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Flavorful winter squash zing up fall cooking

By on September 27, 2017 in Columnist with 0 Comments

Bonnie OrrBy Bonnie Orr

Autumn’s cooler evenings encourage cooks to start baking again.

Winter squash is easy to grow and will keep in a cool location all winter long, and I often have to pace myself not to use them all up in October and November.

When you harvest the ones from your garden be sure to leave on at least a one-inch stem. If you cut off the entire stem, it creates an entry point for molds and rot.

The winter squash is an American historical food, even more so than pumpkin.

And the varieties are so numerous that everyone seems to have a favorite of these thick, heavy textured, bright orange or red-fleshed relatives of cucumbers, zucchini, gourds, cantaloupes and pumpkin.

Since winter squash is much more flavorful than its cousin pumpkin, pumpkin recipes can be zinged up by substituting winter squash.

Some people swear by Hubbard, or Butternut or Kerri or Australian Blue or Acorn, etc. The best part is that you can embellish the squash with South American, or Indian flavors whether you grate, steam, sauté, bake or stuff it.

Baking several at one time and then chunking or pureeing the cooked flesh and freezing it will put you hours ahead when preparing a dish that calls for winter squash.

Cut the squashes in half and clean out the fibrous seed cavity. Some people love the seeds baked on a cookie sheet floated in salty water.

Bake the squash open side up until a knife easily penetrates the flesh — about an hour. It is easier to peel the tough skin after the squash is cooked than it is to peel it while the vegetable is raw. (Just a point — squash is actually a fruit!)

One pound of raw winter squash equals about 4 cubed cups or 2 cups of puree. Puree the squash in a food processor, but do not let it get so smooth that it liquefies.

The puree is much more versatile than merely a base for soup or pie — even marmalade. The smooth squash can be frozen or canned.

The wide variety of winter squash can provide a base for delicious fall recipes.

Winter squash

with barley

Cubed cooked winter squash is a perfect base for barley and beans. The herb garden should still be producing in early fall, and will provide the interesting flavors for this dish. If you use dried herbs, reduce the amount called for by one half.

4 servings

1 1/2 hours

Bake at 350

3 cups baked, cubed winter squash

1 cup cooked barley- drained

1 cup cooked white beans -drained

2 cloves garlic minced

1 large onion, chopped

1 tablespoon sesame oil

2 tablespoons fresh minced savory

2 tablespoons chopped basil

1 tablespoon chopped rosemary

Salt/white pepper

2 cups stock

1 cup grated cheddar or feta cheese

In a large oven-proof pan, sauté the garlic and onion in the oil.

Stir in the squash, barley, beans, the herbs, salt and pepper.

Pour in the stock.

Top with the cheddar cheese.

Bake uncovered at 350 for 1 hour.

Serve for lunch or dinner with meat and a salad.

Winter squash

soufflé

50 minute prep

35 minute bake at 375

4 tablespoons flour

3 tablespoons butter

1 cup milk

1 cup pureed winter squash

1 teaspoon grated lemon zest

1 teaspoon each nutmeg, cayenne, salt

4 egg yolks

4 egg whites

1/4 cup Swiss cheese grated

Make a roux by melting the butter and stirring in the flour. Cook over low heat until the roux is a light brown.

Stir in the milk and cook gently until the milk is thickened.

Stir in the squash and the seasonings. Cool slightly.

Beat the egg yolks until light yellow.

Beat the egg whites until stiff.

Stir the egg yolks into the squash mixture. Gently fold the beaten whites into the mixture.

Pour the soufflé into a parchment paper-lined soufflé pan, or an oven-proof dish that holds about a quart.

Sprinkle with the Swiss cheese.

Bake 35 minutes until the soufflé is lightly brown and firm.

Serve immediately. Winter squash goes especially well with baked pork chops.

Bonnie Orr — the dirt diva — cooks and gardens in East Wenatchee.

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