Winter squash packs flavor, nutrition

squashWinter squash, with colors that range from orange and green to yellow and white, certainly look festive. Along with close relative the pumpkin, squash remains a quintessential fall vegetable. But beyond gathering the bright-colored beauties in a seasonal display, what can you do with them?

One thing you have to do — if you want them for more than their good looks — is cook them.

Unlike their thin-skinned, summer squash cousins — zucchini, pattypan or yellow crookneck — most winter squash has a thick, tough rind that protects a firm, sweet, often brightly colored interior, one that must be seeded and cooked.

Once halved and roasted, or peeled, diced and boiled, winter squash offers a rich, sweet flesh that lends itself well to the big flavors and bold spices of fall.

They also pack a nutritional punch.

“Squash is a healthy way to get Vitamin A from your food,” said Dr. Tamra Aman with Valley Health Systems in Huntington. “One serving a day would be good, just follow the normal pyramid with them. And also try to rotate the vegetables.”

Keep cool

They’ll keep well in a cool, dry spot for as long as two months (but only about two weeks in the fridge). Though you want to avoid squash with cuts or soft spots, don’t worry about scouting out the ripest in the bin, said chef Freddy Sanchez of Adobo Grill, an upscale Mexican restaurant with locations in Chicago and Indianapolis.

Sanchez says the flavors of the popular butternut and acorn are similar, but there is one big difference.

“The butternut squash is a little more stable. It holds better when you dice it,” he says. “Acorn squash contains a little more water. It doesn’t hold its shape as well unless you leave it in the skin.”

Although it’s often prepared in that manner — split or sliced, sprinkled with brown sugar and cinnamon, dotted with butter and baked till tender — Sanchez uses it along with wild mushrooms and asadero cheese as a stuffing for chicken breasts.

One of his favorites is butternut squash enchiladas in a mole verde sauce.

Sopa de Langosta y Calabaza — Butternut Squash and Lobster Soup — offers a smooth, creamy concoction flavored with lobster stock and garnished with epazote, a Mexican herb found in Latin markets.

The rich soup gets its spice from chipotle peppers in adobo sauce. And while it does use a quarter cup of heavy cream, its smooth, rich texture comes primarily from the squash.

Although Sanchez noted that you can substitute thyme for the epazote, it’s worth seeking out the traditional Mexican herb in Latino markets, he says.

Sanchez did offer one bit of time-saving advice for those making his popular soup. “You can buy lobster base,” he says, advising time-pressed cooks to use a soup base rather than boiling a lobster for stock.

Sanchez notes, his favorite squash dishes are all simple and can easily be prepared ahead of time.

“Then you can put it all together at the last minute,” he says.

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This page contains a single entry by ID Admin published on October 30, 2006 12:57 PM.

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