place in a nonmetal-serving bowl. Pour sauce over squash and garnish with basil.
Adapted from Self magazine, Nov. 2002
Squashes and pumpkins are truly delicious and easy to prepare and good for us. If your family doesn't consider one variety a favorite, just keep trying, soon or later you are bound to find one they enjoy. You might even try my Grandmother Etta's method for getting us to eat squash. She made 'pumpkin' pie out of that hard to choke down acorn squash! Did I notice? Not a bit!
Bon Appetit! Eat something wonderful!