November 6, 2013

Soup to Nuts: It's winter squash weather

The gourds of autumn, in all their crazy-quilt colors and endearingly lumpy shapes, are rumbling in at your local farm and farmers market.

By Meredith Goad mgoad@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

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A variety of squash is displayed at the Portland Farmers Market. From bottom, clockwise, sugar dumpling, acorn, delicata and golden acorn.

Photos by John Patriquin/Staff Photographer

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Growers say that a lot of squash varieties taste better now than when they were freshly harvested in September.

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One way she does like to prepare it is cutting it in half, then slicing it into thin crescent shapes. Toss the slices in olive oil, then roast them until they develop a nice crust.

“I think that’s pretty beautiful and also tasty to have as a side dish,” Snell said.

Acorn squash is dry but doesn’t contain as many sugars, which is why it tastes so good with maple syrup and brown sugar. Indeed, this is the way most people prepare it – cut it in half, add some brown sugar and syrup, maybe a little cinnamon, and just let it roast until it’s tender.

You can also skip the sweeteners and stuff it with sausage, onion and mushrooms, cranberries and apples, or with mushrooms and wild rice.

I’ve found when making stuffed acorn squash that adding a little apple cider to the stuffing helps boost the flavor and retain moisture.

“I like to use leftover acorn or delicata in frittatas or burritos,” said Mary Ellen Chadd of Green Spark Farm. “It makes a wonderful sweet flavor that pairs well with cheese or beans and salsa.”

DELICATA

Delicata has a texture similar to an acorn squash, meaning it’s a little dry, but that also means it will hold its shape well.

“I think the delicata is the one you don’t have to do anything to,” Wilcox said. “It’s like the sweet potato squash. It’s great because I like to not add any fat or sugar to my food, so I can have a delicata. It cooks up quickly, easily. You can even eat the skin if you want.”

If you’re going to eat the skin, be sure to wash it first.

For minimalist cooking, just cut the squash in half lengthwise, scrape out the seeds and roast it with butter and brown sugar, or with olive oil, salt and pepper. Or dice it with the skin still on and add it to a roasting pan full of other cut vegetables. (One of my favorite things to do in fall is to cut up bell peppers, onions, squash, rainbow carrots and any other veggies I have in the fridge, toss them in olive oil and a little salt and pepper, and roast them until they get a slight char. Delicious.)

Don’t undercook the squash or it won’t bring out the sweetness. “And if you burn it, just call it roasted, right?” said Wilcox, laughing. “That’s what I do.”

SPAGHETTI SQUASH

Spaghetti squash has gained newfound popularity among people who are watching their intake of carbs. They use the stringy flesh of spaghetti squash like pasta, often simply pouring a spaghetti sauce over it to make a meal.

Cook the squash whole and scrape the flesh out with a fork.Try it with some butter, Parmesan, salt and pepper as a side dish. Wilcox likes it with olive oil, garlic pepper, minced garlic and feta cheese.

Unless you’re serving a big crowd, Snell recommends trying two smaller varieties of spaghetti squash, Small Wonder and Orangetti, which are grapefruit-sized and make good single servings.

“A lot of the traditional spaghetti squash is just too big,” she said.

BUTTERCUP

Buttercup squash is related to turban squash, those big, orange-red squash you see at the market that look like they’re wearing a hat. Buttercups are smaller and dark green, sometimes with lighter green streaks on the rind.

Buttercups are a good all-around squash with a sweet flesh that’s good in soups or for eating with minimal intervention – some butter, salt and cinnamon, and maybe a little maple syrup for a little flavor boost.

Snell recommended using it in pies – it’s a lot sweeter than pumpkin – as well as in burritos and in her squash lasagna recipe.

Staff Writer Meredith Goad can be contacted at 791-6332 or at:

mgoad@pressherald.com

Twitter: Meredithgoad

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