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Squash: For versatility, taste and nutrition, nothing beats this fall favorite

Writer: LESLIE HARRISON |Photographer: CHELSEA PURGAHM | Sept.-Oct. 2017

Winter squash have such personality. Their shapes, colors and textures are so interesting, which is why they are frequently used in their own right as festive displays of the changing season.

The names summer and winter squash are a bit of a misnomer. The terms date back to when seasons were more critical to preserving food. Squash that lasted into December became known as winter quash despite being available as early as late summer.

While we think of squash as a vegetable, it’s really a fruit and member of the gourd family. High in vitamin C, omega-3 fatty acids, potassium and fiber, squash is a healthy dietary choice.

When choosing a squash, look for one that feels heavy for its size and has hard, deepcolored skin.

First wash the exterior. Seeds can be removed either prior to or after cooking.Because the skin of a raw squash often can be difficult to cut through, it’s helpful to microwave the squash for 2 to 3

minutes before cutting it. If a recipe calls for pureed or mashed squash, it’s easier to cook the squash first and then scoop out the flesh.

A vegetable peeler can be used to remove the skin of an uncooked squash for recipes that call for peeling and cutting. Squash can be baked, steamed, boiled or roasted and almost any type of mashed or pureed squash is interchangeable with canned pumpkin in recipes.

The recipes featured here use two of my favorite types of winter squash: butternut and spaghetti.

Butternut squash is readily available. It’s beige in color and shaped like a bell. It has a mild flavor and tastes somewhat like a sweet potato. The more orange it is, the riper and sweeter the squash. It’s ideal for soup as it’s watery and smooth when cooked.

Spaghetti squash resembles a small, oval watermelon. It has a golden-yellow hue and a mild flavor. The yellower the squash, the riper it is. Larger squash tend to be more flavorful. When the squash is cooked, the flesh separates from the skin into strands that resemble spaghetti, which makes it ideal for using in place of traditional pasta in recipes.

Spaghetti Squash Lasagna Bake

  • 2 large spaghetti squash

Filling

  • 2 lemons, juiced (about 1/3 cup)
  • 12 oz. extra-firm tofu, drained and pressed dry for 10 minutes
  • 3 Tbsp nutritional yeast
  • ½ cup fresh basil, packed
  • 1 Tbsp. dried oregano

Serving

25 oz. marinara sauce

Preheat oven to 375 degrees and line a large baking sheet with parchment paper. Halve spaghetti squash lengthwise. Use a spoon to scrape out seeds and most of the stringy parts. Sprinkle with a little

salt and pepper and place cut-side down on the baking sheet. Roast for about 45 minutes, remove and let cool.

Place the filling ingredients into a food processor or blender and pulse to combine, scraping down sides as needed. Mixture should be semi-pureed with bits of basil.

Using a fork, gently scoop out spaghetti squash into fine strings. Set aside. Line a 9×13-inch baking dish with parchment paper and lay down 1/3 of the squash. Drop several spoonfuls of tofu mixture on the squash, then pour on a layer of marinara sauce. Repeat until all of the filling and marinara is used. Make sure that the top layer is sauce.

Loosely cover the dish with foil and bake for20 minutes at 375. Remove

foil and bake for 10-15 minutes, or until the sauce bubbles and the top golden brown. Cover again if the squash is browning too quickly.

Black Bean and Butternut Squash Burritos

  • 1 medium butternut squash, peeled, cubed and roasted*
  • ½ cup uncooked short grain brown rice (1½ cups cooked)
  • 1 cup chopped sweet onion
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • ½ cup corn, fresh or frozen
  • ½ to 1 jar salsa of choice
  • 2 tsp ground cumin
  • 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
  • One 15-oz can black beans (1 1/2-2 cups cooked), drained and rinsed

Tortilla wraps

DIRECTIONS

Preheat oven to 425 and line large glass dish with parchment paper. Shake a dash of salt and pepper over squash. Roast chopped butternut squash for 45 minutes or until tender. Cook brown rice.

In a large skillet over medium-low heat, add a touch of water or vegetable broth (in lieu of oil), onion and garlic. Sautee for about 5 minutes, stirring frequently. Add seasonings and stir well. Add corn, black beans, cooked rice and salsa; sauté for another 10 minutes.

When butternut squash is tender remove from oven and cool slightly. Add cooked butternut squash to the skillet and stir well. Add bean filling to a tortilla along with desired toppings such as more salsa, avocado or cilantro. Wrap and serve.

*To save time, you can use frozen butternut squash that is already peeled and cubed.

Curried Butternut Squash Soup

  • 2 shallots, thinly diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced (1 Tbsp.)
  • 6 cups butternut squash (1 small butternut squash)
  • Pinch each sea salt + black pepper, plus more to taste
  • 1 1/2 Tbsp. curry powder
  • 1/4 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 1 14-oz. can light coconut milk
  • 2 cups (480 ml) vegetable broth

Preheat oven to 350. Heat a large pot over medium heat. Once hot, add a splash of water or vegetable broth, shallots and garlic. Sauté for a few minutes, stirring frequently.

Place the washed, whole squash in a shallow baking dish and cook for about 30 minutes or until very tender. Remove from oven and let cool. Slice the squash in half and remove the seeds. Scoop the flesh from the skin and add butternut squash to the pot; season with a pinch each salt and pepper, curry powder and ground cinnamon; stir to coat. Cover and cook for a few minutes, stirring occasionally.

Add coconut milk and vegetable broth. Bring to a low boil over medium heat and then reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer for 15 minutes or until butternut squash is tender.

Using an immersion blender, or transferring soup to a blender, purée on high until creamy and smooth. If using a blender, return soup back to pot. Taste and adjust seasonings and continue cooking for a few more minutes over medium heat. Serve with garnishes of choice such as toasted pumpkin seeds or shredded coconut.

Leslie Harrison, of Tyler, Texas, is a busy mother and certified Food For Life nutrition and cooking instructor.

 

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