By Steve Peters
Winter squash isn’t just a holiday side dish. It’s a vegetable to love and cook throughout the entire fall and winter months – hence its name. During my weekly stroll through the farmers market this past weekend, I admired the many shapes, sizes and colors of squash and couldn’t resist picking up a few to take home. While I had no definitive plans for them, that’s alright. Unlike many of the summer crops that have come to pass, including summer squash, winter squash has a hard outer rind and is content to hang out on my counter until inspiration strikes – for weeks and months, even, if the conditions (low light and humidity) are right.
While many winter squashes are interchangeable in use, I enjoy trying new varieties and observing the subtle differences in taste and texture. And just when I thought I knew all the squashes out there, I discover something new that farmers are growing.
Here are just a few of the many kinds of squash I’ve found and enjoyed.
Delicata Squash – Everyone I know loves this cream colored, green striped squash. Perhaps it’s because it is easier to slice and quicker to cook than many of the others. Delicata is comparable to sweet potatoes, as it is relatively sweet, with a slightly nutty taste. Try slicing it in half, scooping out the seeds and slicing each half into ¼ inch pieces. You’ll find yourself with attractive, scalloped pieces that can simply be sautéed in a pan with oil and garlic.
Carnival Squash – If you like acorn squash you should give this one a try, as it is a cross breed between acorn and sweet dumpling squash. Carnival’s shape is similar to the acorn, but is usually yellow, with orange and green stripes. The presence of some green stripes is an indication that the squash is at peak maturity. Try stuffing and roasting.
Blue Hubbard Squash – Blue Hubbard is one of my favorites, particularly because of the unique blue color, bumpy skin and the sometimes absurd size and shape in which they can grow. However, a 15 pound squash – its size at the most extreme – can be a bit unwieldy. You could roast it whole like a turkey, or do like I do and smash it on the ground to break into more manageable pieces. But if that sounds less than enjoyable to you, just look for a smaller size. Inside you’ll find deep golden flesh, an indication of a high level of beta-carotene.
Red Kabocha Squash – Kabocha is a generic term for Japanese winter squash. You’ll find both green and red Kabocha, but I prefer the sweetness of the red. Try peeling, cubing and roasting this squash after tossing with your favorite Asian spices.
Almost any winter squash is great roasted and pureed, which then opens up a whole other world of uses. This week in my Rutland Reader column, Rutland Bites, I share some more of these practical tips and uses for winter squash, regardless of the variety, and get into further detail on roasting and pureeing. For now, I leave you with a recipe for winter squash stuffed ravioli.
Winter Squash Ravioli in Sage Butter
- 24 Wonton wrappers
- 1 cup winter squash puree
- 1/3 cup Parmesan cheese
- ½ tsp nutmeg
- ½ tsp salt
- Freshly ground pepper, to taste
- 2 tbsp maple syrup
- leaves from several sprigs of thyme
- ¼ cup Greek yogurt
- 4 tbsp butter
- 2 tsp chopped sage leaves
- Chopped and toasted walnuts, optional
Bring a medium pot of salted water to a boil. Meanwhile, in a bowl combine the squash, cheese, nutmeg, salt, maple syrup, yogurt and pepper. Stir to blend well.
Remove the wontons from the package and cover with a damp towel to keep moist. Place one teaspoon of squash filling in the center of each wrapper. Fold the wrapper corner to corner. Dip a fork in water and use the wet tines to seal the edges of the wrapper. Continue with the remaining filling and place the constructed ravioli under another damp paper towel as you go.
In batches, add the ravioli to the boiling water. Remove with a slotted spoon to a large platter or baking sheet when they float to the top of the water, about 3 minutes.
Melt the butter in a medium sized sauté pan over medium heat. Add the sage, cook for one minute, then add in the ravioli and gently toss. Serve topped with additional Parmesan cheese and walnuts.
Steve Peters is RAFFL’s communications and food education manager. You can reach him firstname.lastname@example.org. To find more of recipes, visit everydaychef.org and check out his weekly Rutland Bites food column in the Rutland Reader.
Oringinally published in the Rutland Herald.