This season, explore the many varieties of colorful, delicious, versatile, nutritious squash.
Nutrition. Winter squash, like acorn, butternut, or sugar pumpkin, are a good source of dietary fiber along with vitamin C, vitamin B6, magnesium, and potassium. They are also rich in carotenoids, plant compounds responsible for the yellows, oranges, and reds in fruits and vegetables.
Choosing Squash. Look for squash with dull looking rinds that are blemish-free, firm to the touch, and still have their stem. A ripe winter squash should be heavy for its size. Stored in a cool, well-ventilated area away from ripening fruit like apples or pears, ripe winter squash can be expected to keep at least two to three months, but enjoying them within one month is sometimes recommended for the best flavor.
Squash Prep. Cutting into larger, tough-skinned varieties like butternut, pumpkin, or kabocha squash can be daunting. If skins need to be removed, use a vegetable peeler or cut off a sliver of sqash so it sits flat and carefully slice skin off. To make the skin easier to remove, pierce the squash with a knife in several places and microwave two to three minutes. Smaller varieties, like delicata, have thin, soft skins that don’t require peeling (and are fine to eat). Squash can be roasted whole or halved (seeds and pulp removed, cut side down) until soft. Halves can also be steamed cut-side down in a pan of water in an oven, microwave, or covered stovetop pan. Slicing or cubing before roasting, steaming, or boiling shortens cooking time (see Glazed Squash with Walnuts and Thyme on page 7). The cooked flesh can be eaten as is, mashed, or pureed into soup. Squash halves stuffed with any manner of fillings make a beautiful presentation.
Healthy and Flavorful Squash Swaps. Winter squash can be a flavor enhancer and nutrient booster in any number of dishes:
- Replace Pasta: Spaghetti squash can be scrapted into spaghetti-like strands with a fork after it has been steamed or roasted. Thinly sliced butternut squash can be used in place of lasagna noodles.
- Swap for Potatoes: Cut winter squash into “fries” and roast, or mash (or puree) and serve on its own or combined with potatoes, parsnips, sweet potatoes, or cauliflower. Slice squash into disks and layer in gratins or grate them to make hashbrowns.
- Sub for Pumpkin: Most winter squashes are interchangeable in recipes that call for pumpkin or other varieties. Try swapping another type in baked goods like quick breads, muffins, cookies, and pie.