I walked into one of the local supermarkets on what was probably my tenth trip to a grocery store that week to get some odds and ends that would hopefully, finally, complete my Yom Tov shopping list. (I think I spent more time grocery shopping than actually cooking this Yom Tov.) There it was, a true sign that fall had arrived, a gorgeous display of 20 different kinds of squash in all colors, alongside towers of orange pumpkins. It was really a striking sight. I knew I had to use them somewhere in my menu — I just wasn’t sure how.
I schlepped home a significant number of squashes and lined them up on the kitchen counter to show my kids the amazing shapes, colors, and textures. I don’t think they believed me when I said they would be eating them over Yom Tov.
The next day I e-mailed Bassi — editor par excellence — to let her know that my next cooking quest topic would be squash and pumpkins. “Sounds great,” wrote back my ever-diplomatic editor, “but what’s the challenge part of squash and pumpkins?”
I looked at the pile of misshapen-looking vegetables and felt quite daunted. This ain’t no butternut squash we’re dealing with here. The variety was so large and colorful that I thought the challenge of making them edible or even appetizing was big enough for me. That, and getting a knife through them!
I took out my largest chef ’s knife and tried to cut through the tough skin of the huge Turban squash. That was when I started to wonder if this adventure might have been a bit overambitious. Then I remembered an old trick and decided to give it a try. I preheated the oven to 350°F, placed the squash whole on a cookie sheet, and let it bake for 20 minutes. This was supposed to soften the skin enough to allow me to cut through it. It worked.
As the squash cooled off, there was the proverbial knock at the door. Family came to visit in our succah, and when they saw that I was in the midst of the battle with the butcher knife, they wanted to join in the fun, too. Okay, quick thinking necessary. The squash were all still basically raw, so I chose the most innocentlooking one, the Ambercup squash (otherwise known as the red kabocha), peeled it, cut it into cubes, and boiled it in a pot with just enough water to cover. Meanwhile, I sautéed some cubed parsnips (my other latest obsession)
in some oil until they were soft. When the squash was just soft enough, I strained it, tossed it into the parsnip pan along with some butter, and topped with freshly chopped parsley, a touch of fresh rosemary, a sprinkle of kosher salt, freshly ground black pepper, and some fresh lemon juice. I threw some pecans on top because I was out of walnuts, and … wow. The squash had a nutty taste, somewhat similar to chestnuts. The parsnip and herbs really complemented its flavor, and the guests were duly impressed.
The next squash I tried was the small, innocent-looking sweet potato squash, formally known as delicata, which was incredibly delicious and easy to work with. I wanted to prove to my kids that they would eat that bright yellow vegetable with deep green stripes all over it, so we made a delicious muffin recipe that my nine-year-old daughter told me was “so good, it almost didn’t taste healthy.” (Kids today!)
This article and its accompanying recipes originally appeared in Mishpacha Magazine, October 2012.