Guest Author - Karen Tempel
Have you included Winter Squash in your Fall menus? These colorful fruits are sure to add interest, not to mention nutrients to your client’s dinner table. The most common winter squash varieties include acorn, butternut, calabaza, delicata, hubbard, spaghetti, sweet dumpling and Turk’s Turban. While winter squash varies in nutrient content from one type to another, all are an excellent source of complex carbohydrate and fiber. It is also a good source of beta carotene, potassium, niacin, and iron. Generally, the darker the orange color, the more beta carotene in the squash.
First things first; peeling winter squash can be a nightmare and the cause of many a bloody thumb. Thin skinned varieties like acorn, butternut, delicate and sweet dumpling can be successfully peeled with a paring knife or try my favorite way – a vegetable peeler.
The thicker varieties are often best halved, seeded and cooked prior to scooping out the flesh. Try this: place the squash on a cutting board, stem facing you. Position the blade of your chef’s knife along the length of the squash. With the palm of your other hand or a mallet, hit the back of the blade near the handle until the squash breaks in half. Watch out for fingers – be extra certain that they are well out of the way of the blade when it makes its way through the squash.
Roasting is my favorite way of cooking winter squash, no matter what the end result will be, it intensifies the flavor, makes the squash easier to peel and generally just makes the squash easier to handle. Place unpeeled pieces of squash cut side down on a shallow baking dish. Bake at 350 for 30 minutes or until easily pierced with a fork. Allow squash to cool until it is easy to handle. Scoop out flesh and proceed with recipe.
Peeled squash can also be cubed and boiled. Or halved squash can be placed cut side down in a microwave-safe dish with a little water and cooked on high for 15 minutes or until tender.
Squash freezes well after cooking. Squash is commonly flavored with nutmeg, ginger, cinnamon, honey, brown sugar, or orange juice concentrate. For a savory dish consider garlic, basil or Parmesan cheese.
Many people cannot tell whether pumpkin or squash was used to bake the pie and many prefer squash saying that it is less fibrous than pumpkin.
Try these favorite recipes to get you started:
Pumpkin Puree (Squash Puree)
1 pumpkin (approx. 6 pound) (or equivalent weight winter squash)
2 tablespoons butter
4 tablespoons sugar
Preheat oven to 350. Cut pumpkin in half and discard seeds. Place 1 tablespoon butter and 2 tablespoons of sugar in each half. Place pumpkin in a shallow baking dish and add a small amount of water. Cover with foil and bake for about 1 hour or until the pumpkin is tender. Remove from the oven and cool until pumpkin can be handled. Scoop out the pulp, and puree in a blender or food processor. Transfer puree to a large colander lined with coffee filters. Place the colander over a large bowl; cover with plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator overnight.
Yield: about 8 cups puree
Spicy Enchiladas with Pumpkin Sauce
2 cups chicken, cooked
6 scallions, thinly sliced
2 teaspoons salt
¼ teaspoon pepper
2 cups pumpkin puree
4 garlic cloves, peeled
1 jalapeno chili, quartered (remove ribs and seeds for less heat, if desired)
1 teaspoon chili powder
8 (6-inch) corn tortillas
1 ½ cups grated sharp white cheddar cheese (6 ounces)
Preheat oven to 425°. Combine chicken and scallions in a medium bowl, seasoning with salt and pepper.
In a blender, combine pumpkin, garlic, jalapeño, chili powder, 2 1/2 cups water, 2 teaspoons salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Pulse until smooth. In an 8-inch square baking dish, spoon 1 cup sauce over bottom.
Place chicken mixture on tortillas, dividing evenly. Roll and place in baking dish seam side down.
Pour remaining sauce over top, then sprinkle with cheese. Bake 25 minutes or until cheese is golden. Allow to cool 5 minutes before serving.
Pumpkin Soup with Chili Cran-Apple Relish
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons butter
1 fresh bay leaf
2 ribs celery with greens, finely chopped
1 medium yellow onion, finely chopped
Salt and pepper
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons poultry seasoning or 2 teaspoons ground thyme
2 teaspoons hot sauce, or to taste
6 cups chicken stock
4 cups pumpkin puree
2 cups heavy cream
1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1 crisp apple, such as McIntosh or Granny Smith, finely chopped
1/4 red onion, finely chopped
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1/2 cup dried sweetened cranberries, chopped
2 teaspoons honey
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
Melt butter and oil in a pot over medium high heat. Add bay leaf, celery, and onion. Saute 5 minutes or until vegetables are crisp tender. Add flour, poultry seasoning and hot sauce. Continue cooking for 1 minute. Whisk in chicken stock and bring to a boil. Whisk in pumpkin puree. Simmer 10 minutes then add cream and nutmeg. Reduce heat to low and continue heating until warmed through.
Meanwhile combine apple, onion, lemon juice, cranberries, chili powder, honey and cinnamon for relish.
Serve soup with a generous spoonful of relish on top.