GOD-DESS

Simple! Sensible! Sensational!®

November 2003
© 2003 by Bret S. Beall

Squash are fabulous. They are earthy and delicious on their own, but when cooked using the Simple! Sensible! Sensational!® precepts, they reach new dimensions. Furthermore, they are affordable (as I write this, winter squash are 39 cents/lb at my local market), easy to store (put in a cool closet, on a counter, or use as a centerpiece until you are ready to cook them, up to a month or so), easy to use (just read the recipes below, but you MUST have a strong, sharp knife) and nutritious (soluble and insoluble fiber; beta-carotene and other antioxidant carotenoids; loads of potassium; iron; calcium; vitamin A; vitamin C; vitamin B complex) and convenient (once cooked, the flesh can be used in the many applications described below, or refrigerated up to a week, or frozen for … well, don’t tell anyone, but I’ve frozen squash for a year). They’re also a beautiful, colorful addition to any plate! (As an aside, you can substitute sweet potatoes for the squash in most of these applications, though they don’t make very good boats. They do make wonderful sauces and side dishes and soups, or just bake them like regular potatoes, and serve with butter, a little salt, and maybe some balsamico. Check October’s Simple! Sensible! Sensational! recipes for roasting details and other applications: http://www.god-dess.com/services_recipesOctober03.html ).

EASY ROASTED WINTER SQUASH

There are two main ways to roast winter squash: halved or cubed (some people roast/bake them whole, but I don’t see the need). I grew up with the first technique, which we called “Baked Squash Boats,” where my mother would take acorn squash that we had raised in our garden, cut them in half longitudinally, scoop out the seeds (reserve for toasting, if you wish, as they have omega-3 oil), put them on a baking sheet and fill them with butter and brown sugar, with a touch of salt and pepper. That is the first recipe I present here, with some of my own tweaking. Alternatively, winter squash can be peeled, cubed and treated just like any other roasted vegetable. Use either method that you like, because squash are packed with nutrients (and flavor!).

BAKED SQUASH BOATS

If serving these squash as a side dish, I like to calculate ½ squash per person, but as long as you are making a couple, why not make a big batch and freeze the cooked squash for another application? Additionally, other winter squash (including pumpkins) respond well to this technique. 1 small to medium acorn squash, up to about 2 lbs, halved from stem end to tip, seeds removed from center cavity (butternut, hubbard or other fleshy winter squash may be substituted, but they tend to be larger, so increase the other ingredients proportionate).

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Place cleaned squash cut-side up on a baking sheet. On each half, spread 1 T of the butter/oil, 1 T of the citrus juice or vinegar, allowing the extra to pool in the central cavity. Sprinkle the flesh of each half evenly with half of the zest (if using), up to 1 t salt, 5 to 10 grinds of pepper, ½ t sage (if using) and ½ t sugar (if using honey or molasses or syrup, just drizzle over the flesh and allow any extra to pool in the central cavity). Bake for about 1 hour, using a spoon to baste the flesh with the cavity juices every 15 minutes; to test for done-ness, insert a fork into the flesh in several sites; if the fork enters easily, the squash is done (but do not pierce the exterior skin, or you’ll lose some of those terrific juices!). Serve immediately as a side dish (serves two) or as a first course, or scoop out flesh for an “easier to eat” side dish (the flesh may be fibrous, so you may want to chop the scooped out flesh across the grain).

Applications:

Stuffed Squash Boats: After baking the squash as described above for about 30 minutes, you may remove the pan/baking sheet from the oven and stuff each half with about ½ c of your favorite stuffing. Some of my preferences are just a mixture of chopped dried fruits (craisins [dried cranberry], raisins, prunes, or anything else), maybe some fresh fruits (like cranberries, apples or pears), and some chopped nuts (toasted pecans, cashews and/or walnuts are fabulous). Or, add ½ c of sautéed greens (beets, collards, mustard, etc.) for some fabulous sensory sensations. Cooked seafood and sourdough bread cubes make a great stuffing, as well. After filling the cavity with the stuffing of choice, return to the oven for another 30 minutes, until the squash is tender throughout, and the stuffing is browned on top. Serve immediately.

Baked Squash Sauce: Substitute 1.5 to 2 c of cooked squash flesh for the pumpkin in Multipurpose Savory Pumpkin Sauce (see below); proceed with the applications for that recipe.

With Pan-Seared Meat, Fish or Poultry: The beautiful flesh of squash serves as an exceptional backdrop for slices of pan-seared or roasted meat, fish or poultry. Prepare the meat, fish or poultry, and then place atop the scooped out flesh of roasted squash that has been placed on a plate. Slices of duck breast, or pan-roasted fish, or even pork chops or pork roast would be excellent (so is lobster, if you are really feeling flush).

Roasted Squash Risotto: If you know how to make risotto, add 1 c of roasted squash per cup of rice immediately after the first broth has been added (use any kind of broth; I particularly enjoy duck stock for this risotto, but lamb and chicken and vegetable stocks are also great). Cook as you would any risotto (hint: at the end, add up to 2 T of your favorite vinegar or citrus juice), and serve as is, or as a bed for any of the Pan-Seared Meats, Fish or Poultry mentioned above. I will offer a simple risotto recipe in the coming months for those who have yet to conquer this delight.

ROASTED WINTER SQUASH CUBES

Almost any winter squash (including pumpkins), can be used to make roasted winter squash cubes, except acorn. It isn’t that acorn squash flesh doesn’t taste delicious prepared this way. The problem is peeling those ridges. I don’t know about you, but with so many squash choices, I don’t feel any need to spend my time wrestling with those ridges when I can make wonderful baked boats out of acorns and cubes out of these other winter squashes.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Combine all ingredients in a large bowl. Toss or stir to coat vegetables with oil and seasonings. Transfer vegetables to a large cooking sheet so that they form a single layer. Cook in center of oven for 45 minutes, stirring and turning every 15 to 20 minutes (NOTE: if substituting sweet potatoes for the squash, you may need less than 45 minutes, as the sweet potato cubes caramelize very quickly).

Versions: Prior to roasting, add any or all of the following to the vegetables.

Applications:

Roasted Winter Squash Cubes as a side dish: Unlike with the boats, you won’t be forced to provide each diner with a pre-set amount; each individual can spoon as much of the Roasted Squash Cubes onto his/her plate as desired, and then eat them easily with a fork, alongside your meat, fish, or vegetable dish of choice (squash and pork are classic, as are almost every form of poultry and squash; with vegetables, I like to pair squash with greens sautéed in olive oil and garlic for both color and flavor contrasts.

Smoky Roasted Winter Squash Cubes: Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Meanwhile, in a large pan/skillet (large enough to accommodate all of the squash eventually), fry ¼ lb of bacon (3-4 slices) crispy; remove from the skillet and reserve. Reserve all of the fat from pan/skillet, returning ¼ c of the rendered fat to the pan (freeze the rest for another use after it cools). Add all of the remaining ingredients as for Roasted Winter Squash Cubes to the pan/skillet, toss to coat, then transfer to a baking sheet so that they can lie flat. Roast for about 45 minutes. Remove from oven and serve immediately with the reserved bacon crumbled on top.

Roasted Winter Squash Risotto: see the details for this risotto above as an application of Roasted Squash Boats.

MULTIPURPOSE SAVORY PUMPKIN SAUCE

Everyone knows the deliciousness of pumpkin pie. However, this healthy sauce allows you to apply the nutritional benefits to every course of your meals. Breakfast, lunch and dinner. The recipe calls for canned pumpkin, but you can adapt about 1.5 to 2 cups of roasted pumpkin or winter squash or even sweet potato to any of these applications.

Melt the butter in a medium hot skillet. Add the onions, salt and pepper and cook until the onions start to caramelize. Add the sage or cilantro and cook for one more minute; if using fresh garlic, add it at this time. Add the roasted garlic (if using) and mash into the onions with a spoon or fork. Add the pumpkin puree, balsamic vinegar and roasted red bell pepper, stirring to completely blend ingredients. Cook until hot, about 5 minutes. This is now the turning point to determine what to do with this sauce:

Sauce for Pasta/Rice/Potatoes: this sauce will serve four as a main course, with each individual receive one quarter of the sauce and one-quarter pound of pasta cooked in boiling, salted water, or one cup cooked rice, or one cup boiled or steamed potatoes (preferably with skins on). The sauce will need to be loosed with up to 1 c of the salted pasta cooking water, taken toward the end of the pasta cooking period. Drain the pasta, toss into the sauce, and stir to coat; top with the toasted nuts if using. Cheese is not needed for this recipe.

Soup: Add 1.5 c milk or cream to the base; continue stirring to incorporate, until heated through, about 10 minutes over low-medium heat. When done, ladle into bowls and sprinkle each with 1 T pepitas or other toasted nuts. The southwestern influence of this soup can be enhanced by adding 1 t dried cinnamon when the garlic is added. Alternatively, a southeast Asian version can be created by using coconut milk (1.5 c, or 1 can), using the cilantro instead of the sage, using lime juice instead of balsamic vinegar, and using peanuts instead of some other nuts; other optional additions to this version are 1 T minced fresh ginger or 1 t dried ginger (all added when the garlic is added). An Indian version can include the coconut milk, cilantro, ginger, cinnamon, and even some other seasonings like 1 t cumin. (NOTE: while the soup will be creamy if using canned pumpkin puree, it will be somewhat chunky if you use home-roasted squash, pumpkin or even sweet potatoes, and I think that’s fine. I don’t see the need to dirty additional dishes or utensils to make a smooth soup).

Bruschetta topping: no loosening is need for this application. Toast baguette or similar bread slices in a toaster oven, on a grill, under a broiler, or in a dry skillet; top with the warm mixture and serve immediately, topped with a sprinkle of toasted nuts if desired.

Quiche filling: no loosening is needed other than what is described here. Allow the pumpkin mixture to cool to room temperature. Meanwhile, mix ½ c milk with 3-4 eggs. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. When mixture has cooled sufficiently, stir in the nuts if using, then stir in the milk and egg mixture. This mixture is enough to fill a 9” pie crust, and this combination is particularly good with the wild rice crust I make (you may have a little extra filling; see Pumpkin custard below). To fill the crust, first cover the bottom of the crust with ¼ c grated cheese (something mild like Monterey Jack, or salty like parmesan, pecorino, anejo or cotija, or crumbly like queso fresco or feta); pour in the mixture; top with another ¼ c cheese. Bake 30 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature as a first course, or as a lunch dish accompanied by a nice simple salad.

Savory Custard: this preparation is identical as for the quiche filling, except for the receptacle. After preparing the mixture, set it aside. Oil a single large baking dish (about 9” square) or six individual 3” ramekins. Add the pumpkin mixture to the oiled dish(es), place in a flat pan large enough to hold all of them, pour water into the pan holding the dish(es) to a height of ½” (you’ve just created a bain marie, or water bath), and bake for about 30 minutes. Serve warm to hot as a side dish or as a first course.

Sweet Custard: Following the preparation for Savory Custard, but add and incorporate ¼ c to ½ c granulated or brown sugar to the pumpkin mixture before filling the baking dish or ramekins. Serve this for breakfast or dessert.

I have served these recipes to a wide variety of different people, with unequivocal pleasure resulting (even if some had a wee bit of trepidation in the beginning). I urge you to add the beauty of squash, with all of their health benefits, to your routine and repertoire. PLEASE. Don’t be intimidated by their external toughness; they’re real softies inside (like some people I know). Happy Cooking (and don’t be afraid to contact me for help … I’m a real softie inside, as well)!

 

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