If you're new to winter squash, have no fear. Learning how to cook squash has got to be one of the EASIEST things you'll do in the kitchen; it always turns out well, it's nearly impossible to overcook, and any leftovers are fun to play around with and can add so much to any meal you pull together.
There are many types of winter squash out there that you'll come across. I recommend you try them all at some point. You'll start to find some favorites.
PLUS, they look really cool on display until you cook 'em up and eat them. Here they are on my kitchen table waiting their turn. Get in ma bell-ay! :)
My personal all-time favorite is the sweet dumpling squash. They're cute and little and personal-sized and sweet as can be. Awwww!
Hubby Jeff's current favorite is spaghetti squash which looks just like angel hair pasta (as you'll see below) but it doesn't taste like pasta; it's got a slightly sweet and delicate flavor. Be sure to expand your horizons with spaghetti squash because you can do so much more with it than simply adding some pasta sauce (although that tastes mighty good too).
What you'll learn here is how to select your winter squash in the store and any prep needed, how to cook squash and finally seasoning and flavoring tips. Plus, you'll find some of my favorite squash recipes, too!
So let's get started, shall we? First, a review of what you'll learn below:
When selecting your Winter Squash, organics are preferred because they just taste better! But since they're NOT one of the top 7 most pesticide-laden veggies that should be purchased organic it's okay to buy them in their non-organic form.
When winter squash are in season, they're really and truly amazing. They cook up moist and flavorful. But when they're out of season, they cook up dry. So I don't jump at squash the second they come in season, and I don't nab the few that are hanging out by season's end. It's all the middle-of-the-season squash that are best.
The squash season runs during the colder months, which here in the U.S. is October, November and December. By January they start to wane. The season is pretty much wrapped up by February.
You'll want to choose squash that aren't too big (compared to each other) because they'll take forever to cook. You can go ahead and choose a smaller one for 1-2 people and a medium-sized squash for 2 or more.
Look for a surface that has no gauges or strange markings that look like they don't belong. Some squash grow with crazy bumps and stripes; you'll get a feel for what is supposed to be there and what isn't. Just use your best judgment. When in doubt, ask your friendly produce employee or Farmer's Market peep to help you pick a good one.
It's super easy to clean a winter squash. Just scrub with a veggie brush (or washcloth) under running water. Then, dry with a towel.
That's truly all there is to the prep.
I'll never forget the very first squash I cooked up. My mother-in-law Jean (known as "Mean Jean" in the Bridge circles) taught me how simple it can be.
First and foremost, forget any notions of cutting your squash before cooking it. MOST winter squash is incredibly difficult to cut in its raw state (with the exception of spaghetti squash), and while you CAN attempt it (and many people do!) it's far easier — and safer! — to bake it for a bit to slightly soften and THEN cut into it, before finishing off the baking process.
Believe me! They don't call me Sasster the Walking Disaster for nothin'. ;)
There is really only ONE cooking method I, personally, use when cooking my winter squash and that is baking. Here's how to do it...
Now, the only other squash-cooking method I use is steaming and that's for spaghetti squash. That's because I find spaghetti squash has a tendency to dry out when baked.
As I mentioned earlier, spaghetti squash is easier to cut (although you do need to put a little muscle into it!). Be careful! Again, I like using my serrated bread knife for the job. Cut in quarters, remove the seeds with a fork or knife or your hand (or all of the above) and place into a countertop or stovetop food steamer and cook for 20-30 minutes or until it gives when you squeeze the sides of the squash.
Scoop out the spaghetti-like strands of squash into a bowl to season. You'll want to hold onto the squash with an oven mitt because it will be hot! And while you can let it cool for a bit for easier handling, you don't want to wait too awfully long or it will get cold.
Remove spaghetti squash innards with a fork or spoon, plate and season. It's ready to go!
Create your very own recipes with some of your favorite ingredients from this list of foods that match perfectly.