Mindful Metropolis November 2009 : Page 26

living healthy | from your local farmer A Warm Welcome for Winter Squash by terra broCKMan A s the short, chilly days of November descend, the ascending mounds of brightly colored squashes in farmers’ markets and grocery stores are welcome signs of winter. These long-lasting, nutritious, and versatile winter squashes can simply be baked and eaten, or transformed into soups, gratins, pies and muffins that brighten up the short days and long nights and warm the soul. “Winter squash” is a general term that refers to the multitude of hard- skinned squashes that grow slowly and mature late in the season. These were literal life-savers in years past, when families stock-piled “winter keep- ers”—any winter fruits or vegetables that would keep clear through the win- ter until the first greens of spring re-appeared. Winter squashes come in all colors, shapes and sizes. In general, the darker the skin and flesh color, the higher the beta-carotene, but all winter squashes are an excellent source of vitamin A and vitamin C, potassium, manganese and fiber, and also a good source of folate, omega 3 fatty acids and B vitamins. It’s generally believed that squash originated in Mesoamerica and rapidly spread to the rest of the world, although the routes are often unclear. One of my favorite winter squashes, the kabocha, is widely thought to be a Japanese squash, but was introduced to Japan by Portuguese sailors in 1541. Although the kabocha will not win any beauty contests with its knobbly, dull-colored, deep green skin, sometimes with celadon stripes, its inner beauty—intense- ly rich-tasting, sweet, fiery-orange flesh—is deeply rewarding. Except for the kabocha and kuri, which cook quickly when steamed or thinly sliced and deep-fried for tempura (the skin is edible), it’s best to start cooking winter squash by cutting them in half and baking. From there, you can serve in slices or chunks (as kids, we used to always slather it with butter and brown sugar, but I now add butter and herbs), or scoop out the flesh and use in your favorite soups, stews, gratins, vegetable ragouts and desserts. My grandmother always said the secret of her pumpkin bars and pump- kin pie was that she didn’t use pumpkin. Rather, she used winter squash, 26 november 2009

From Your Local Farmer: Winter Squash

Terra Brockman

A Warm Welcome for Winter Squash<br /> <br /> As the short, chilly days of November descend, the ascending mounds of brightly colored squashes in farmers’ markets and grocery stores are welcome signs of winter. These long-lasting, nutritious, and versatile winter squashes can simply be baked and eaten, or transformed into soups, gratins, pies and muffins that brighten up the short days and long nights and warm the soul.<br /> <br /> “Winter squash” is a general term that refers to the multitude of hard-skinned squashes that grow slowly and mature late in the season. These were literal life-savers in years past, when families stock-piled “winter keepers”— any winter fruits or vegetables that would keep clear through the winter until the first greens of spring re-appeared.<br /> <br /> Winter squashes come in all colors, shapes and sizes. In general, the darker the skin and flesh color, the higher the beta-carotene, but all winter squashes are an excellent source of vitamin A and vitamin C, potassium, manganese and fiber, and also a good source of folate, omega 3 fatty acids and B vitamins.<br /> <br /> It’s generally believed that squash originated in Mesoamerica and rapidly spread to the rest of the world, although the routes are often unclear. One of my favorite winter squashes, the kabocha, is widely thought to be a Japanese squash, but was introduced to Japan by Portuguese sailors in 1541. Although the kabocha will not win any beauty contests with its knobbly, dull-colored, deep green skin, sometimes with celadon stripes, its inner beauty—intensely rich-tasting, sweet, fiery-orange flesh—is deeply rewarding.<br /> <br /> Except for the kabocha and kuri, which cook quickly when steamed or thinly sliced and deep-fried for tempura (the skin is edible), it’s best to start cooking winter squash by cutting them in half and baking. From there, you can serve in slices or chunks (as kids, we used to always slather it with butter and brown sugar, but I now add butter and herbs), or scoop out the flesh and use in your favorite soups, stews, gratins, vegetable ragouts and desserts.<br /> <br /> My grandmother always said the secret of her pumpkin bars and pumpkin pie was that she didn’t use pumpkin. Rather, she used winter squash, Usually butternut. You can do the same with any “pumpkin” pie, bread, or muffin recipe.<br /> <br /> Simple Baked Winter Squash<br /> <br /> You can prepare squash this way as a savory side dish, or as the first step for making recipes calling for squash puree, such as soups, breads, or pies. Simply cool the cooked squash, and then puree in a food processor.<br /> <br /> »» 1 large butternut or 2 small winter squashes (acorn, delicata, kabocha, or red kuri) cut in half, seeded<br /> <br /> »» 2 teaspoons olive oil<br /> <br /> Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Coat roasting pan or glass baking dish with oil. Put squash, cut side down, in baking dish. Bake squash until a fork goes in easily. The red kuri and kabocha cook more quickly, and their thin skins will be tender and edible. If you like, turn the squash cut-side up and put a few tablespoons of butter in each before serving. If you want something special, stir in a little cream cheese or fresh chevre.<br /> <br /> Winter Squash Soup with Sage<br /> <br /> »» 1 tablespoon butter<br /> <br /> »» 1 tablespoon olive oil<br /> <br /> »» 2 cups chopped onions<br /> <br /> »» 2 tablespoons chopped fresh Italian parsley<br /> <br /> »» 2 teaspoons chopped fresh sage, plus more for garnish<br /> <br /> »» 4 cups 1/2-inch cubes peeled seeded winter squash<br /> <br /> »» 1-1/2 teaspoons coarse sea salt<br /> <br /> »» 1 garlic clove, minced<br /> <br /> »» 5 to 6 cups chicken broth<br /> <br /> Melt butter with oil in large pot over medium heat. Add onions, parsley and sage; sauté until onions are soft, about 5 minutes. Add squash and salt. Sauté until squash softens and onions are golden, about 6 minutes. Add garlic; stir 1 minute.<br /> <br /> Add 5 cups stock; bring to boil. Reduce heat, cover, and simmer until squash is very soft, about 25 minutes. Cool slightly. Working in batches, puree soup in blender. Return soup to pot. Thin with stock or cream, if desired. Season with pepper and more salt, if desired. Ladle soup into bowls. If you like, sprinkle with breadcrumbs, crumbled bacon, and/or freshly chopped sage.<br /> <br /> <br /> Terra Brockman is author of The Seasons on Henry’s Farm, available at terra brockman.com. She is also founder of The Land Connection, a nonprofit dedicated to preserving farmland, training new farmers and connecting consumers with local food. Visit theland connection.org to learn more.

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