Winter squash, that is. While both summer and winter squashes are members of genus Cucurbita, they differ in that summer squashes are harvested when they are tender, innocent babies, whilst winter squash are eaten as hardened adults. This lends the winter squash considerably more sweetness and flavor, but also makes cutting it up a challenge, and greatly increases cooking time. Thus, family members though they may be, I will discuss what the heck to do with a summer squash another time.
Technically, one can eat all of the above-ground parts of the squash (I’m guessing you could eat the roots as well, but there’s not much to them). Stems and leaves can be munched like any other green, and even the flowers are tasty, most famously when battered and stuffed with cheese. The fruit, however, is the bit we’re interested in today. Yes, I said fruit – the bit with the seeds in is always the fruit! Squash fruit is specifically a type of false berry known as a pepo, a fact that I personally find fascinating. The falsehood apparently has to do with the fact that most of the flesh is not the ovary – it’s extra meat to help protect the seeds.
I personally find that plant-meat incredibly delicious. Winter squash is a bit of work, but the reward is some of the sweetest, butteriest vegetable that a person can eat, even without adding any sugar or actual butter. While I do enjoy it boiled and mashed, in the Menace household we usually eat it roasted – simply chop it to bits, drizzle it in olive oil, salt, and pepper, and throw it in the oven at 375 or so until it turns brown and caramelized. You can peel it first if you like, but that’s an awful lot of work. If you’re making acorn squash (or any smaller, cup-shaped squash) you can add a little brown sugar and butter for an extra-tasty treat.
To really take it to the next level, however, invest in a little more work and make a stuffing for that baby. I made a recipe that I found on Chow last week and it was divine. Look at how beautiful it was:
What’s great about this recipe is that it becomes the entire meal. There’s starch and protein from the rice, a bit more protein from the nuts (confession: I used walnuts rather than pecans because that’s what I had in the house. It was very tasty, though perhaps a bit less decadent) and of course, plenty of vegetables. Sweet, salty, and savory tastes all getting together in harmony – it’s a beautiful thing, and the presentation is great.
Does anyone else have a favorite squash recipe? While I enjoy squash soup, particularly the Red Kuri Squash Soup at Myers + Chang, I’ve never made it. If you’ve got a great recipe, put it in the comments!