Winter Squash

For those rainy, dark and dreary winter days, sometimes the only thing that will set things right is a large, steaming bowl of butternut squash soup. The winter squash harvest is at its peak right now – making it one of the most popular players at local farmer’s markets. They come in shapes, sizes and textures galore – including butternut, acorn, spaghetti – and my personal favorite, the highly under-appreciated Delicata.

raw squash

Naturally high in fiber and a long list of vitamins and minerals, these hard-shelled beauties can seem intimidating. Even the name can be slightly repellant. (Squash – to ’subdue’ or ’suppress’. So unfair to this glorious gourd.) How do you break through that tough outer exterior? Is it worth the effort? In my humble opinion – oh, yes. Your approach could be as simple as slicing them in two, removing the seeds and roasting them to perfection, glazed with butter and brown sugar. Or chopping into smallish pieces for a healthy addition to soups, stews and casseroles.

There is a world full of varieties and preparation options – too many to name here. So instead I will tempt you with two of my favorite winter squash recipes. And because I want to encourage you to relinquish any of those lingering doubts you might have about the majestic gourd, I plan to add additional tips and recipe ideas in future blogs to carry you through until spring arrives at our doorsteps.

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half squashButternut Squash, Fennel & Apple Soup

(Adapted from my friend Caitlin’s recipe – a kitchen wizard that one. Consider doubling the recipe – this is very freezer-friendly.)

Ingredients:

  • 1 medium butternut squash – peeled, seeds and pulp removed, chopped roughly
  • 1 small fennel bulb – core removed, sliced thinly
  • 1 small onion – peeled and sliced thinly
  • 1 small apple – peeled, cored and chopped (Granny Smith is a good choice)
  • Vegetable or chicken stock – approximately one 1-quart container*
  • 2 Bay leaves (Sage is a nice alternative)
  • Fresh thyme – a few sprigs
  • Salt & pepper
  • 1 T butter or olive oil
  • 1 tsp Cayenne (optional)

*Always have additional stock on hand in case you need to thin out the soup. I’m a fan of Trader Joe’s “Savory Broth” liquid concentrate – which allows you to make a cup at a time.

Preparation:

Roast the butternut squash at 400 degrees for about 45 minutes or until it’s tender and caramelized.

In a fairly large soup pot or Dutch oven, sauté the fennel, onion and apple in butter or olive oil over medium heat until soft. Season with salt & pepper. Add the roasted squash, bay, thyme, and cayenne (if using) to the fennel mixture, stir to coat in the oil/butter.

Add enough stock to just cover the veggies, bring to a simmer and cook approximately 25 minutes. Remove the bay leaf and season with salt/pepper if needed.

Using a food mill (or food processor or blender), process the solids in batches. (But take note – if using a blender, do not fill it up to the top. Hot liquids expand! Stick to 1/2 or 2/3 cups full.) If some liquid gets into the food mill or the processor as you’re scooping it in that’s fine. Put the now smooth (not baby food smooth, you want a little texture) mixture back into the pot. Add more broth if it’s too thick, check for seasonings and warm it back up.

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squash slicesRoasted Delicata Squash

(An excellent, kid-friendly solution – fun finger food that looks like little smiles.)

Ingredients:

  • 2 medium Delicata squash
  • Olive Oil Spray
  • Course Sea Salt

Preparation:

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

Cut squash oblong and remove seeds and pulp. Do NOT remove the peel. Cut in narrow slices (about 1/4 inch).

Cover baking pans (or cookie sheets) with tin foil and spray with olive oil spray. Place cut squash on foil-covered sheets and spray with olive oil. Bake squash for 20 minutes. Turn over and continue to bake for about 15 minutes. Squash slices should be browned and somewhat crisp on the outside. If they aren’t – place under broiler for a few minutes and watch closely until brown. Remove from oven, salt liberally and serve.

Serving options:

  • Sprinkle with finely chopped rosemary or cumin
  • Serve with a dipping sauce consisting of 1/3 cup sour cream (low fat is fine) or crème fraiche, 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard, 1 tablespoon horseradish and a small squeeze of honey.
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One Response to “Winter Squash”

  1. I have added your blog to my favorites list.

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