Think of winter squash as the MVP of the vegetable world: It’s inexpensive, nutrient-packed, easy to keep and store, and pretty enough to double as a party-table centerpiece. Each variety has its own special qualities, yet they’re interchangeable in most recipes.
These lovely vegetables get their autumnal hues from immunityboosting beta-carotene, which the human body converts to vitamin A. One serving of baked winter squash contains a whopping 146 percent of the recommended daily allowance. It’s also a great source of vitamin C and potassium.
To crack the secrets (and the thick shell) of winter squash, all you need is a sharp knife and some elbow grease. Cut squash in half, then slice into smaller pieces for easy peeling and cubing. Or just roast the halves to obtain a purée that can be scooped out with a spoon. The purée makes a creamy base for soups, sauces, and baked goods—use it to replace canned pumpkin in a holiday pie and you’ll immediately taste the difference. Both the purée and peeled raw cubes freeze well too, meaning you can enjoy winter squash year-round.
HERBED WINTER VEGETABLE ROAST Serves 6 - Vegan
Thin-skinned delicata and butternut squash can be roasted without peeling. Serve this satisfying vegetable roast with brown rice, steamed bulgur, or polenta. Sprinkle leftovers with grated cheese, and broil until bubbly for a delicious next-day dinner.
2 Tbs. olive oil, plus more for greasing pan
1 Tbs. chopped fresh rosemary
1 Tbs. chopped fresh basil
1 Tbs. chopped fresh thyme
2 cloves garlic, minced (2 tsp.)
2 delicata or 1 large butternut squash, cut crosswise into 1/2-inch-thick rounds (2 1/2 lb.)
1 acorn squash, peeled and cut into 1-inch chunks (1 lb.)
2 medium carrots, cut on the diagonal into 1/2-inch thick slices (1 cup)
2 medium parsnips, cut on the diagonal into 1/2-inch thick slices (1 cup)
1 medium onion, cut into 1-inch-thick wedges
Preheat oven to 400°F. Lightly oil rimmed baking sheet or roasting pan.
Whisk together olive oil, rosemary, basil, thyme, and garlic in large bowl. Season with salt and pepper. Add delicata or butternut squash, acorn squash, carrots, parsnips, and onion; toss to coat. Spread in single layer on prepared baking sheet. Roast 45 minutes, or until vegetables are tender and beginning to brown, stirring every 15 minutes.
BUTTERNUT SQUASH RISOTTO WITH PESTO Serves 6 - 30 minutes or fewer - Vegan
Here’s a convenience food to add to your shopping list: cubed butternut squash, which is now sold fresh or frozen at supermarkets and natural grocers. The precut cubes and prepared pesto make this recipe ideal for busy weeknights or impromptu dinner parties. Recipe by Victoria A. Riccardi.
3 cups low-sodium vegetable broth
1/4 cup prepared pesto, divided
1 cup chopped fresh or frozen onion
1 1/2 cups Arborio rice
3 cups fresh or frozen cubed butternut squash (1 small squash)
Bring broth and 2 cups water to a boil in large saucepan; turn off heat.
Heat 1 Tbs. pesto in saucepan over medium heat. Add onion, and sauté 5 minutes. Stir in rice, followed by 1/2 cup hot broth. When rice has absorbed broth, add another 1/2 cup. Continue adding broth in this manner 5 minutes.
Stir in squash, and season with salt and pepper. Resume adding broth, 1/2 cup at a time until rice has absorbed all liquid. (This should take about 15 minutes.) Remove from heat, and stir in 1 Tbs. pesto. Spoon risotto into 6 bowls and top each with 1 tsp. pesto.
This classic macrobiotic dish makes an especially comforting meal as the weather gets colder. Red azuki beans are slightly sweet and are often used in Japanese desserts. They can be found in natural food stores or Asian markets.
1 cup azuki beans, rinsed and picked through
1 4-inch strip kombu sea vegetable
1 lb. butternut or other winter squash, cubed (2 cups)
1/2 tsp. salt
1 Tbs. low-sodium tamari or soy sauce
3 green onions, cut thin on diagonal
Place azuki beans in large nonmetal bowl, and cover with water. Let soak 8 hours, or overnight. Drain.
Place kombu in 1 inch of water in large saucepan. Soak 10 minutes, or until soft. Add azuki beans and enough water to cover. Put lid on pan, and bring beans to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer, covered, 25 minutes. Add squash and salt. Simmer, covered, 25 minutes more, or until squash is soft. Stir in tamari, and sprinkle with green onions.
Butternut squash purée adds flavor while replacing some of the eggs and fat in this quick bread recipe. Spelt flour imparts a fine-grained texture, but all purpose flour will work just as well.
1 medium butternut squash, halved
and seeded (1 1/2 lb.)
1 Tbs. maple syrup
1 1/2 cups spelt flour
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup plus 2 Tbs. chopped walnuts, divided
1 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp. ground allspice
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 cup canola oil
1/3 cup plain (unsweetened) soymilk
1 Tbs. vanilla extract
Preheat oven to 350°F. Coat baking sheet with cooking spray. Place squash halves cut-side down on baking sheet. Bake 40 to 45 minutes, or until soft. Cool. Scoop fl esh from skin, mash with maple syrup, and set aside.
Coat 8- x 41/2-inch loaf pan with cooking spray. Combine spelt flour, sugar, walnuts, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, allspice, and salt in large bowl. Lightly beat eggs in separate bowl. Whisk in oil, soymilk, and vanilla until smooth. Fold squash into liquid ingredients with spatula. Stir squash liquid mixture into flour mixture.
Pour batter into prepared pan, and sprinkle with remaining 2 Tbs. walnuts. Bake 60 minutes, or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool 20 minutes on wire rack, then unmold and cool completely.
It took us several tries to get this soup just right, but when we hit on the idea of using a sweet potato to keep it from tasting watery, the results were creamy and luscious. Tear-shaped kuri squash have a rich, reddish-orange color and nutty flavor—perfect for spicy dishes.
1 medium kuri squash (3 lb.), seeded
1 large onion, peeled and quartered
2 cloves garlic, halved
2 Tbs. canola or olive oil, divided
1 large sweet potato, pricked with fork (1 lb.)
1 Tbs. minced fresh ginger
2 tsp. curry powder
1/2 cup fresh orange juice
1/4 tsp. ground nutmeg
1 Tbs. chopped chives, for garnish
Heat oven to 350°F. In center of each squash quarter, set 1 onion quarter and 1 garlic half; drizzle with 1 tsp. oil, and season with salt and pepper. Wrap in foil, and place on baking sheet along with potato. Bake 1 hour, or until squash and potato are soft. Cool 20 minutes, or until easy to handle.
Heat remaining oil in large stockpot over medium heat. Coarsely chop onion quarters, and add to oil with garlic halves. Sauté 4 to 5 minutes, or until onion is soft. Add ginger and curry, and cook 30 seconds, or until fragrant.
Scoop squash and sweet potato flesh into pot, cover with 6 cups water, and season with salt and pepper. Cover, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to mediumlow and simmer 30 minutes. Remove from heat, and purée squash mixture in blender or food processor until smooth. Stir in orange juice and nutmeg. Season with salt and pepper, and garnish with pinch of chopped chives.
VT executive chef Ann Gentry’s love of squash goes back to her Southern childhood, when she first experienced the flavors of yellow squash fried with onions. Today, she has found more healthful—but equally delicious—ways to cook all kinds of squash.