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Try Joyce's recipes for Moroccan Tagine of Pumpkin and Lentils, Melted Golden Squash and Winter Squash Soup.

Pumpkin and squash are also nutrition stars which makes them our Season's Pick.

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Winter Squashes — Comfort and Content
by Joyce Goldstein

Although colorful, thin skinned and delicate summer squashes such as zucchini, pattypan, and crookneck, are quick to cook and nutritious too, they don't have the deeply satisfying flavor and stick-to-your-ribs quality that the squashes of winter possess. You can build a meal on winter squash—it's comfort food.

A Coat of Many Colors

Winter squashes mature on the vine, and can be held in cold storage throughout the winter months. Although you may find them at the market all year long, they are really at their best in late fall and through the winter. Their outer shells are hard and thick and they have hard seeds in the center. Their flesh is usually orange or yellow. Winter squash are rich, filling and slightly sweet.

You probably know them by their more familiar names: pumpkin, hubbard, acorn, banana, butternut, the pale gold and green striped delicata, the dark green kabocha, the red kuri, the orange and gold turban, and the oval, pale green spaghetti squash. Unlike the fragile summer squashes, these require no refrigeration. They can be stored in a cool dark place like a pantry for a few weeks. They are an excellent source of vitamins A and C and a good source of folate and thiamin.

Getting Past the Peel

Winter squashes are incredibly versatile, but releasing maximum flavor and softening the flesh requires long cooking. The squashes can be peeled, seeds scooped out, sliced or diced, and cooked on top of the stove, or baked whole or halved in the oven in their shells. Butternut is the easiest to peel with a conventional potato peeler. Cutting winter squash requires a bit of body english and a heavy cleaver or sharp knife and a rubber mallet. It's easiest in some cases to bake the squash whole and then cut them midway during the cooking, after they have softened up a bit.

Soups, Starters and Side Dishes

Sliced and sautéed, tossed with a sweet and sour vinaigrette, butternut squash makes a tasty vegetable antipasto dish in the Sicilian manner. Cooked winter squashes can be mashed or pureed and sweetened, to be used as a pie filling, just as one would treat sweet potatoes or yams. They also make a superb filling for ravioli.

Winter squash is an ideal vegetable side dish, tossed with a bit of melted butter, a dash of salt and a quick grinding of nutmeg. Cubes of squash can be tossed with butter or oil and lots of garlic slivers and baked as a gratin. If your squash is a bit stringy, it's a candidate for mashing.

Spaghetti squash is unique in that when it is cooked its flesh can be pulled into long strands that resemble spaghetti. Remember to puncture the spaghetti squash before baking or it may explode in the oven. Acorn squash need simply to be cut in half, seeds scooped out, and baked with a half inch or so of water in the pan until the flesh is tender. Season it with butter, a bit of brown sugar or honey and a dash of cinnamon and nutmeg. You can eat this sweet squash right from the shell.

Winter squash can be the basis for a rich and filling soup. When making soup you may bake the squash, then mash or puree and add this to the simmering broth, or you can peel, dice and cook the squash directly in the broth. Roasting produces a deeper flavor. For added sweetness some cooks like to add a bit of chopped apple or pear when sautéing the onions for the soup. Impress your guests by serving your soup from a hollowed-out pumpkin.

Try Joyce Goldstein's Recipes:

Moroccan Tagine of Pumpkin and Lentils
Melted Golden Squash
Winter Squash Soup
Pumpkin Squash Risotto
Pumpkin Squash Salad


About Joyce Goldstein

Joyce Goldstein is a consultant to the restaurant and food industries. For 12 years she was chef/owner of the ground- breaking, award-winning Mediterranean restaurant SQUARE ONE in San Francisco. In addition, she taught cooking for 18 years. Joyce is the author of many cookbooks, including Sephardic Flavors — Jewish Cooking of the Mediterranean, Cucina Ebraica, Flavors of the Italian Jewish Kitchen, and The Mediterranean Kitchen.

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