Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Winter Squash Addiction: A Confession

Okay. I admit it. I can’t walk away from winter squash. I love ‘em. All types. All sizes. My sideboard is filled with pumpkins of varied lineage, also acorns, butternuts, spaghetti squash. And when I go weekly to pick up my winter CSA share, I feel compelled to buy one or two more squash over the few included in the share already. Perhaps it’s a way to stay connected to that bounty of fall, especially now that the stark winter weather is here and the trees are bare. Perhaps it’s because I love to eat any dish or baked good that has pumpkin or winter squash as part of its makeup. Soup, pasta, chili, muffins, pie, cake, pancake, pudding…..oh, stop me now!

Two days before Thanksgiving, my friend Kathleen and I pureed two types of winter squash to make pies. We sliced up a large musque de provence squash (otherwise known as fairytale), and roasted each slice until a fork slipped through the outer skin easily. Then into a food processor, into a custard, and, finally, into a homemade pie crust (courtesy of Kathleen!). We also halved a Long Island Cheese pumpkin (so named because of its resemblance to a wheel of cheese, pictured above) and roasted it. Looking at the two types of puree, it was apparent which would make the better pie. A taste test clinched it. The Long Island cheese puree had a creamy texture, golden color, and a sweeter taste. The fairytale was a more vibrant orange (oh, the beta-carotenes!), but a more watery texture and the taste, though good, wasn’t as sweet as the Long Island. We made pies from both, and while both tasted wonderful (oh, so much better than a pie from that fast-food restaurant I shall not name….), the Long Island Cheese pumpkin pie was heaven!

I am aware that not many people would choose to spend precious hours taste-testing pumpkin varieties right before Thanksgiving, but I skimp on the table decorations. (You guessed it: I put a few of the prettier squash in the center of the table and have done with it!) Anyway, I plan to use the gallons of winter squash puree in my freezer in just about every way I can think of. Kathleen suggested the pumpkin pancakes – I substituted the puree for mashed banana in one of our favorite pancake recipes, added cinnamon and a little ginger, and the kids couldn’t eat enough of them! We’ll make pumpkin bread to hand out to aunts, great aunts, grandparents, etc.. And I’m looking for a good pumpkin scone recipe…..

The one type of winter squash that I don’t puree and freeze is the spaghetti squash. These last a good while – though we’ve been eating ours weekly in a dish, Spaghetti Squash with Sausage Filling, that’s become a family favorite. Below is the spaghetti squash recipe. Enjoy!! I’m off to continue my winter squash odyssey......

Spaghetti Squash with Sausage Filling
1 spaghetti squash (3 ¾ - 4 lb), halved lengthwise and seeded
1 lb bulk Italian sausage
1 cup chopped bell pepper
1 cup chopped onion
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 ½ cups marinara or tomato sauce
½ cup grated Parmesan cheese
Place squash halves, one at a time, with a little water in microwave safe container with cover slightly askew to allow steam to escape, cook on high for about 8 minutes, or until tender when pierced with a fork. Cool slightly. Meanwhile, sauté sausage, pepper, onion, and garlic in a skillet until sausage browns and vegetables are tender. Break up sausage with spoon. Mix in marinara sauce. Using a fork, pull out squash strands from shells. Mix strands with sausage mixture. Season mixture to taste with salt and pepper. Place in casserole dish and sprinkle with Parmesan cheese (alternately, you can leave skins intact and place filling into the shells for a fun presentation). Bake uncovered in a 400° oven for about 20 minutes, or until thoroughly heated and bubbly.


distracted by shiny objects said...

Found you through Cincinnati Magazine...how have I survived without you???:>)

Maxanna said...

This recipe looks marvelous- and I'm going to try it soon. Thanks for posting- and I agree that winter squash are beautiful! And taste as good as the look. And your GRAND experiment before Thanksgiving sounded like so much fun.

Jen (Modern Beet) said...

I am a huge squash fan too -- they're so versatile and with all the different varieties available at the farmer's market, I feel like I could eat a different squash every week for a year with no repeats.

Oddly, I was in Germany a few weeks ago and went looking for a butternut squash. I went to three different grocery stores and never found one! I had assumed that squash was enjoyed all over the world, but perhaps I was wrong!

chardlover said...

Distracted - Welcome! I guest blog on cincinnatilocavore from time to time as a long-time CSA sharer. Valeree is the 'eat local' go-to woman, and I'm thrilled to be able to hang onto her apron strings. The Cincinnati Magazine nod was quite an honor, and I hope many more readers find their way here!

Maxanna and Jen - Oh, it's good to know there are other squash fans out there! I get a lot of 'just open up a can of Libby's, already!'

A new variety to me that I picked up at the farm this week is Sibley - it's green and sort of shaped like an elongated football. It's claim to fame is that it improves in taste upon storage - it's best eaten after the New Year, so they say! I'll let you know!

I AM surprised that you weren't able to find squash in Germany, Jen! Many varieties have French names - so they must be plentiful there. Did you have the opportunity to visit any farmers' markets while traveling?

valereee said...

Distracted, so glad you found us!

Jen, I'm surprised, too, that you didn't find squash in German grocery stores! I know they're grown in Belgium and Japan. I would have thought a thing like a winter squash -- long storing, and so MUCH food in each -- would be nearly universally grown.

Barbara Samuel said...

I love them, too. Every single form of them. One I'd never liked until a trip to Australia last summer is pumpkin. There, it was in full-throated use everywere, on pizza, as stuffing for pasta, roasted. Wonderful.

chardlover said...

Oh my, pumpkin on pizza does sound delicious! I hadn't thought of that one! It sounds especially appealing to have while in Australia.....I envy you that experience!

An amazing pumpkin dessert that I had at Cafe Mediterranean in Anderson was a slice of pumpkin (the flesh of the squash, skinned and seeded) roasted with simple syrup on it, topped with a little whipped cream. It was wonderful - really light and sweet, with the pure taste of the pumpkin preserved! I'm going to try to re-create this one at home.

valereee said...

Barbara, pumpkin pizza? I'm...not sure whether that sounds good or not, LOL! Was it, like, chopped fine and left raw to cook along with other veggie toppings, or was it pumpkin puree as a sauce?

Chardlover, I wonder if something besides simple syrup might be interesting. Maybe sorghum?