One of the most unappealingly named vegetables, squash, needs a little more love and attention in the culinary world. Perhaps it’s the name that leads people to believe its only role on your plate should be that of a “sloppy side dish”. Winter squash has a host of nutritional benefits, and more importantly, a long list of surprising ways it can be enjoyed!
Some amazing properties of squash
It’ no secret that those colorful, thick-skinned, odd-shaped winter squash you see in the grocery store are full of nutrients. The bright orange and yellow flesh of squash are a great source of Vitamin A, Vitamin C, Manganese as well as Copper. The starchy cell walls that make up the flesh of squash are rich in pectins that may have antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and even anti-diabetic qualities! Most people don’t have a problem with the nutritional quality of squash, the real issue is that they just don’t know how to prepare it (or rather, prepare it appealingly)
Types of squash and dishes
Winter squash varieties such as delicata, hubbard, kobucha, butternut, acorn, banana or spaghetti to name a few, can be an integral part of many dishes, or in some cases, the star!
Imagine how beautiful a whole, roasted buttercup squash stuffed to the brim with ground turkey, hearty brown rice, and a sweet saffron sauce would look sitting at the center of your dinner table! Think of the different textures and flavors you could introduce to muffin, pancake, or quick-bread batter with the addition of pureed squash in place of pumpkin!
Now that I have captured your tastebuds, and with that, your attention, try a few of these other ideas below:
3 Unique Ways to Prepare Winter Squash:
If you’re short on time, and want to enjoy the most nutritious way to eat any variety of squash, try cubing and steaming it! Steaming is quick and uses little water which insures that your squash retains its nutrients. Simply chop the squash into 1 inch cubes, place in a steamer and steam for 7 minutes. That’s it! These steamed cubes are delicious served warm with a little flax oil and salt, or topped with a runny egg and parmesan cheese. Try throwing steamed squash into soups, or my personal favorite, add to salads dressed with poppy-seed dressing!
If you are looking for next-level flavor, and have a little extra time, this method of cooking is sure to please! Again, chop the squash into small, half inch cubes. Toss with olive oil and whatever seasonings you desire and roast on 375 Degrees F until insides have softened and edges begin to caramelize. Rosemary is delicious on sweeter varieties of winter squash such as butternut or acorn. Garlic salt or powdered ranch seasoning is also a fun addition. I you are wanting something a little spicy, try adding chili powder or making your own “curried” squash by tossing with cumin, turmeric, ginger, garlic salt, and a little cayenne.
All of the fiber and starch seems to soften and lend a “melt-in-your-mouth” texture after squash cooked on low temperatures for long periods of time. Simply halve your squash and place it cut side down in about one inch of water in a slow cooker. Cook on low for 3-4 hours or high for 1-2 hours (depending on the size of squash). You’ll be left with a buttery soft squash that can now be baked into savory waffle batter, added to thicken and sweeten batches of chili, or simply pureed with chicken stock and a bit of cream for a delicious, mild soup!
Boiling kills too many nutrients
For other tips and tricks regarding these delicious gourds, keep reading. If you used to boil your squash, quit it! Boiling pulls many nutrients out of the squash and into the water that afterwards is drained off. Bye-bye carotenoids and vitamin C!
Why stop at eating the flesh?
Do you love eating squash but hate to see so much waste? Many squash seeds are delicious when roasted with oil, spice, and salt. If having to cut into the tough skin of a squash is deterring you, try piercing the skin of your squash a few times with a fork. Microwave for 3-5 minutes to soften it up, then cut into it. It should be much easier!
Squash can be prepared so many different ways, you might never have to eat a squash the same way twice all season long! Have fun this fall season and invent new uses for this versatile, delicious vegetable!
Try these tasty squash recipes: