Oddly Shaped, Sure, but Delicious

Oddly Shaped, Sure, but Delicious

How are acorns, spaghetti and bananas alike?
It’s not a trick question; they’re all kinds of winter squash,
and now is the time to eat them.
How are acorns, spaghetti and bananas alike?

It’s not a trick question; they’re all kinds of winter squash, and now is the time to eat them.

The family of winter squash, which also includes pumpkins, butternut and carnival squash, is available from August through March, but the gourds are best during their in-season from October to November.

The name “winter squash” is derived from the fact that these kinds of squash store well through the winter and don’t need to be eaten right away. Winter squash can keep for about a month if stored in a cool, dry, well-ventilated place.

When buying winter squash, pick gourds that are firm and heavy for their size. They should have dull, not glossy rinds. The rinds should also be hard, because soft rinds may indicate that the squash inside is watery and flavorless. Avoid squash that have soft spots, signs of mold or punctures in the rinds.

Unlike summer squash – the family of squash that includes include yellow squash, zucchini and scallop squash – winter squash is best when cooked. To prepare winter squash, cut in half lengthwise. After removing the seeds and stringy fibers, bake, steam or boil the squash until tender.

When cooking winter squash with water, try to minimize how much water is used to avoid losing flavor and nutrients. Winter squash is listed on the World’s Healthiest Foods Web site (www.whfoods.com) because of its high concentrations of vitamins, especially vitamin A, which is good for the eyes, and vitamin C, a great antioxidant. One cup of winter squash has about 145 percent and 35 percent of the recommended daily value of vitamins A and C, respectively. Squash is also high in fiber.

At about 59 cents a pound, winter squash is a wallet-friendly food, too.

Stuffed Acorn Squash

Serves six

3 acorn squash

1/2 tsp. salt

4 medium apples, peeled, cored, and finely chopped

1 small orange, peeled, seeded, and finely chopped

1 cup cooked diced ham

1/4 cup light brown sugar

1/4 cup butter

Step 1: Cut squash in halves lengthwise; remove seeds and fibers. Sprinkle salt over cut halves.

Step 2: Combine chopped apples and orange, diced ham, brown sugar, and butter. Spoon mixture into the squash halves, dividing evenly.

Step 3: Place halves in shallow baking pans. Bake for about 55 to 65 minutes in a preheated 350-degree oven or until tender.

Butternut Squash Pie

Crust for a 1-crust 9-inch pie, homemade or purchased

1 butternut squash, about 2 pounds (2 cups mashed)

3 Tbs. melted butter

1 cup whipping cream

3/4 cup brown sugar, firmly packed

3 Tbs. maple syrup

1 tsp. ground cinnamon

1/2 tsp. salt

1/2 tsp. ground ginger

1/4 tsp. ground allspice

Dash ground red pepper

2 large eggs, lightly beaten

Sweetened whipped cream

Ground cinnamon

Step 1: Prepare crust; place crust in a 9-inch deep-dish pie plate; trim and crimp edges. Cover and place in freezer while filling is being prepared.

Step 2: Cut butternut squash in half lengthwise. Place squash halves, cut sides up, in a shallow baking dish or pan.

Step 3: Bake, uncovered, at 350 degrees for 50 to 55 minutes or until squash is tender, basting frequently with butter. Let squash cool enough to handle.

Step 4: Remove and discard squash seeds. Remove squash pulp, discarding shells. Mash pulp. Place 2 cups mashed pulp in a large bowl.

Step 5: Add 1 cup whipping cream, brown sugar, maple syrup, cinnamon, salt, ginger, allspice, red pepper, and the beaten eggs to mashed squash pulp; whisk until well blended. Pour mixture into prepared pastry shell.

Step 6: Bake squash pie at 350 degrees for 40 to 50 minutes, or until set in center. (Shield pie crust with strips of aluminum foil to prevent excessive browning, if necessary). Cool completely.

Step 7: Garnish each serving with a dollop of sweetened whipped cream; sprinkle each dollop with cinnamon.

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