The coming of colder days means it’s time for warming winter squash recipes. Here are three gourd-eous ways to make them.
Can you feel that slight chill in the air? Have you already taken those sweaters out of deep storage? There’s no denying fall has fallen—and squash season is upon us!
All apologies to zucchini, crookneck, pattypan, and those other summer squash varieties, we’re talking about the winter types: butternut, acorn, kabocha, spaghetti, and their more robust brethren. Though these hearty gourds tend to be available year-round, they tend to be best during their fall through winter peak season, which means now is the time to enjoy them. And get the most out of this nutrient-packed food; low in calories and packed with filling fiber, squash is also a good source of carotenoids, antioxidants thought to protect against cancer and heart disease.
In their raw form, winter squash have a hard shell and firm flesh, which help them keep for weeks in a cool, dry place outside the refrigerator. But this also makes them require some prep work. Fortunately, the labor required is pretty simple and straightforward. Here’s the most basic approach: Just wash the squash, cut it from top to bottom, scoop out the seeds, place cut-side down on a baking sheet, and cook at 400°F for 30 to 45 minutes, depending on the type you’re cooking.
Another approach, though, and one that imparts more flavor, is to peel the squash, cut it into pieces, and boil or simmer it in broth seasoned with aromatic vegetables, or with herbs and spices. That’s what I do here with my soup, which infuses the butternut squash with the taste of onion, carrots, and garlic, as well as sage. Likewise, my risotto, in which kabocha squash picks up the notes of vanilla and cayenne from the broth it’s boiled in.
More oddly shaped varieties, though, present more of a peeling challenge; their curves and hollows make using a knife or vegetable peeler a riskier proposition. Fortunately for the fluted acorn squash, though, the skin is fairly thin and, when cooked, edible, and even adds an interesting texture. In its case, simply slicing thinly and baking on a sheet, as with the topping for my pizza, is enough to do the job.
Use the recipes here as a starting point, but feel free to experiment with the varieties you can find this time of year. Cook up spaghetti squash, whose stringy flesh pairs nicely with olive oil and Parmesan, a bit of marinara sauce, or whatever else you might want to serve with its noodly namesake. Or, if you’ve got extra sugar pumpkins lying around after Halloween, turn into a puree to mix with a bit of pumpkin-pie spice and add to your morning oatmeal or even plain Greek yogurt for an afternoon pick-me-up.