Winter Squashes are a great source of complex carbohydrates, dietary fiber, and they’re loaded with vitamins and minerals! They’re a great source of Vitamin A and C, several of the B vitamins, iron, beta carotene, and Omega 3 fatty acids – who knew?
That being said, I’ve never been a squash fan until recently. So what’s changed you might ask? I’ve finally learned how to prepare squash according to it’s variety and what characteristics I can expect out of it. That’s all it took to turn me into a squash fan. Sad to say, I’ve been intimidated by squash most of my life – for starters, you have to crack into one of those things and that can be intense. And then, how on earth do you cook it? Solving the answers to these questions has gotten squash on the table multiple times a week now!
First up, delicata squash – it’s a relatively small squash so that’s a good place to start. As a bonus the skin is edible so it doesn’t have to be peeled – yay! I just slice this one into rounds (peel and all) and roast it on parchment in the oven drizzled with olive oil and sea salt at 425°F. It makes a great addition to your salads and I’ll be featuring a recipe soon using delicata instead of tomatoes for a Winter Caprese Salad.
Even though acorn squash is one of my least favorites (because it’s not quite as smooth as butternut; sorry I’m definitely a butternut fan) I’ve found that I like to have acorn around to add to my recipes. My preferred method is to cut it in half, scrape out the seeds, and roast the halves face down on parchment at 400°F for about 30 minutes. I usually do several squashes at once and store them in the refrigerator. That way, I can stuff them and have dinner ready in 30 minutes, or I can scrape out the roasted squash and add it to scrambled eggs in the morning. Adding some roasted squash to Thai Curry or a Spaghetti Sauce are a couple more super quick ways to add vegetables to your dinner.
I like to use spaghetti squash instead of pasta or noodles. Notice that I didn’t say replace, I love spaghetti squash as a way to add more servings of vegetables to dinner but it by no means replaces pasta. It’s good but different, and I don’t like to compare a vegetable to pasta or noodles because it’s like apples to oranges – just can’t be done! Anyways, I happen to love the flavor of spaghetti squash and I like to serve it alongside my Easy Meatballs with Spaghetti Squash. It’s also really good stir-fried as Pad Thai, and as a crust for quiche.
And finally, butternut – my favorite! I can’t help it, I’m totally partial to the creamy – smooth texture of this squash and it’s great flavor. I normally prepare butternut by peeling, seeding, and cutting it into cubes. I place the butternut cubes on a parchment lined baking pan, drizzle with olive oil and sea salt, and roast at 425°F until the squash cubes are tender and golden brown on one side. These little cubes of caramelized goodness are good for just about everything from salad to vegetable hash with fried eggs. It makes a great creamy sauce when puréed and I love throwing in some roasted butternut into a lasagna paired with a sage cream sauce – yum! My absolute favorite is a cream sauce that I developed last winter with rosemary, parmesan, and roasted butternut squash (recipe coming this winter).
Perhaps most importantly, is how to get into a squash as they seem to resist this quite well. First, start with a big chef’s knife and second, make sure that it’s sharp because that significantly reduces the amount of work that you have to do. I start by getting the knife started into the squash. Once the knife gets to the place where it usually gets stuck, I raise the knife (still attached to the squash) and bring it down hard on the cutting board a couple of times until it splits in half. To be on the safe side, make sure your other hand is no where near the cutting board, in fact I keep mine tucked behind my back. With this method, I can split a squash in just a few seconds instead of trying to hack into it for 10 or 15 minutes.
What’s your favorite squash and how do you prepare it?