One of the sheer delights of winter is the abundance of squash available in the grocery stores. Large, small, mottled, curved, oblong, and football-shaped, these gourds are a treasure trove of flavors and possibilities. Their vibrant color, ranging from cream to a deep orange, hints at their nutritional properties. But what will really have you coming back for more is their sweet, nutty flavor, deliciously rich on its own, yet pairing so well with a multitude of seasonings.
Puree some steamed squash, add some soup stock, coconut milk, or cream, and you have a velvety, silken soup with which to start your repast. Add some freshly minced ginger root and sprinkle in some chopped fresh coriander for an Asian flair. Or spice it up with ground cumin and coriander. Another night you can add some diced apple and sprinkle with some fried sage leaves. For a side dish, you can cube it, toss with olive oil and your favorite herbs, and roast it to a succulent sweetness to accompany your roast for the evening. Don’t even get me started on baking it! Pies, sweet breads, cakes, and muffins made with squash are majestic creations all.
Since most gourds — the exception being the Delicata squash, which has a very thin skin — have a robust, hard rind, they store well, meaning you can keep them on hand for a couple of months and let whimsy be your inspiration.
Due to its brightly colored flesh, squash is an excellent source of betacarotene, a nutrient that is converted into vitamin A in the body. Squash also contain carotenoids, which are best absorbed in the body if they’re eaten with a little bit of fat or oil. All you need is 3 to 5 grams of oil with a meal, about 1 teaspoon, to boost your body’s betacarotene absorption.
So let’s get cooking! To help with inspiration, I’ve developed recipes that will suit any course for dinner or lunch. The Squash Gratin is a perfect accompaniment to fish or eggs for dinner. You can also try it on its own for lunch. The Beef and Rice Soup, paired with Hubbard squash, is ideal as the temperature dips and our cravings revert to the comfy and nurturing. Both the Squash Risotto Bake and the Moroccan Stew with Quinoa highlight the satisfying nature of their respective squash choices and are healthful and sating. Sage is a natural ally for squash, a friendship revealed in the side dish featuring Delicata squash. Finally, to prove its versatility, I’ve included a quick bread made with pureed squash that is sweet, without being overly so.
This Article and its accompanying recipies were featured in Kosher Scoop Issue 7 Dec 2011 brought to you by Mishpacha Magazine.