NDSU Extension Service - Ramsey County


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They're A Keeper!

They’re A Keeper!


          This family of veggies has high levels of potassium and iron, as well as fiber and vitamins A and C.  All this for just 75 calories per cup and a reputation for keeping food safe from harvest until December or later.  Did you guess squash?  

          Squash's impressive flexibility in recipes from breads to soups, mildly sweet flavors, and brilliant hues make it a vibrant addition to fall and winter menus when other fresh vegetables are fading from the growing season. .

          Only one problem – many cooks are scared off from those oddly shaped veggies with the impossibly thick skin to peel.  Following are a few basics of how to change that strange shape into a tasty dish.  

          Select squash that is heavy for its size with a taut skin, matte finish, and no soft spots or cracks.  Also, do the fingernail test: If you can press it into the rind fairly easily, that means the squash was picked before it was fully ripe and you should pass on it.

          Store in a dry, relatively cool place with good air circulation (like a cellar or well-ventilated pantry) and winter squash will keep for several weeks, not just a few days like many other veggies.

          Cut smaller squash (like acorn squash) in half; scoop out the seeds. Place 2 teaspoons honey, brown sugar, or maple syrup and 1 tablespoon butter into their centers. Bake in a preheated 350 degrees F (175 degrees C) oven for about 30 minutes, or until easily pierced with a fork.  Large squash can be roasted whole and unpeeled but scrub thoroughly to remove any garden dirt; cut and scoop out seeds after cooking and slightly cooled.

          Roasting squash helps to maintain squash's delicate flavor. Once roasted and cooled, there are a wide variety of ways to use cooked squash. One option is to mash the squash and use it in any recipe calling for squash purée. Roasted squash freezes extremely well and reheats easily. Don't be afraid to roast several squash at once and freeze it for use during the holidays; it'll cut down on some of the cooking crunch come November and December.

          To boil, cut the squash in half and discard the seeds. Peel and cut the squash into chunks. Place in a saucepan and cover with water. Bring to a boil and cook until the squash is tender. Let the chunks cool, then purée the flesh in a food processor or mash. To use the purée in pies, pass it through a strainer or sieve to remove any fibers or chunks.

          You can also microwave squash (the taste will be almost the same, although the rind won't get as soft and you won't get the caramelized browning that you do when you bake it): Arrange pieces of squash in a microwave-safe dish and cover loosely with unbleached parchment paper.

          One of the many odd shaped squash with an odd name is spaghetti squash.   To bake spaghetti squash, pierce in several places with cooking fork to vent steam. After baking, remove spaghetti strands from squash by lifting gently with two forks. Transfer to a warm serving platters and serve with butter and grated cheese or your favorite sauce.  

          The term "summer" and "winter" for squash are based on current usage.  "Summer" types are on the market all winter; and "winter" types are on the markets in the late summer and fall, as well as winter.  "Good keepers" became known as winter vegetables if they would "keep" until December.


          Caramelized Buttercup Squash


2 medium butternut squash (4 to 5 pounds total)

6 -8 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled

1/4 cup light brown sugar, packed

½ tsp. salt

1/2-1 tsp. black pepper


          Preheat the oven to 400°F.  Cut off the ends of each butternut squash and discard.  Peel and cut in half lengthwise.  Remove seeds and cut into 1 1/4" to 1 1/2" cubes (large and uniform is best).  Melt butter and place in large mixing bowl along with brown sugar, salt and pepper.  Add squash cubes and stir to cook evenly.  Spread in a single layer on lightly greased baking sheet.  Roast for 45 minutes to 55 minutes, until the squash is tender and the glaze begins to caramelize.  Stir occasionally while roasting a few to brown evenly.

          Serves six.


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