Stock up on squash for the wintertime pantry

There’s just one more week of the Rogue Valley Growers Market in Medford, but you can extend the season for local produce by making a few savvy purchases.

Boxes of apples are one market commodity that will keep for a couple months in the garage or basement. Another, of course, is winter squash, long a staple of the season for its staying power on the shelf. I made a point of loading up on spaghetti and acorn squash from Bigham Farms’ stand.

Although I’ve grown a bit of squash in the past, this is a relatively new move for me. That’s because I’ve recently come around to how versatile squash is. Previously limiting my squash cookery to soups, the odd pasta or risotto and dishes that entailed baking and stuffing the vegetables, I’ve started treating it as a blank canvas that accommodates just about any flavor profile.

I suspect some new ways with summer zucchini were actually behind this breakthrough, but spaghetti squash carried this new mentality into fall. Feeling a bit cheeky, I roasted a spaghetti squash, scraped the fibers out of one half and stirred them into a mixture of sauteed greens, prosciutto, actual spaghetti and cheese-enriched egg for a new twist on spaghetti carbonara. I took it as a good sign that my husband, not exactly a squash fan, ate it with compliments for lunch.

But I was totally bowled over by his response a couple nights later when I simply sauteed fibers from the other half with a bit of garlic and red-pepper flakes and served it as side dish to pan-fried turkey cutlets with roasted tomato sauce. “What is this squash, and how did you cook it?” he asked. I offered a couple vague explanations before I realized he wanted to make it for co-workers at the fire station!

Taking the same strategy of roasting a whole squash and using it in more than one meal, I put butternut squash on pizza with blue cheese and mushrooms last week and saved the other half against random inspiration, betting on risotto or another pasta. But feeling a hankering for some crispy, fried food yesterday, I combined the rest with a bit of cream cheese, diced onion, roasted poblano chilies, curry powder, fresh ginger and fish sauce. I wrapped the mixture up in rice-paper wrappers and deep-fried them for a delicious take on Vietnamese nem.

They weren’t quite as good as my favorite squash eggrolls at Tease restaurant in Ashland, but I think if I tweak the seasonings a bit more, I’ll have a winner on my hand. My husband, at least, was sorry he missed them.

Here are a few more takes on squash, courtesy of The Associated Press, to try. Even preseasoned according to these recipes, you could use the leftovers in burritos, enchiladas, lasagna or puree them up for a soup.

AP photo

AP photo

Acorn Squash With Browned Butter and Fried Sage Leaves

5 1⁄2 pounds acorn squash, seeded, peeled and cut into 1-inch chunks

5 tablespoons butter

16 large fresh sage leaves

Salt and ground black pepper, to taste

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the squash and simmer until tender, 10 to 15 minutes. Drain well in a colander, then return squash to pot, cover and set aside.

In a medium skillet over medium-high heat, melt the butter. When butter begins to bubble, add the sage leaves.

As butter browns, fry sage leaves on both sides (turning them as needed) until crispy, skimming any solids off butter as needed, 3 to 6 minutes. Remove pan from heat and use a slotted spoon to transfer sage leaves to a paper towel to drain. Set aside.

Coarsely chop half of sage leaves and add, along with browned butter, to reserved squash. Stir over medium heat until squash is well coated with butter and heated through. Season with the salt and pepper. Serve squash garnished with reserved, whole, fried sage leaves.

Makes 8 servings.

 

Cocoa-Roasted Butternut Squash

1⁄3 cup cocoa powder

1 tablespoon salt

1⁄4 teaspoon cayenne pepper (more or less, to taste)

1⁄2 teaspoon cinnamon

1 tablespoon sugar

3 medium butternut squash (about 6 pounds total), peeled and cut into 1-inch chunks

1⁄4 cup canola or vegetable oil

3⁄4 cup toasted, slivered almonds

Heat oven to 375 F.

In a small bowl, combine the cocoa powder, salt, cayenne, cinnamon and sugar.

Arrange the squash chunks on 2 large baking sheets. Drizzle the oil over squash and toss to coat evenly. Sprinkle cocoa mixture over squash and toss to coat. Roast for 45 to 55 minutes, or until tender. Transfer to a serving dish and sprinkle with the toasted almonds.

Makes 10 servings.

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    Sarah Lemon

    Sarah Lemon covers the Rogue Valley’s food scene with an enthusiasm that rivals her love of cooking. Her blog mixes culinary musings and milestones with tips and recipes you won’t find in the Mail Tribune’s weekly A la Carte section. When ... Read Full
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