RECIPE by Elizabeth Waddington
Winter squashes should be allowed to mature fully on the vine. If the rind cannot be dented with your thumbnail, it is ready for harvest. Complete the harvest before the first hard frost. Stems and vines will be hard and dry at harvest time. Cut squash from the vine leaving 2 to 3 inches of stem above the fruit; this will allow the squash to store longer.
To roast most winter squash, carefully cut the squash in half through the stem, and scrape out the seeds inside. Then rub a small amount of oil or butter along the inner flesh of the squash and top with some salt and pepper. Place the squash face down on a baking sheet and roast in a 400-degree oven for between 30-45 minutes depending on the size of your squash. You’ll know it’s done when the skin has become brown and slightly blistered and the flesh has softened and can be pierced with a fork with no resistance. You also have the option of cutting the squash into pieces before roasting, which will take longer in prep time but will allow the squash to roast at a faster rate.
To boil your squash, you’ll want to first carefully cut off the skin and slice the squash into smaller chunks. Place in a saucepan, cover with water, and bring to a boil. While the timing will vary depending on the toughness of the squash you choose, check periodically if your squash is tender enough to easily pierce through with a fork. To steam your squash, place your chunks in a steamer basket above the boiling water and cook until tender.
For those in a time pinch, or working with limited appliances, you can also microwave many types of squash – depending on its size – by slicing it in half down the center, removing the seeds, and microwaving on high for seven minutes per pound.
Once you’ve cooked your squash via one of these simple methods, then you can easily incorporate it into recipes ranging from showstopping savory mains to festive desserts.
Here’s an easy side dish to prepare:
CHEESY BUTTERCUP SQUASH
1 buttercup squash, sliced and cooked (see above)
2 tbsp butter
½ cup shredded triple cheddar cheese
¼ cup grated parmesan
2–4 tbsp lowfat milk
Preheat the oven to 350°F.
Scoop the squash out of the shell and into a bowl. Add the butter, cheeses, and enough milk to smoothly mash the squash (add even more milk if your squash is dry). Serve immediately.