Winter Squash: One Tough but Delicious Character
by Dame Judy Hevrdejs
Multi-colored winter squash, those acorns, butternuts and more, piled up at farmers markets and grocery stores look cool, right? And they make a nice centerpiece. But give them some credit: The sweet meat inside these hard-shelled squash deserve a bigger role at the dinner table.
What, you can’t cut through that shell with a knife? And you don’t know how to cook the thing? No problem. Vicki Westerhoff of Genesis Growers , grows a wide variety of winter squash, and told us her solution.
Start by washing the squash then prick the shell all over with the tip of a sharp knife. Put the squash in a baking pan and bake 25-30 minutes in a 375-degree oven. Timing? It depends on the squash type and size. So near the end of baking, test prick the squash with a fork. You should be able to break through the shell easily and only be slightly soft. If not, give it a few more minutes.
Now take the squash out of the oven and cool until you can handle it comfortably. Cut in half and scrape out seeds with a spoon. Return halves to the baking pan. Bake another 25-30 minutes until meat is soft. Cover pan with foil to keep squash moist.
Now scoop the cooked squash out of its shell and into a bowl or casserole, mash and eat as is or:
Go old-school: Put a small bit of butter and brown sugar in the hollow cavity of each half during the last 5 or 10 minutes of baking.
Go smooth: Scoop cooked pulp into a bowl. Mash then season savory (salt, pepper, herbs) or sweet (honey or maple syrup plus grated fresh ginger).