Winter has a reputation for being short on produce, but even in the coldest climes, you can find an abundance of fresh vegetables from hearty greens like kale and cabbage to pantries overflowing with brightly colored squashes or gourds.
Every year our Community Share Agriculture (CSA) closes out its season with a delivery of a variety of squash: a sugar pumpkin or two for holiday pies, an exotic red kuri, a more familiar butternut , and usually a couple pounds of adorable delicata squash. The delicata are my favorite of the bunch-- easy to peel, cut and clean with sunny colors of yellow and orange with green stripes to remind me of warmer weather.
No matter which squash appeals to your tastes, be sure to choose one whose skin is tough and free of cracks or soft spots. The tough skin protects the squash flesh so you can store them without worrying about using them right away. As long as you store your squash in a cool, dark place, you can keep them for up to three months before using.
As for preparation, roasting is usually best. With most winter squash, the skin is too tough to eat, except for delicata which you can eat skin on, making for a pretty presentation when served on salad greens. So unless you plan on scooping out the squash flesh to puree, be sure to take the extra step of peeling your squash before cutting and roasting, usually at 375 degrees for 35-40 minutes or until fork tender.
Easy Squash Recipes
Roast squash can be used on salads, tossed with blue cheese or parmesan for a side, or pureed into a soup. In fact, we ate plenty of squash soup in my house to use up a good amount of the squashes we received from our CSA. The trick to keeping it interesting was a variety of garnishes, all made from seasonal ingredients which I am sharing with you here in case you want inspiration for a simple, yet elegant first course for a winter evening party.
- Curry Apple and Radish: take thin, 1 inch slices of a medium apple (fuji or honeycrisp work well here) and 3-4 pink beauty radishes. Sauté over medium heat in 2 tablespoons of unsalted butter. Season with 1/4 tsp salt and 1/8 tsp of black pepper plus a dash of cayenne. Sprinkle with about 1 teaspoon of light brown sugar and 1/2 teaspoon of yellow curry powder. Cook until apples and radish are tender, about 6-8 minutes. Place a few spoonfuls of the sauté mix in the center of each bowl of soup and serve with a slice of toasted baguette, smeared with some goat cheese.
- Pear, Sage, and Pancetta: Dice 3 ounces of pancetta and cook until crisp in about 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a small pan over medium heat, about 5-6 minutes. Remove pancetta with a slotted spoon to a paper towel lined plate to drain and reserve. Pour out fat from pan, leaving 1 tablespoon behind. Add thin, 1 inch slices of a pear (I used Anjou) and 1 tablespoon of thinly sliced fresh sage. Sprinkle with a pinch of salt and pepper each then add a couple dashes of ground cinnamon. When pear is tender, after about 5-6 minutes, add back in the pancetta. Add a couple of spoonfuls of this mix to the center of each bowl of soup and sprinkle with additional sage if desired.
- Chorizo with Lime Scented Sour Cream: Cook 1/2 pound of ground chorizo over medium heat until browned and cook through. While chorizo cooks, mix together 1/2 cup of sour cream with the zest of 1 lime and 1 tablespoon of freshly squeezed lime juice. Spoon chorizo on top of soup and top with a dollop of sour cream.