Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Know Your Squash

From acorn to turban, winter squash are some of the most delicious and versatile ingredients of the season. Unlike summer squash, these are harvested in autumn when they are hard and ripe, and most varieties can be stored and enjoyed for use through the winter.

Two of the most popular winter squashes include:
Butternut Squash

With its sweet, creamy, dark-orange flesh, and smooth, easy-to-peel skin, butternut squash is one of the best and most versatile of all the fall squashes. It takes well to all kinds of cooking methods (though its especially delicious when roasted) and pairs well with a wide variety of flavorings including orange, lemon, balsamic vinegar, sharp cheeses, robust herbs, bold spices, and cured meats like bacon.

kitchen math: One 2-lb. squash = about 3 cups diced
Don't have it? You can substitute acorn squash or sugar pumpkin, which have a similar flavor and texture; they're a bigger hassle to peel, though.

There's a reason you mostly see butternut soups over acorn. Butternut has enough sweetness and starch to stand on its own as soup; all you really need is an onion and a splash of cream (if that!). Doing the same with acorn would yield different results because of its starch content (less than butternut) and higher water content (ergo a little more of a "bland" flavor profile).
If doing a strictly acorn soup, I would add a potato (like a regular old russet, peeled) for some "body" and starch and (as others mentioned) a carrot or two for added sweetness. Maybe even a bit of brown sugar, depending on the goal of the soup. If the flavor you're after is more on the savory side (spice heavy, i.e. curry), I'd leave out the carrot and sugar, but still include a good starchy potato for that texture.

Acorn Squash
Acorn squash has such a unique shape, that is worth showing off in recipes. When I cook with them I always try keep their features intact, so I don't peel them. They are a perfect vegetable to roast because they hold their shape well particularly when the skin is left on. They can be steamed or sautéed, and even mashed like potatoes, making them a very versatile vegetable. But roasting is my favorite cooking method because it concentrates their natural flavor.

Most acorn squash recipes use a sweetener to bring out the flavor. The traditional route would be brown sugar, which automatically gives it a Thanksgiving flair but try using maple syrup for its rich sweetness. 
A link to 10 Acorn Squash Recipeshttp://www.thekitchn.com/10-ways-to-eat-an-acorn-squash-129731
Cook's notes: Both recipes adapted from closetcooking.com
Maple Roasted Acorn Squash
Servings: 4

  • 2 acorn squash (cut in half and scooped clean)
  • 1 tsp. apple pie or pumpkin pie spice mix, divided
  • 4 tablespoons maple syrup
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • Place the acorn squash halves in a baking pan with the cut sides up.
  • Place 1 tablespoon of maple syrup and 1/2 tablespoon butter into each acorn squash half. Sprinkle each with spice and cover with aluminum foil and roast in a preheated oven 400 degrees for 30 minutes.
  • Remove the foil and roast until tender, about 30-45 minutes.
Mashed Sweet Potatoes with Maple Syrup
Cook's note: An extra maple syrup recipe idea adapted from closetcooking.com
Serves 2,
  • 1 sweet potato
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1 tablespoon maple syrup
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • sprinkle of cinnamon

  • Bake the potato in a preheated 400 degrees until soft, about 1 to 1.5 hours.
  • Cut the potato open and scoop out the insides.
  • Add the butter, syrup, salt and pepper to the potatoes and mash.
  • Sprinkle with cinnamon before serving.
Cooks note: Spaghetti Squash and Sweet Pumpkin Squash ideas will be featured on next posting.

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