Now that we are fully into the changes of autumn, markets and gardens are pouring forth with a variety of squash and gourds. Squash is a staple for me in the latter parts of the year for its great versatility in the kitchen, easily finding a niche at all skill levels, while simultaneously being extremely affordable and filling. I like to think of squash as a middle ground between white and sweet potatoes, allowing preparations from either camp to be utilized easily.
The easiest preparation for any squash (and almost always the first step when making anything with them), is roasting. If I’m only roasting and then serving them as is, I like to go with acorn squash, as its thick skin provides an excellent disposable bowl for quick cleanup and interesting presentation. First, preheat your oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. To prepare acorn squash for roasting, simply cut down the middle of the squash from stem to base, scoop out the seeds and their membrane, and transfer to a baking dish or pan. Brush all exposed flesh with melted butter, then add salt and pepper. Sprinkle each half lightly with cinnamon (optional). I personally like to add thyme and rosemary to each basin, though sage will also work well. Slide into oven and bake until fork tender, about 30 minutes. Serve as is. Possible additions include adding some apple cider, a cinnamon stick, or white wine to each basin while roasting. Serving suggestions include adding some pulled pork, roasted or candied walnuts, sour cream, and/or chives to each squash.
Now perhaps you want squash but only want it to be a more manageable side dish. In such a case, I would recommend sauteed butternut squash with apples. Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Prepare the butternut by first using a peeler to remove the skin and outer pith until only the orange flesh remains. Remove the stem and base, split the squash lengthwise, and remove the seeds and membrane. Dice the flesh into approximately 1/2-inch pieces, toss with melted butter, salt, and pepper, and pour into a baking dish or pan. Bake until fork tender, about 20 minutes. During this time, dice red onion, peel, core, and dice apple, and preheat a saute pan to medium-high heat. Once the squash is done, add butter to the pan and allow to melt. Begin by sauteing the onion until translucent, then add the apple and squash and cook until fragrant, working in batches if necessary. Be sure to not overcook the apples, as they will begin to become mushy and crushed. Salt and pepper to taste. Serve immediately.
Make a gluten-free pasta
Perhaps you’re familiar with spaghetti squash and would like to try your hand at making a gluten-free pasta dish, minus the often-finicky rice flour substitutes. This is easily achieved. Preheat your oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Prepare your squash as you would the acorn squash, leaving the skin intact. Bake until fork tender, about 45 minutes. After the squash is roasted, allow it to cool until you are comfortable handling it (disposable latex or vinyl gloves may aid in this process), and use a fork to pull at the flesh to produce long strands. During this time, mince your garlic and shallots, slice your cremini mushrooms and chiffonade your sage. Chiffonade is a knife technique used for cutting herbs and leaf vegetables into thin strips or ribbons. To chiffonade leaves of basil, for instance, you would stack the basil leaves and roll them into a tube, and then carefully cut across the ends of the tube with your knife to produce fine strips. Make sure to have your peas ready.
Preheat a saute pan to medium-high heat and add remaining 2 Tbsp butter. Add garlic and shallots until fragrant, and then add cremini; cook until they have released their juices, stirring to prevent burning. Add the peas and then the squash, stirring gently to coat the strands evenly and heat them throughout. Add salt and pepper to taste. Sprinkle sage to finish, and serve as is. Possible additions include chopped bacon,
sausage, cream, and/or parmesan cheese, depending on dietary preference. If desired, a browned butter sauce (as opposed to just melted butter) will make this dish sing, but browning the butter and not burning it through the cooking process may prove difficult for some home cooks.
Roast Acorn Squash 4 Servings
2 medium-sized Acorn Squash
4 Tbsp Butter, melted
Salt and Pepper to taste
2 tsp Ground Cinnamon
12 Thyme sprigs and 4 Rosemary sprigs, divided
8 Sage leaves, divided (optional)
Sauteed Butternut Squash 8 Servings
1 large Butternut Squash, or 2 medium
4 Tbsp Butter
Salt and Pepper to taste
1 Red Onion, diced
2 Apples, peeled, cored, and diced
Spaghetti Squash with Peas and Mushrooms 2-3 Servings
1 large Spaghetti Squash, or 2 medium
6 Tbsp Butter, divided
Salt and Pepper to taste
2 cloves Garlic, minced
1 Shallot, minced
1, 8-oz package of Cremini Mushrooms, sliced
8 Sage leaves, chiffonade
½ cup Parmesan Cheese (optional)