Susan S. Yeske: Recipe of the week
Squash is more than a harvest decoration
Squash has such an unpleasant name that it’s not surprising that many people don’t want to try it and instead relegate the colorful vegetable to a spot in a harvest display outside their front doors.
But when you do take the time to taste it, this vegetable has such a bounty of flavor, versatility and nutrition that easily makes it a fall favorite.
Right now local farmers are harvesting winter squash, and it’s been a bountiful crop. Even though squash are harvested in the fall, they are called winter squash because their hard skins allow them to be stored through the winter when refrigerated properly. At home you can store them for up to a month in a cool, dark place.
The most familiar of the winter squashes is pumpkin, but there are dozens of others with fanciful names such as acorn, butternut, buttercup, hubbard, celebration, calabaza and turban. They come in various shades of orange, yellow, green and beige and have hard skins that mean they take longer to cook than summer varieties.
When selecting your squashes, look for ones that are heavy for their size and have a hard, deep-colored, blemish-free skin.
My personal preference has always been acorn squash or it’s first cousin, the colorful celebration squash that is about the same size, shape and sweetness. Butternuts are among the most popular because they are ideal for soups.
When I am roasting acorn squash I wash them, cut them in half and scoop out the seeds, then set them face-down in a pan with about an inch of water.
They bake at 400 °F for about 45 minutes or until you can poke them with a fork and they are soft. Remove the pan from the oven, flip over the halves and fill each with a little butter, cinnamon and brown sugar if you like. Then bake for a few minutes longer, or until the butter and sugar melt.
When I’m making squash for a crowd, I do the same thing, but after the initial baking, remove them from the pan and set them aside until they cool enough to handle. Then I scoop out the flesh and mash it with a little butter, salt and pepper and a drizzle of maple syrup. This puree freezes well, and I often make it ahead for holiday meals.
Another option is to microwave the squash. Wash them, then prick all over with a fork. Microwave on high for five minutes, then test with a fork. Time varies according to the size of the squash. When it’s tender and the fork easily pierces the skin, set it aside until it’s cool enough to handle, then cut in half.
Scoop out the seeds and discard, then scoop out the flesh to mash and add butter, salt and pepper and a little maple syrup if desired.
Here is a recipe from southernfood.about.com that combines squash and apples that is good for any autumn meal or would make an appealing holiday side dish.
Butternut Squash and Apple Casserole
1 small butternut squash (about 2 to 2 ½ pounds)
2 tart apples
½ cup brown sugar, firmly
4 tablespoons butter, cold
1 tablespoon flour
1 teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon cinnamon
¼ teaspoon nutmeg
Butter a 2- to 2 ½-quart baking dish.
Heat oven to 350°F.
Peel, seed, and cut squash into small slices.
Core the apples, peel, and cut into thin slices.
Toss squash and apples together.
Transfer squash and apple slices to the prepared baking dish.
Combine brown sugar, flour, salt, cinnamon, and nutmeg; cut in butter with fork or pastry cutter until crumbly.
Sprinkle crumbs evenly over sliced squash and apples.
Cover tightly with foil and bake at 350 degrees for 50 to 60 minutes, or until squash is tender.
Copyright ©2013 Bucks County Herald, Inc. All rights reserved.