Friday, September 18, 2009

Horray for Autumn! Squashes Abound!

Autumn is right around the corner and in Quebec, it's prime squash harvest season.

It's one of my favorite vegetables to work with. It can be used the same way you would use potato, carrots, or any other starchy root vegetable. Every part of it can be used, the skin in broth, the flesh in a miscellany of dishes and the seeds as a snack or topping to your salads.

My favorite squashes: kabocha, butternut, buttercup and Aladdin's turban. All of them have a deep orange sweet flesh that's rich in beta-carotene and other vitamins and trace minerals. Butternut is the easiest to peel, with a regular peeler doing the job. Otherwise, I like to use my cleaver to just split the squash in two and then slice off the flesh, inch by inch around. Make sure you save the seeds. They are always wonderful roasted and seasoned.

You can thinly slice your peeled squash and rub the slices with olive oil and a bit of salt . Roast on a cookie sheet, on a single layer for 30 minutes at 350F.

Alternatively, I like making a squash and spinach bake with cubed (1cm cubes) squash, wilted spinach and Parmesan cheese (feel free to substitute with nutritional yeast), and also baked at 350F for 30 minutes.

I also make a great soup with squash, sweet potato, some curry, turmeric and onion. Just cook until tender in vegetable broth - enough to cover. Throw in some red lentils if you want some extra protein and fiber in there.

As for the seeds, some squashes throw in more pith than others so cleaning the seeds is crucial if you want to roast them without getting mushy. Drying them can be challenging so leaving them out on a cookie sheet for an hour should get most of the surface moisture out. Then toss them with a bit of oil (olive or sunflower) and spices. My favorite: smoked paprika, maple syrup (just a spoonful) and chili pepper. Roast at 400F for a few minutes and make sure you watch the seeds. They can burn in a moment's time. Usually 5-10 minutes does the trick.

Enjoy the harvest!

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