Beautiful Pumpkins and Squash Make Savory Fall Fare
Nov 03, 2015 03:46PM
● By Lesley Stiles
Autumn and winter squashes overflow bowed tables at
farmers’ markets as we bundle and bustle into the late months of the calendar.
Many cucurbits are overlooked and used strictly as décor on merry porches until
poinsettias displace them to the backyard. Smooth, yellow, and oblong,
spaghetti squash is in the most interesting class of American native cucurbits.
Raw, it may resemble any other hard winter squash with seeds. Taking on an otherworldly
character when baked, the flesh falls from leather like skin resembling
precisely sliced vermicelli ribbons, beckoning to be combined in all manner of
mysterious creations and picking up flavor nuances like a greedy hitchhiker.
A Variety of Ways to Enjoy Squash
Slice spaghetti squash in half and remove seeds to begin your culinary adventure. Bake with an olive oil or butter-filled cavity seasoned with sea salt and pepper in a covered baking dish in a hot 425* oven for 35 to 40 minutes. Fluff with a fork to devour creamy strands as is, or if feeling exotic, mix with some freshly made garam masala, orange zest and toasted almonds to serve alongside nice lamb Tagine. Sauté sliced winter vegetables with olive oil, chopped soft herbs, such as parsley, marjoram, tarragon, and a touch of tomato sauce, and lavishly drape over the sweet ribbons for a soul-craving break from the onslaught of holiday food. Leftover cooked squash can be incorporated into cinnamon spiked pancakes or cranberry studded pumpkin muffins, leaving bamboozled partakers with a lingering cucurbit flavor, wondering what they just ate.
Not just for carving to scare wee bairns, some pumpkins are amazing eaten. Deep red and magenta to almost make believe orange, the Rouge Vif d’Etampes looks like something out of a fairytale. AKA Cinderella pumpkin, owing to the resemblance of a famous getaway coach, this French heirloom cucurbit makes for excellent, long-lasting décor. Legend has it that this pumpkin may have been the variety cultivated by the Pilgrims and served at the second Thanksgiving dinner. Don’t be captivated by her squashed, deeply ribbed good looks alone though, as the molten orange flesh is creamy and sweet.
Gently slice off top, scooping out seeds, saving them to sprinkle with salty olive oil and roasted for crunchy tidbits. Create a layered casserole inside the cleaned pumpkin by throwing in sliced zucchini, chopped onion, grated Parmesan, and cooked spinach. Top off with eggs beaten with cream and seasoned with salt and pepper. Put the top back on and place on a baking sheet in a 350* oven for about an hour, until the egg mixture has set.
Use the rich flesh for pies, cookies, and breads by cutting off top, slicing in half, and scooping out seeds. Place in a baking dish with a ½ inch of water, cover, and bake at 350* until soft. Puree or mash and use according to your recipe. You will likely have several recipes worth of pumpkin puree from just one pumpkin, so I measure it out according to recipes and freeze it in batches. Add chocolate chips to any pumpkin cookie or bread recipe for a surprisingly addictive sweet. My motto: Two for décor and one to eat now. You will never buy a can of pumpkin again.
Creamy yellow and orange, specked with long green furrows, the Delicata squash is almost too pretty to eat. Almost. Also known as sweet potato squash, the Delicata does indeed marry well with the yam. Pick firm and heavy squash and prepare to roast, sauté, or mash by removing both ends and peeling the skin off. Slice in half lengthwise and remove seeds to free up the flesh for a velvety soup concocted by roasting and puréeing squash with a touch of stock, apple cider vinegar, and cinnamon spiked cream. Create an amazing Thanksgiving side dish of sliced Delicata layered with sliced apples, onions, fresh thyme and grated Gruyere baked to bubbling golden brown. Embellish mashed potatoes with half a mashed squash and a few zests of orange peel. Cube and simmer along with lentils, garlic, and fresh ground cumin to warm chilly winter tummies.
As of this writing, still no rain, but the ridges around us are amazing in their scorched simplicity and deserve a romp up and down dusty trails to spot owls, coyotes, spiders, snakes, and all manner of wildlife native to our hood. There is a group of 16 turkeys we spot almost every hike. They started out as 17 babies about 3 or 4 months ago and, to our knowledge, have only lost one. Traveling in a tight group throughout the park probably helps in survival.