This time of year it is not unusual to find many varieties
of squash piled high in produce departments around the country. It is
traditionally harvested in the fall is often a many component of seasonal
celebrations and everyday meals. At first glance squash can be intimidating
because there are so many types and it is not necessarily obvious how each one
should be cooked.
Today I am going to break five main kinds down for you. It
is like a 101 course on basic types and preparation. If you have a particular
way you like to cook squash please share it so we can swap ideas!
Acorn Squash: This distinctive squash is dark green with a
bright orange streak near the top. Inside it is bright orange and full of seeds
that make a tasty snack when roasted on their own. This squash tastes great
with a little added sweetness which is why it is often roasted with butter and
brown sugar or maple syrup. It also plays well with savory flavors such as
Parmesan and dried herbs.
Spaghetti Squash: This oblong yellow squash is so pretty to
look at it is hard to believe it can actually resemble spaghetti. While it doesn’t
taste like pasta, when you cook it the squash will shred into long delicate
strands, which can be tossed with marinara, curry, or even added to broth to
make a soup.
See below for a basic spaghetti squash cooking technique.
Delicata Squash: This long narrow squash is perfect for
roasting in rings, sautéing, or steamed. It is more tender and less sweet than
most squash varieties and makes an excellent side dish. It also can be halved
and stuffed with meat and vegetables for a whole meal.
Butternut Squash: The distinct shape of this squash is hard
to miss. It is impossible to confuse with any other one in store! Perhaps one
of the most popular squashes, it has a mildly sweet flavor and is frequently
used in soups, lasagnas, and salads. When roasted it softens quickly and can be
stirred into breads and muffins. It also is a particular favorite among parents
for “hiding” in casseroles such as macaroni and cheese and enchiladas.
Kabocha Squash: The defining look of this squash is it looks
like a small green pumpkin and is sometimes referred to as a Japanese pumpkin.
The inside is intensely orange and it tastes like a sweet potato with
undertones of rich chestnut. The easiest way to prepare it is by roasting it until
tender. In Japanese cooking it is commonly used in tempura and is sometimes
pureed into soups.
Cut the squash in half from top to bottom. Remove the
seeds and strings, but don’t dig too much into the flesh. (The seeds can be
saved and roasted for a snack later!)
Place the squash cut side down in a baking dish. Add
enough water so that it comes 1/8-inch up the side of the squash. Bake the
squash for 35 to 40 minutes. To test if it is done, carefully turn the squash
over (wear an oven mitt!) and spear the flesh with a fork. It should go straight
through to the skin of the squash without much effort.
Place the squash cut side up on a plate and allow it to
cool until comfortable to touch. Then, use a fork to shred the flesh. It should
come up in little pasta-like strands. Use your fork to keep them fluffy.
Serve the squash with melted butter, marinara, ragu, and
whatever flavor sauce you might be in the mood for. Enjoy!