I love winter squashes. They’re delicious, versatile, and packed with nutrients. Some varieties you can find in markets pretty much all year round — acorn and butternut, sometimes chunks of banana squash or Hubbard, with specialty or health food markets carrying kabocha and a few others, too. Others are seasonal. Pumpkins are easiest to find in the fall, and I think it’s a tragedy that so many end up rotting when their decorative days are over. Delicata doesn’t store well, so grab it while you can. Then there are the heirloom varieties, oh my. We’ve hardly begun our exploration of them.
Favorites so far: buttercup, carnival, blue Hubbard, Tennessee sweet potato squash (with a delicate but distinct sweet potato flavor); pumpkins like Cinderella or Musquee de Provence, small sugar pumpkins. Not so fond of tromboncini, but that could be that it’s better as a tender summer squash.
This year, our garden produced about 200 lbs of winter squash. A large fraction of that was the Tennessee sweet potato squash, as the plants are as prolific as they are robust. Then we saw a stand of pumpkins that looked like Musqee de Provence and a similar, smaller white variety, at a local market. They were marked down to $1 each, although many of them weighed 15 lbs or more. I suspect they had been displayed for Halloween and never sold. We bought almost all of them and have been working our way through the enormous pile. The pumpkins had been roughly handled and set on concrete, so we had to scramble to use the damaged ones first. If the skins are intact and you wipe them down with dilute bleach to kill mold spores, they’ll happily keep all winter.
There’s only so much squash soup that you can eat, so I’ve been looking for other ways to use it. Our smaller squashes — buttercup, butternut, etc. — are delicious as a vegetable, baked and scooped out of the shell at the table. It turns out that diced winter squash goes beautifully in a variety of recipes, everything from lasagna and enchiladas to vegetable soup. Even oatmeal! Here are some additional discoveries:
Rice Cooker Polenta With Squash (4 servings)
1 c. polenta (coarse-ground corn meal)
3 c. water
1-2 c. diced (1/2″ cubes) winter squash
1-2 tsp sugar if desired, depending on sweetness of squash
pinch of salt
Put everything in the rice cooker, stir and set on Normal. After about half an hour, stir again. For additional creaminess, let it sit on the Keep Warm setting for a couple of hours.
Pasta With Sausage and Squash (4 servings )
6 oz uncooked spirals or other pasta (we use Tinkyada Brown Rice Spirals since my husband doesn’t tolerate wheat)
a little olive oil (1 -2 Tbsp)
2-4 sliced, cooked sausages of your choice (we like Aidell’s smoked chicken varieties)
2 c thinly sliced winter squash (about 1/4″ thick, 1 to 1 1/2″ square or rectangle)
1 sliced red bell pepper
1 sliced onion (optional)
1/2 c. sliced celery (optional)
Cook the pasta according to directions. While it’s cooking, warm the oil in a deep saucepan that has a lid. Saute the vegetables for a few minutes, then add some water or white wine, starting with 1/4 c, cover and let steam on low/medium heat. A few minutes before the pasta is done, dump in the sausages, stir, and cover. You should have enough liquid to make a sauce. Add the cooked pasta, toss, taste and add salt and/or pepper to taste. You can top it with grated Romano or Parmesan cheese.