From breakfast to dinner, squash can find a place on the menu.

Currently, the supermarket produce bins contain many types of squash: kabocha, butternut, hubbard, acorn, delicata, turban and spaghetti, to name just a few. How many of you walk right past the winter squash bin saying, “I don’t know what to do with that,” or “ Way too much work ! ” You are missing a great tasting vegetable and one that is extremely good for you. They are low in calories and high in vitamin A, vitamin C, potassium, dietary fiber and manganese, folate, omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin B1, copper, vitamin B6, niacin and pantothenic acid.

The big winter squashes can be daunting if you don’t have a heavy-duty chef’s knife. The skin on a kabocha, while thick, is not particularly hard. Use a large knife to cut off big slices, which can be roasted without peeling for some recipes or peeled and cut into dice for others. If you need to dice the squash, cut off a big slice first, then cut that slice into manageable pieces. You can then cut it into thin slices, peel and dice.  

The following is a basic guideline on preparing all winter squash varieties. When choosing winter squash, look for ones that are heavy for their size and have a hard, deep-colored rind, free of blemishes. Another advantage to winter squash having such a thick skin is that they can be stored for longer than summer squash and do not require refrigeration.

How to Cook Winter Squash

(1 lb squash yields approximately 1 cup cooked)

1 or more whole winter squash

Preheat oven to 400˚F.

Wash squash under running water and dry. Using a sharp knife or fork, pierce several holes in top of the squash near stem; you don’t have to worry about pricking it all over.

Place squash in a pan, not on a cookie sheet, because as it cooks, it may collapse and its natural water will seep out. Bake in the oven for 45 minutes. Smaller winter squash will be soft and visibly done, but depending on the size, it may take up to 2 hours for an 8 lb. squash.

After removing it from the oven, allow the squash to sit and cool completely. Then cut it in half and scoop out the seeds and stringy fibrous flesh that surrounds the hollow core. Use immediately or store in the refrigerator.

Cooking Ideas

• Purée in food processor with light coconut milk, curry, and freshly minced and sautéed ginger and garlic.

• Add brown sugar, vanilla extract, and toasted walnuts.

• Add maple syrup and toasted almonds.

• Serve mashed with salt and pepper and a touch of real butter.

• Mix with prepared pesto and sprinkle with Parmesan or Pecorino Romano cheese.

You can use either butternut or kabocha squash in the recipes below, although, the two are not identical in texture or flavor. Butternut is a denser, slightly sweeter squash, and kabocha has an earthier flavor. Kabocha squash absorbs flavors and is especially well suited for salads because of the way it absorbs tart dressings.

BreakfastButternut Squash Muffins, Diabetic. Photo by brokenburner

Winter Squash and Molasses Muffins

Ingredients:

  • 2 pounds winter squash, such as butternut, cut in large chunks
  • 1 cup whole-wheat pastry flour
  • 1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/3 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 1/3 cup blackstrap molasses
  • 1/4 cup canola oil
  • 1/2 cup buttermilk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup walnuts

Directions:

1. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. Line a sheet pan with foil and lightly oil the foil. Brush the squash with a small amount of oil. Place on the baking sheet skin side down. Roast for 20 minutes and use tongs to turn the pieces of squash over. Roast for 20 to 30 minutes more, until the squash is soft enough that you can pierce the skin with the tip of a paring knife. Remove from the heat and allow to cool, then peel away the skin. Purée in a food processor or use an immersion hand blender. You should have about 1 cup of purée.

2. Turn the oven down to 375 degrees F.  Oil or butter muffin tins or use muffin cup liners, if desired.

3. Sift together the flours, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg, ground cloves, allspice and salt.

4. Beat together the eggs and sugar. Beat in the molasses, oil, buttermilk, puréed squash, and vanilla. Quickly beat in the flour and fold in the walnuts.

5. Spoon into the muffin tins and place in the oven. Bake 20 to 22 minutes, until the muffins have risen and a tester comes out clean. Let the muffins cool in the tins for 15 minutes, then turn out onto a rack to cool completely.

Yield: 1 dozen large muffins.

AppetizerPicture of Curried Butternut Squash Soup Recipe

Winter Squash Soup With Ginger

Ingredients:

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1 carrot, diced
  • 2 pounds peeled winter squash, like butternut or kabocha
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 tablespoon minced or grated ginger
  • 6 1/2 cups chicken broth or vegetable broth
  • 1/3 cup rice
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper
  • Pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1/2 of a lime
  • 4 to 6 tablespoons plain yogurt

Directions:

1. Heat the oil over medium heat in a large, heavy soup pot or Dutch oven and add the onion and carrot. Cook, stirring, until the vegetables are tender, about 5 minutes. Add the squash, garlic and minced ginger and cook, stirring, until the mixture smells fragrant, about 1 minute.

2. Add the broth, the rice and salt to taste and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat, cover and simmer 45 minutes to 1 hour, until the squash is very tender.

3. Using a hand blender, or in batches in a regular blender, purée the soup. If using a regular blender, cover the top with a towel pulled down tight, rather than airtight with the lid. Return to the pot and heat through. Adjust seasoning with salt and pepper. If desired, thin out with a little more broth.

4. Ladle the soup into bowls and add a tablespoon of yogurt, then slowly swirl the yogurt into the soup with a spoon. Squeeze a few drops of lime juice onto each serving and sprinkle with a dash of nutmeg.

Yield: 4 to 6 servings

Advance preparation: The soup will hold for several hours, in or out of the refrigerator. Proceed with Step 4 just before serving.

Lunch

Wild Rice with Butternut Squash, Leeks, and Corn

Roasted Winter Squash and Wild Rice Salad

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup wild rice
  • 3 1/2 cups chicken or vegetable broth
  • Salt to taste
  • 2 pounds butternut squash, peeled and cut in small dice (about 3 cups peeled and diced, weighing 1 1/2 to 1 3/4 pounds)
  • Salt to taste
  • 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1 garlic clove, minced or puréed
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 3 tablespoons walnut oil or substitute extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh herbs, like parsley, chives, tarragon
  • 1/2 cup diced celery
  • 6-ounce bag baby arugula or spinach

Directions:

1. Rinse the wild rice. Bring the water or stock to a boil in a medium saucepan, add salt to taste and the rice. Bring back to a boil, reduce the heat, cover and simmer 45 minutes, until the rice is tender and has begun to splay. Drain through a strainer, return to the pot and cover the pot with a clean dishtowel. Return the lid to the pot and let sit for 10 minutes.

2. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with foil. Place the squash in a bowl or directly on the baking sheet and toss with salt to taste, the balsamic vinegar and 1 tablespoon of the olive oil. Spread on the baking sheet in an even layer and make sure to tip all of the liquid remaining in the bowl over the squash. Roast for 20 to 30 minutes, stirring every 10 minutes so that the squash browns evenly. The squash should be tender all the way through. Remove from the heat.

3. In a small bowl or measuring cup, whisk together the lemon juice, garlic, salt to taste and mustard. Whisk in the remaining olive oil and the walnut oil.

4. Combine the wild rice, squash, herbs and celery in a large bowl. Toss with the dressing. Add salt and pepper to taste. Line a platter, individual plates or a wide salad bowl with the baby spinach or arugula. Top with the salad and serve.

Yield: 6 servings.

Advance preparation: This salad holds well for a couple of days in the refrigerator, without the arugula or spinach.

Side Dish

Roasted Beet and Winter Squash Salad

 

Ingredients:

  • 2 pounds kabocha squash
  • 1 bunch beets
  • 2 tablespoons red wine or sherry vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 1 small garlic clove, minced or put through a press
  • 4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons walnut oil
  • 3 tablespoons chopped walnuts (about 1 1/2 ounces)
  • 2 tablespoons mixed chopped fresh herbs, like parsley, mint, tarragon, chives

Directions:

1.Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. Cut the greens off of the beets and reserve for another use, leaving about 1/2 inch of the stems attached. Scrub the beets and place in a baking dish or ovenproof casserole. Add about 1/4 inch water to the dish. Cover tightly with a lid or foil, and bake 35 to 40 minutes, or until the beets are tender. Remove from the oven and allow to cool. If not using right away, refrigerate in a covered bowl.

2. Line another roasting pan with foil or parchment and brush with olive oil. Peel the squash and cut in 1/2-inch thick slices. Toss with 2 teaspoons of the olive oil and salt to taste and place on the baking sheet. Roast for 20 to 30 minutes, turning halfway through, until lightly browned and tender. You can do this at the same time that you roast the beets, but watch carefully if you need to put the baking sheet on a lower shelf. Remove from the heat and allow to cool.

3. Mix together the vinegars, garlic, salt, pepper, the remaining olive oil and the walnut oil. When the beets are cool enough to handle, trim the ends off, slip off their skins, cut in half, then slice into half-moon shapes. Toss with half the salad dressing. In a separate bowl, toss the roasted squash with the remaining dressing.

4. Arrange the beets and squash in alternating rows in the middle of the platter. Sprinkle on the fresh herbs and the walnuts. If desired, add crumbled feta. 

Yield: 6 servings.

Advance preparation: Roasted beets and squash will keep for 4 to 5 days in the refrigerator.

 

Dinner

Lasagna With Roasted Winter Squash

Ingredients:

  • 3 pounds kabocha squash
  • 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons minced shallot or onion
  • 3 tablespoons sifted all-purpose flour (Use Wondra for instant mixing)
  • 3 cups low-fat milk 
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper
  • Pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh sage
  • 1/2 pound no-boil lasagna noodles (or a little more, depending on the size of your lasagna pan)
  • 4 ounces Parmesan cheese, grated (1 cup)

Directions:

1. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with foil. Cut the squash into big chunks, brush the exposed flesh with 1 tablespoon of the olive oil and place on the baking sheet. Bake 45 minutes or until squash is tender enough to be pierced through to the skin with a paring knife. Remove from the heat and allow to cool until you can handle it, then cut away the skin and cut in thin slices. Turn the oven down to 350 degrees F.

2. While the squash is in the oven, make the béchamel. Heat the remaining oil over medium heat in a heavy medium saucepan. Add the shallot or onion and cook, stirring, until it has softened, about 3 minutes. Whisk the Wondra flour and the milk together and slowly pour in to the pan with the shallot. Whisk and bring to a simmer. Cook,whisking all the while, until the mixture begins to thicken. Turn the heat to very low and simmer, stirring often with a whisk and scraping the bottom and edges of the pan with a rubber spatula, for 10 to 15 minutes, until the sauce is thick. Season with salt, pepper and nutmeg. Remove from heat and stir in 1/4 cup of the Parmesan and 1 tablespoon of the sage.

3. Oil a rectangular baking dish. Spread a spoonful of béchamel over the bottom. Top with a layer of lasagna noodles. Spread a thin layer of the béchamel over the noodles. Top with half the squash. Season the squash with salt and pepper and sprinkle with Parmesan. Repeat the layers, ending with a layer of lasagna noodles topped with béchamel and Parmesan. Sprinkle the remaining sage over the top. Make sure the noodles are well coated with béchamel so they will soften during baking.

4. Cover the baking dish tightly with foil and place in the oven. Bake 40 minutes, until the noodles are tender and the mixture is bubbling. Uncover and bake another 5 to 10 minutes until the top begins to brown. Remove from the heat and allow to sit for 5 minutes before serving.

Yield: 6 to 8 servings.

Advance preparation: You can assemble this dish up to a day ahead and refrigerate, or freeze for a month. The lasagna can be baked several hours ahead and reheated in a medium oven.

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