squash everything

Another little piece the I wrote for iVillage’s food channel that I thought I’d share with you with links to some of my favourite winter squash recipes.

If I get enthusiastic (obsessive?) about tomatoes and kale in the summer, I get equally excited for the cold-weather squashes that fall and winter bring. I like zucchini and marrows, sure, but winter squash is dense and sweet and even more versatile—you can cook it using almost any method you’d like (as long as you cook it—the one thing zucch’s have over these is that they can be eaten raw) and them take in many delicious directions.

A squash soup can be as simple as mashing the steamed flesh and adding liquid to it, or as complex as caramelizing your flavour base and the squash, stewing everything for hours and adding herbs, spices and cream, since the flavour of, say, pumpkin, can still shine through all of those layers. You can roasted or steam cubed squash and toss them with pasta, mash them to fill pies or stew them in curries. It seems I have a favourite way with each one—I hope these ideas inspire you to try as many varieties as you can in the coming months.

Whenever I see spaghetti squash in the market, I think…pesto! The squash is aptly named, since after cooking, you can rake a fork down the length of a halved spaghetti squash and it will separate into noodle-like strands. I halve it, rub the exposed flesh with oil, salt and pepper before baking it until fork-tender. After raking the cooked flesh, remove it from the shell and serve it with sauce as you would pasta. I highly recommend tossing it with pesto and as much chili oil as you can handle—you will thank me!

You can roast butternut squash the same way, or after halving it, chop it into large pieces and for even and quick cooking. I would tell you to add the pieces to your pasta but mine no longer make it that far. I tend to devour them, straight from the baking sheet. If yours survive longer, do add them to pasta, couscous or to anything else you’re eating.

I’ve grown up eating pumpkin in West-Indian style soups and in my mother’s stewed-till-soft curry. Pumpkin loves spice, which you know if love pumpkin-spiced cakes and hot drinks. I add woody herbs (like thyme), warm spices (like cinnamon) and lots of fresh chilies to soups and curries and let peeled and chopped pumpkin simmer until very tender. A delicious winter staple of mine.

You may not have cooked with kabocha squash yet but you’ve probably had some battered and fried the last time your ordered vegetable tempura. It’s that sweet, dark orange, half-moon slice with a distinct flavour and I love swapping it into any of the recipes I mentioned above.

The skin of all of these squashes are very different. You can peel butternut squash with a vegetable peeler, but you need a very sharp knife to cut into and/or peel others like tough-skinned kabocha. Baking or steaming squash in the skin is one way to make the job easier, and in the case of my mom’s pumpkin curry, she leaves the peel of young, thinner-skinned pumpkin right on and after cooking for hours, what’s left is edible! When I roast delicata squash, the skin is my favourite part. Weird? Oh well.