‘Round the Table: Squash Your Way into Autumn

You may have noticed that pumpkin spice latte has arrived, never mind that our thermometer still screams summer. This hot, spicy coffee beverage has become such a fall staple that its appearance on the Starbucks menu heralds AUTUMN.

What started as a sickly sweet coffee treat (known as PSL by those who love it best) has created a social phenomenon that boggles the mind.  Visionary physician and former director of Google’s philanthropic arm has said,
  “The point of life is to transcend the smallness of the finite self by identifying with things that last.”

I feel sure he was referring to Pumpkin Spice Lattes, blanket scarves and the IPhone X. [i]

Delicata, acorn, spaghetti, butternut, and pumpkin are all varieties of Winter Squash.

While pumpkin and pumpkin spice may get all the glory at this time of year, there are many other versatile, and nutrient-packed varieties of winter squash to enjoy.  Don’t be daunted; grab one of these vividly colored hard-shelled beauties and your bravery will be rewarded with loads of A, B6 and C vitamins, not to mention the soft, delicate and sweet flesh of the squash’s interior.

Winter Squash grows in so many different sizes, shapes and colors. If you’ve never worked with winter squash before, these big, thick-skinned guys can be intimidating. Don’t worry, just remember, at the end of the day they all roast the same.

How to Roast Any Winter Squash

  1. Create a flat surface by slicing off a thin layer of the bottom or sides to create a stable surface.
  2. Use a sturdy vegetable peeler or your chef’s knife to peel the skin while the squash sits firmly on its newly flattened bottom. Not every recipe requires peeled squash.
  3. Cut it in half, generally longwise and use a spoon to remove the seeds and stringy innards. Sprinkle with salt and pepper, if desired.
  4. Preheat the oven to 400°F. Coat the bottom of a Pyrex or ceramic baking dish with vegetable or olive oil and arrange the squash, cut side down in the prepared dish. Use whatever oil you like; coconut oil is one of my favorites.
  5. Cook the squash for 25-45 minutes depending on the size of the squash. The squash is cooked through when you can lightly indent the skin with the back of a spoon.
  6. Remove from the oven; cool for 5-10 minutes and then use a fork to fluff the flesh and a spoon to scoop it out.

Forest green and deeply ribbed, acorn squash has a tender, but firm texture that holds up well when stuffed. Choose a squash is uniformly green; too much orange indicates the squash is over-ripe.

Once roasted, Acorn Squash makes the perfect vessel for this hearty wild rice and mushroom mixture.

Wild Rice and Mushroom Stuffed Acorn Squash

Yield: 4 main dish servings

  • 2 acorn squash, prepared according to the directions above; do not scoop the flesh
  • 1 Tablespoon of olive oil
  • ½ cup yellow onion, chopped fine
  • ¼ cup celery, chopped fine
  • ½ pound chopped mushrooms
  • 1 small sprig rosemary, stem removed and chopped fine
  • ½ Tablespoon chopped fresh sage
  • 1 cup of kale, stems removed, chopped fine
  • 1 ½ cup of prepared wild rice blend (I like Uncle Ben’s)
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste

Preheat the oven to 350°F.  Leave the squash halves in the cooking dish, but flip them over.

Heat a large skillet over medium high heat; add the olive oil and sauté the onion and celery for 5 to 10 minutes or until the onions are just beginning to brown.  Add the rosemary and sage; continue cooking for 1 more minute or until the herbs become fragrant.

Add the kale and sauté until wilted and softened. Stir in the cooked rice mix, taste and adjust seasoning.  Divide the filling evenly among the hot squash halves. Return the squash to the oven to 10-15 minutes.

Delicata is a butter yellow squash with green striping. Its flesh is sweet and yellow and some think it tastes like a cross between fresh corn and a pumpkin pie.

Almost any winter squash can be made into pie, but Delicata’s rich, slightly sweet taste makes a particularly good pie.

Delicata Squash Pie

Yield: one 9” pie

  • 3 medium (about 1 ¾ pounds) Delicata Squash
  • 1 piecrust to fit a 9” pie pan
  • 1 ½ cups evaporated milk
  • ¼ cup brown sugar
  • ½ cup granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • ½ teaspoon ground ginger
  • ¼ teaspoon ground fresh nutmeg
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 2 large eggs, beaten

Prepare the squash according to the above directions. When the squash is cooked, increase the oven temperature to 425°F.

Roll out the piecrust into a 12” to 13” circle and fit it into the pie pan. Trim the edges and place in the freezer to chill while preparing the filling.

Scoop 2 cups of the warm squash flesh into the bowl of a food process and process until smooth.  In a separate bowl, whisk together the evaporated milk, sugars, spices, salt and eggs. Add to the squash in the processor and process until the filling is smooth.

Pour the filling into the prepared pie shell; add a swirl of cream to the top for decoration.

Place the filled pie shell on a parchment paper lined baking sheet and bake for 15 minutes at 425°F.  Without opening the door, reduce the oven temperature to 350°F and continue baking the pie for 40 to 45 minutes, or until the pie is mostly set and a 1 to 2” circle in the center remains jiggly when you nudge the pan.

Remove the pie from the oven and cool completely before serving.

[i] He absolutely was NOT referring to PSLs, blanket scarves or any version of the IPhone. I made that up.

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