Winter Squash: A baker’s dozen — and counting!

Remember when we had two, or maybe three, varieties of winter squash to choose from: Butternut, Acorn and Hubbard?  Now, the produce aisles abound  with new squash varieties, each with is own unique shape, color and multi-uses.

A quick internet search reveals at least 13 varieties that can be used, often interchangeably, in all parts of the meal. Winter squash are also healthy, packed with complex carbohydrates; dietary fiber; manganese; folate; vitamins A, B6 and C; and loads of antioxidants. They are also a great low-calorie option if you’re on a diet. Squash store well in cool places, pair well with meat and vegetarian ingredients, and add color, texture and flavor. Another benefit: you can substitute any sweet, orange-fleshed variety of winter squash for another.

Here are a baker’s dozen, from A to T, that you might see when you start looking: Acorn, Banana, Buttercup, Butternut, Carnival, Delicata, Hubbard, Kabocha, Red Kuri, Spaghetti, Sugar Pumpkin, Sweet Dumpling, and Turban.

If you do an internet search by variety you will find many suggestions for how to use all of them. Or just search by which part of a meal you want your squash to star in.

I’m offering two recipes – a soup and a main dish – that you could even serve in one meal if you wanted a truly squash themed evening.  

As always, pay attention to what you find appealing. You can easily substitute ingredients to match preferences: vegetable broth, orange juice and coconut milk if you are vegetarian. More or less curry powder, or highlight the separate elements of curry powder that you like: cumin, ginger and cinnamon, for example.

Curried Butternut Squash Soup (Adapted from All Recipes)

2 T. butter or oil
1 cup onion finely chopped
4 cloves minced garlic
4 cups Chicken broth or other liquid – vegetable broth, orange juice, coconut milk
2 lbs. Butternut Squash — peeled and cut into 1 inch pieces (Many stores carry already cup up squash, which will save time and struggle!)
2 tsp Curry Powder
1 tsp Salt
1 tsp Ground Cumin
¼ tsp Cayenne Pepper
½ cup Half and Half or coconut milk
2 T Honey
¼ cup sour cream or yogurt for topping

Melt butter in pot over medium heat. Cook and stir onions and garlic in butter until softened and brown – 15 min.
Add squash, broth and the rest of the herbs to the onion mixture and cook until squash is tender, about 15 min. Remove from heat and stir half and half and honey into mixture.
Pour squash into blender in batches and puree. Or use immersion blender to puree until smooth.
Ladle into bowls and top with spoonful of sour cream or yogurt.

Stuffed Delicata Squash

Delicata squash are so versatile and easy to use. Their skins are edible which means you don’t have to bother peeling them. You can stuff them with just about any kind of meat or fruit or grain stuffing. I suggest pre-cooking them — cut side down — either in the microwave or oven, to reduce the overall baking time. 

General recipe
Stuff pre-cooked squash loosely, put in baking pan with wine, orange juice or apple cider in bottom, cover with foil and bake until filling is bubbly, uncover and continue baking or put under broiler until filling is brown.

4 tablespoons of sweet chutney
Diced apple, handful of raisins, 2 T maple syrup, 1 tsp pumpkin spice, 1/2 cup Spiced pumpkin seeds, cinnamon, ground ginger or cut up candied ginger.
Chopped mixed dried fruit – prunes, apricots, cherries, etc.; pecans or walnuts, brown sugar and butter

1 cup cooked sausage sautéed with garlic and onions, 2 T Italian seasoning, top with grated cheese — parmesan, feta, cheddar
1 cup cooked faro, cooked couscous, cooked rice or cooked barley. Sautéed onions and garlic, sautéed diced red or orange pepper, zucchini, broccoli. Herbs of your choice: basil, rosemary, tarragon.

And for something fun for dessert, Google custard filled pumpkin recipes. The Thai versions are especially appealing.