THE VERY VERSATILE WINTER SQUASH
The leaves are changing colors, the air has a cool crisp smell to it and the farmers' market is booming with a ton of winter squashes. Nothing says cold weather comfort food than a great squash soup, roasted root vegetables with your Sunday supper or a nice, warming Indian curry. The only difficulty is choosing which squash to use in your dish! I put together a few of my favorite ways to bring some warmth to your dinner table this winter.
The first weekend of October has passed, and the heating has kicked in. You know winter is looming around the corner, and the upside is that it’s perfect soup-making (and eating!) weather. Everyone loves a great squash soup; they are so versatile, being sweet and savory, and take easily to different cuisines depending on the spices you use. My Sopa de Flor de Calabaza (Squash Blossom Soup), inspired by a traditional Mexican soup, is a delicious, silky and rich soup without any cream that uses butternut squash. Another warm and comforting soup is my Pumpkin Soup with Garam Masala & Creme Fraiche. This soup uses the traditional South Asian spice blend, garam masala (it’s spicy and full-flavored but has no real heat to it), and the warming spices in the blend pair perfectly with pumpkin.
Roasting squash is a no brainer, and cut into pieces, a good squash only needs about 20 to 30 minutes in a 400° F oven. Of course, the old standby butternut is fantastic here, but kabocha, which is an Asian variety of winter squash, is also delicious. It has a strong and sweet flavor that pairs well with spices. Delicata is another great options because it has super thin skin and is really easy to peel.
Above is a photo from my cookbook for a savoury, winter vegetable crumble; roasted squash on its own would be delicious with a salty, Parmesan-laced crumble topping.. The great thing about roasted squash is you can eat it as is, purée it (see below), stuff it before roasting, make it into a hash by itself or with sweet potatoes or even toss it into a salad that day or the next! I personally love this Miso Harissa Delicata Squash salad recipe.
Another great use for winter squashes is purées. They make a great substitute for the stand-by mashed potato side and are beyond easy to make. This recipe is the most basic - a great building block in your kitchen arsenal that you can tailor to your tastes. A few ideas: add roasted garlic, truffle oil, chopped olives, pickled chilies or sprinkle with za'atar to make it extra special.
To me, nothing is more satisfy or warming to the soul than curling up on the couch with my pajamas, a good movie, or book, and a hearty bowl of curry and rice. Curries originate from the Indian subcontinent and Southeast Asia. They can be wet or dry with wet curries resembling stews in a significant amount of sauce and dry curries cooked with little liquid that evaporates and leaves a coating on the ingredients. Curries usually involve a variety of spices with the main spices being turmeric, coriander, and cumin on the Indian side of things; chili is always a player. Southeast Asian curries make use of different chili pastes and other herbs, aromatics and spices like kaffir, lemongrass, and galangal. Lucky for us, squashes play well with all different types of curry. Check out this one for Acorn Squash with Fenugreek, Chili, and Amchur.
When the weather turns cool, who doesn’t love coming home to lasagna or a big bowl of pasta on the table? To make traditional lasagna a bit more interesting, try adding some squash in between the lush layers of pasta, cheese and sauce. OR get a bit more advanced and try this gnocchi. If gluten isn't your thing, spaghetti squash makes a fantastic substitute. Raw, it looks just like other squashes on the inside, but after it is cooked the insides fall out in ribbons resembling spaghetti. This recipe uses the spaghetti squash as the star of the “pasta dish”.
DESSERTS & BREADS
Being such a versatile vegetable, squashes can also find themselves in the dessert category. Hello…..pumpkin pie anyone!? But don’t just let the pumpkins have all the fun in the pies, butternut and acorn squash can hold their own in this category too! Try my bread recipe using butternut squash with apples and maple to make a delicious moist bread to serve with afternoon tea.