My kitchen island is an autumnal still life of winter squashes. Arranged in artistic topsy-turvy are pie pumpkins, buttercups, butternuts, acorns, delicatas, and a green-skinned beauty that looks …
My kitchen island is an autumnal still life of winter squashes. Arranged in artistic topsy-turvy are pie pumpkins, buttercups, butternuts, acorns, delicatas, and a green-skinned beauty that looks like a hat from the Mongolian steppes.
Curious Squash Facts
Last week, my husband brought home a buttercup squash, and I made an Indian curry, enjoying its chestnut flavor and golden flesh.
Afterward, always curious, I discovered winter squashes come from distinct genuses within the cucurbita family. Butternut is a Cucurbita moschata, while acorns, delicatas, pumpkins, and spaghetti squashes are Cucurbita pepos. Cucurbita maxima — include Hubbards, buttercups and kabocha types.
Maxima originated in South America between 4,000 and 8,000 years ago, from Argentina or Uruguay. They didn’t spread to North America until the 16th century where they were first used by Native peoples.
Portuguese sailors brought the kabocha types to Japan. They have a sweet flavor, even sweeter than butternut. Their texture is between a pumpkin and a sweet potato.
Buttercup with dense yellow-orange flesh is reminiscent of the white sweet potato in flavor. It’s popular in Brazil, Columbia, and Africa. A Hubbard squash is huge, sometimes between 15 and 40 pounds, and sold in pieces. It has a smooth texture with sweet and nutty tasting flesh.
By the way, those monster pumpkins you see around Halloween, well, they aren’t pumpkins but varieties from the Maxima genus. Maxima — huge, get it? Cinderella pumpkins aren’t pumpkins either, and I’m not sure how that affects the fairytale, but I’ll do some research and get back to you.
While familiar with butternuts, acorns, pumpkins, and delicatas, I’m learning to enjoy the kabocha types. They have dense, rich flesh with good flavor, and aren’t watery or stringy. They make excellent pies, custards, purees, and breads; are fabulous as a soup squash and wonderful as curries. You can roast, steam, or pressure cook them. Lazy me, I put the whole squash in the Instant Pot on high for 15 minutes and then puree. Always save the seeds and skin to make a rich vegetable broth. I use it as a soup base, and as the liquid for cooking legumes and grains.
The winter squash season runs from late summer to mid-winter. With tough, thick skins to protect their sweet inner flesh, they make wonderful storage vegetables, whole or pureed for the freezer, but what excites me is all the ways to serve them.
Roast slices with a maple glaze, and serve with oyster mushrooms. Tempura fritters with sage leaves. Roast, peeled, and diced, with olive oil, honey, thyme, and ginger. Puree with lime, curry spices, and chilies. Steam a custard with cardamom, cinnamon, allspice, and ginger. Bake a savory pie with rosemary, parmesan, and bacon. Try a Haitian beef and buttercup stew. Cook up a Thai peanut and squash soup.
Or, how about an African peanut, squash, and coconut soup? Make many Indian squash curries. Simmer a Japanese Kabocha. Eat often like mashed potatoes with butter and orange zest.
Buttercup Squash and Apple Curry
Makes a quart
The golden yellow alone makes this dish, but you won’t want to pass up the velvety squash, chunky tart apples, cashews, and curry spicing. Serve alone or as a side to naan, poultry, or red lentil dal.
¼ cup unsalted butter or oil of choice
1 large onion, cut into a medium dice
1 tablespoon fresh ginger, finely minced or paste
2 large baking apples, quartered with each quarter cut into
1 cup unsalted raw cashews
2 cups buttercup squash puree
14-ounce can full fat coconut milk or cream
1 teaspoon sea salt
2 tablespoons coconut sugar
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
¼ teaspoon black peppercorns
1 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
2 green cardamom pods opened or ¼ teaspoon decorticated cardamom
1 teaspoon turmeric powder
Instant Pot Whole Squash: Pierce whole squash in several places. Set the squash in a steamer basket, and set inside the inner pot. Add 2 cups of water to the bottom of the inner pot. Check the Instant Pot seal and put the lid on. Set to high pressure for 15 minutes with an instant release. Allow the squash to cool. Open it up, scrap the seeds aside, and scoop the flesh out and puree. Use all the seeds, guts, and skin to make stock in the Instant Pot. Add squash remains with 1 quart of water and any other peelings to the inner pot. Check the Instant Pot seal and put the lid on. Set to the broth cycle with a natural release.
In a large sauté pan, using a medium-high heat, melt the butter and add the onions and ginger. Sauté them for
Add the apples and sauté for another 5 minutes. Add the cashews and continue to sauté for another 5 minutes. The apples should be bite-tender but not falling apart. The cashews will soften.
While the onions and apples are sautéing, grind the spices.
Add the salt and sugar to the sauté with the spices.
Mix the squash and coconut milk together. Add to the sauté and fold in.
(Sidonie Maroon is culinary educator at The Food Co-op; abluedotkitchen.com. Follow Sidonie on The Food Co-op’s Facebook group, Cooking with the Co-op.)
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