We are now well into October and winter squashes of every size, shape, color and texture abound in all the markets. I reread last September’s Squash Alert, and I think the information is worth repeating, with a few added thoughts.
First, think and buy local. Winter squash that has not experienced cold weather on the vine (i.e. grown in California or Mexico) will not develop flavor derived from its natural sugar build up.
Second, in the winter squash cosmos patience is a virtue. Squash picked in early October will be ready to eat in late October if it has been stored in a cool, dark place.
Third, after you have had your first bowl of silken, rich Butternut Squash soup, relax and let your imagination run wild. How about caramelized squash and fresh sliced fennel in a salad? Or add potato to two different squashes sautéed in olive oil. Or combine three different squashes brined* with cucumber?
Fourth, the natural flavors of winter squashes are subtle. Whatever seasonings you add to squash should be light. You will bring out the subtle flavors with a little salt, lemon or lime juice and sparkle and heat from chili pepper, fresh or in the form of Chinese Chili Paste, Sambal Oeleck or dehydrated red pepper flakes.
If you would like some ideas, click here and all of Fresh by Northwest’s squash recipes and information will be retrieved for you.
One of my all time favorite winter squash preparations is julienne cut sautéed with onion and potato. The recipe is identical to Sautéed Julienne Root Vegetables published last November. Just substitute 2 or 3 different winter squashes for the root vegetables. Or use 2 different squashes and a large russet potato.
Winter Squash skins or rinds are tough and virtually impossible to cut off with a vegetable peeler. Sharpen your chef knife and work carefully.
- Cut off the bottom or the skin on one side to create an even bottom, then work your way around the squash cutting off the skin.
- Cut the whole squash into hunks and remove the seeds and pith. Using a mandoline or an Asian slicing box cut the squash into julienne pieces. Or, cut the larger pieces into small cubes (½” square).
- If you want to show some green, add a zucchini to the mix cutting it so that each piece has some green skin. Cook the winter squash first and toss in the cut up zucchini for the last 2 minutes.
- Avoid squashes with outside textures that look as though they would be difficult to peel. Try Butternut and Pumpkin varieties.
- You will be surprised at how different each squash flavor is from others.
*I brine different vegetables regularly. Refrigerated they last up to a week. I do not pickle (hot brine, canned under pressure for long term shelf life) winter squash or other vegetables.