When the summer dies down, I get a little sad. I can’t believe it’s over. But I do love the fall and the cooler weather. It’s then that the farmer’s markets go through a transition and I’m on a mad dash to taste the last of the berries and tomatoes, and suddenly, I’m thrilled and excited and happy all over again when I see the winter squash.
The older I get the more I appreciate these beautiful creatures. They may be funky looking on the outside, with their hard shell-like skin, assorted colors and weird bulbous shapes, but on the inside they are lovely, beautiful and tasty. You get a lot of bang for your buck with winter squash and they’ll last forever–you can store whole squash for months. Versatile and easy to prepare, there’s no reason to not have oodles of winter squash in your diet.
Healthy? Hell yes. The biggest player in the winter squash is vitamin A, but you’ll find the ubiquitous C in there along with loads of fiber, folate, potassium, manganese…shoot there’s even omega fatty 3 acids! They can be so rich and flavorful they make a great main course, a vegan steak if you will!
Acorn, Butternut, Delicata, Kabocha, Spaghetti, Hubbard, Trumpet, Pumpkins, Turban, Banana, Tahitian…there are many, many different varieties out there. Truth be told, I think they’re best by themselves, maybe with a little butter. I love to cut them in half, eviscerate them, rub ‘em with some olive oil and roast in a pan till soft. Comfort to the core: sweet, meaty, soft perfection. I also love to pan fry Delicata rings (or rounds of Trumpets and Butternuts) with a little fresh sage and brown butter. Winter Squash make great soups and pies, a little cooked and mashed up flesh makes a yummy “sauce” for an alternative veggie pizza.
I got funky on this episode. The Japanese dish I do at the end of the show is sweet and tasty. It’s traditionally done with Kabocha and served on rice, one of those great, bone-warming, winter dishes that surprised me in Japan. So many of the foods there use a similar, simple, braising technique. You can improvise and play with the flavors as much, or as little, as you like. The baba ga-squash is more than just a funny name, it is AWESOME! Someone I know, who will remain nameless, was complaining about eggplant and said they hated it. This got my brain churning and made me think of alternative veggies for eggplant classics. Ordinarily, you’d use roasted eggplant for baba ganoush but when I tried this tasty version with butternut…I may never go back.
Perhaps my favorite squash in the world is the Trumpet squash. I found this at a farm stand up in Petaluma, California called Green String Farms. I’d never seen such a crazy looking squash before…it’s kind of like the neck of a Butternut squash but stretched out for a few feet and curled and spiraled into a coil. The flesh is a lot like Butternut, but a little sweeter and richer. You’re not likely to find this or some of the more unusual squashes in your grocery store, you’re gonna have to hit a farmer’s market. And when you do, make sure you ask the purveyor which variety is rockin’ their world. You won’t be steered astray.
So don’t get depressed when winter rears its head and summer goes bye-bye. Get happy, get squashy! Winter squashes want to be your friend and they’ll stick around for months in your pantry. Get creative and get cooking!