Squash It! Get Out of that Rut and Give all Winter Squashes a Try!
by Kathleen Reale
With autumn here produce departments and farm stands are full of a variety of winter squashes that are all just waiting to be steamed, baked, stuffed, mashed and pureed into gluten and allergen free main courses, side dishes, risottos, purees and soups.
But, if you’re like me, you automatically reach for your old stand-by –butternut squash – and fail to give the other winter squashes out there a fair shot at gracing your autumn and winter tables.
But with the variety and versatility of winter squashes, there is no excuse not to keep the “produce market high” you encountered all summer going right through the colder months.
Winter squashes, unlike their summer cousins, have a stronger taste and more solid texture. Higher in fiber and carotenes, winter squashes have fantastic nutritional value at a budget price.
Here are some tips and tricks, a low-down on the most popular winter squashes, and a few gluten and allergen free ways to incorporate them into your menu:
Tips & Tricks:
- How to cook:
Winter squashes can be cut in half and baked, unpeeled; or peeled, cut into cubes or slices, and baked or steamed. The peeled chunks can also be cooked in the microwave, or added to slow-cooker recipes. To bake a winter squash, cut the squash lengthwise, place the halves, cut side down in a baking dish with about 1” of water. Bake in a 350 degree F oven until the squash is tender when poked with a fork (about 30 minutes to 1½ hours depending on the variety).
- How much winter squash do you need per person?:
About ½ pound per person is a good rule of thumb.
- Storing Winter Squash:
The beauty of winter squash is that it can be kept right through the winter! Although, cut winter squash can be kept in the refrigerator up to 1 week, whole winter squash can be kept for months in a cool, dark area.
Types of Winter Squash:
Identified by the round bulb on one end, these winter squashes are one of the most commonly used, and are great for baking and pureeing.
About 6” in diameter this winter squash is dark green on the outside and orange on the inside. Another favorite for baking, it is also perfect for stuffing, since it is the perfect size for yielding 2 servings when cut in half.
These big boys of winter squash can way up to 10 pounds each. With yellow flesh and green to grayish –green skins, the Hubbard squash is often substituted for pumpkin in pies.
A beauty of a winter squash. With yellow skin striped with green, this squash tastes a bit like a sweet potato. Steam it up and serve it mashed!
For cooking seek out a cooking variety that are small and sweet - such as the Sugar pumpkin.
- Spaghetti Squash:
Used in place of pasta, Spaghetti squash is a favorite for those on a gluten-free diet! Bake these winter squashes whole. When cooked tender, cut in half and pull the inside fleshy long thin strands out with a fork. Serve with your favorite pasta topping or just with a bit of butter of dairy-free substitute!