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Winter Squash


qwertyy
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I searched this branch and was surprised to not be able to find a thread dedicated to winter squash--spaghetti, acorn, butternut, kabocha... This is truly one of my favorite vegetables.

I wouldn't have thought I'd have needed any recipes, sure as I was that they didn't have them in the Sahara--it's 95 degrees during the day in winter, after all--so I disregarded every winter squash recipe I've seen recently.

But I found one! I have no idea what it is--it was sold at the market in pre-sliced wedges, each about two feet long and four inches at the widest point (the whole thing must be HUGE). The flesh is deep orange, and the skin looks sort of like a butternut, but more orange-y. I figure I'll get about the same amount of usable product as from a medium-to-large butternut.

So what do I do with it?

I was kind of thinking of a curry to serve over rice, but I'm open to anything. I don't, however, have a blender, food processor, or any other pureeing device. Appreciate your help!

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But I found one! I have no idea what it is--it was sold at the market in pre-sliced wedges, each about two feet long and four inches at the widest point (the whole thing must be HUGE). The flesh is deep orange, and the skin looks sort of like a butternut, but more orange-y. I figure I'll get about the same amount of usable product as from a medium-to-large butternut.

So what do I do with it?

I was kind of thinking of a curry to serve over rice, but I'm open to anything. I don't, however, have a blender, food processor, or any other pureeing device. Appreciate your help!

Hard shell squashes can vary widely, in terms of flavor, texture (think spaghetti sqaush) and moisture content. Those will need to factor in to your choice of recipe. You can't make a decent pie, for example, with a watery-fleshed Jack-o-lantern pumpkin.

You can always stew the chunks of squash in a curry-type sauce, add garbanzos, lentils or other local beans and serve over rice, cous cous, millet, fufu or whathaveyou.

If you have an oven, you can cut your large wedge into chunks and roast them. This will tend to concentrate the sugars in the flesh for best flavor. When cooked through, scoop the flesh away from the shell and see what it tastes like, and what the texture is. At this point, you can mash it with a fork or wooden spoon--I presume you have those-- and then proceed as desired. Steaming is another route to this end, if you don't have an oven. If the flesh seems watery, you can cook it on a stove top, stirring constantly to evaporate some of the water out. Even if it is not completely smooth, you can use this mashed squash to make soup with a flavorful broth, mix with potatoes and onion and fry into squash fritters or patties, mix with flour milk, egg, baking powder and oil to make pancakes, or sweeten it and add eggs, spices and some type of cream (even coconut milk if you don't have dairy) to make stirred or baked custard pie or a pudding.

Another thing I occasionally do with winter squash in the oven is to make a strata-which is basically a savory bread pudding with very thin slices of raw squash and some onion and herbs. It makes a really nice side dish, or vegetarian main dish. You do need good bread, an oven, eggs, and real milk, butter and cream to make it especially yummy. It has to be baked until the squash is completely cooked. A watery squash doesn't work for this.

Hope that helps.

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Thanks, Zora--those are helpful ideas!

If I decided on a curry, and not knowing the relative water content of my mystery squash, would you recommend roasting before stewing? I was thinking of cubing it and roasting to solidify the texture, then stewing those with some other veg in a curry sauce. Or would roasting be a wasted step?

Fritters sound excellent, and I think I'll try those once I get a better feel for this alien vegetable...

ETA: I do have a well-equipped kitchen, with new electric stove and oven, microwave, fridge, and freezer (no grill). I also brought about half of my supplies from my regular kitchen. I didn't, however, bring any appliances of my own, and the blenders here, because of taxes and sanctions and all, cost over $100--and that's for the cheap, crappy ones! I may pick one up next time I'm in Kenya, but I don't know when that will be.

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If I decided on a curry, and not knowing the relative water content of my mystery squash, would you recommend roasting before stewing? I was thinking of cubing it and roasting to solidify the texture, then stewing those with some other veg in a curry sauce. Or would roasting be a wasted step?

If you roast it first, I would add the squash to the curry just at the end--if you stew the already roasted cubed squash for a long time, it might break down into mush, and you won't have the chunks of squash that you want. If you don't like how it turns out the first way you make it, try it a different way next time. Experiment! The worst thing that can happen is that you don't like it, and how bad is that really? Just try it out for yourself before you prepare it for guests!

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If you don't like how it turns out the first way you make it, try it a different way next time. Experiment! The worst thing that can happen is that you don't like it, and how bad is that really? Just try it out for yourself before you prepare it for guests!

This is true. It did only cost a dollar... :(

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Success--two ways!

First I took a handful of the chopped mystery squash, tossed it with cardomom, cinnamon, and a bit of honey and salt and roasted in the oven till browned. Turns out no honey was needed; this is one sweet mystery squash, as I should have suspected from the melon-like scent that came out when I was slicing. I ate it, mixed with a bit of plain yogurt, for dessert.

As this was roasting, I made a curry, based loosely on recipes in Cook's Illustrated and Molly Katzen's The Vegetable Dishes I can't live without. Sautee squash, onion, and potato in oil until slightly brown. Make a well in the center and quickly sautee garlic, ginger, tomato paste, and spices. Mix all together and add a couple of cups of water. Then simmer for about a half an hour until the sauce is thick. This dish was promising; the sweet squash added a nice counterpoint to the spices, like raisins in Moroccan stews. I wish I'd had more veggies in the house to give it a bit more diversity (I'm traveling for the next week and cleaning out the fridge), but as a first try, for a quick dinner on a weeknight, this turned out quite well. Delicious over rice or sopped up with some paratha.

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Moderately interesting story in today's NYTimes on winter squash.

I read it and immediately distrusted the author, as she referred to butternut squash, the pinnacle of squashdom deliciousness, as tasting of "squunkitude." I got nine huge squashes off one Waltham vine this summer, and they are curing on a shelf, waiting for roasting.

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Butternut squash both whole and pre-packaged chopped have been excellent this year. Even with a very sharp knife they are tough to open. A friend told me a tip recently and it works very well. Microwave the whole squash for about a minute before trying to cut. It made a huge difference with hardness to the skin.

I like to cut them into quarters and roast with some butter, a tiny amount of salt and brown sugar. My wife has been roasting chopped pieces with olive-oil, salt, pepper and nutmeg.

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I read it and immediately distrusted the author, as she referred to butternut squash, the pinnacle of squashdom deliciousness, as tasting of "squunkitude." I got nine huge squashes off one Waltham vine this summer, and they are curing on a shelf, waiting for roasting.

My thought exactly, especially when she said that Hubbard is one of the most flavorful squashes. Blue Hubbards are beautiful for home decorating, but a waste of time and effort to cook with, IMO.

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