Winter squashes are convenient and versatile-They're rich in fiber and antioxidants (like alpha and beta-carotene), will keep in a pantry for up to three months because of their thick rinds (for butternut squash, some sources say up to one month-once cut, store in the fridge for up to one week) and can be the core of a healthy cold-weather meal.
Did you know that edible winter squash is also decorative?
To store winter squash for later cooking, first cure (or harden) by placing them in a humid room at 80-85 (degrees) F for two weeks. Then store them in a dark, cool place (50-55 degrees) F for up to six months.
When buying, check for firmness and sturdy, intact stems. Avoid any with soft spots, molds or cuts.
Butternut squash is just one of several varieties of winter squash (there's also acorn, spaghetti, turban and delicata). The smaller the butternut, the sweeter it'll be. I just had some of a large butternut squash as a dinner side dish (the way this was prepared, it looked like light orange mashed potatoes and it had a taste like somewhat mashed potatoes, lightly sweetened). Just a ½ cup of this contains 260 percent (!) of your daily vitamin A quota.
Acorn-With a peppery, nutty flavor, these are perfect for stuffing. And they're loaded with fiber and potassium.
Spaghetti-It's called “spaghetti” because the stringy flesh resembles pasta. A bright-yellow skin means more flavor. This is also low-carb.
Turban-These squashes look exactly like little turbans. These have a hazelnut flavor (yum!) and can be cut in half and filled with soup for serving. Turbans are good sources of vitamins A and C.
Delicata-These are also called sweet potato squashes. When buying these, go for a stem of at least 2 inches for freshness. And you can eat the skin!
Butternut squash can be prepared and served as an appetizer to a side dish to main meals (like a meat-and-veggie pie or mac and cheese) to a salad and even dessert.
Did You Know That.....
Whole butternut squash can be found in a range of sizes; some stores offer read-to-cook chopped fresh squash (they also come in a variety of colors ranging from yellow to camel).
To know just how much to buy:
1 Lb Whole =2 and one-third cups chopped
1 ½ Lb Whole =3 ½ cups chopped
2 Lb Whole =4 and two-thirds cups chopped
Preparing the Squash
Start by using a large, sturdy knife to cut off the top about an inch from the stem end.
Insert the knife lengthwise into the center of the squash.
Use your other hand to press the knife all the way through the squash.
To peel, hold half the squash at an angle on a cutting board.
Using a sturdy vegetable peeler, peel down its length.
Using a large spoon, scrape the seeds from each half and discard.
Any leftover cooked squash-either mashed or cooked-can be frozen for up to 3 months.
To quickly cook squash for freezing, peel and cube the squash.
Place the chunks in a microwave-safe dish with 1 inch of water.
Cover and microwave 7 minutes or until tender.
Drain, cool and place in a freezer container.
Citrusy Mashed Squash with Toasted Pecans-A Recipe by David Bonom
3 lbs butternut squash, peeled, seeded and cut into chunks
2 Tbs butter
One-third cup sour cream or ½ cup mascarpone cheese
¼ cup maple syrup
2 tsp finely shredded orange peel
2 tsp finely shredded lemon peel
¾ tsp salt
¼ tsp ground black pepper
2 Tbs snipped fresh sage
½ cup pecan halves, toasted and coarsely chopped
Sliced green onions and/or fresh sage leaves and finely shredded orange and lemon peel
1. In a 5or 6-quart Dutch oven, cook the squash in lightly salted boiling water, covered, 16-17 minutes or until tender when pierced with a fork. Drain.
2. Meanwhile, melt the butter in a heavy skillet over medium heat, whisking constantly until golden brown, 5 to 6 minutes.
Transfer half the squash to a food processor.
Add butter, sour cream, maple syrup, orange and lemon peels, salt, and pepper.
Cover and process until smooth.
Place remaining squash in a bowl; add pureed mixture.
Stir in fresh sage.
3. Top with pecans, green onions and/or sage leaves and citrus peel.
Makes 8 to 10 servings
Work time: 15 min.
Cook time: 21 min.
Sources: “Live Better Now: Winter Squash 101”-Spry magazine, Oct. 2013, “garden know-how-Family reunion”-Better Homes and Gardens, Oct. 2012 and “Harvest Gold” by Erin Simpson Lozier-Better Homes and Gardens, Oct. 2012