FYI: Recipe Note Tips - Winter Squash in Every Way

Winter Squash in Every Way
There are dozens of varieties of winter squash -- from softball-sized acorn and sweet dumpling to beach ball-sized Hubbard and banana. No matter which kind you're buying, select squash that's heavy for its size and has a dull rind: shiny skin tells you that the squash was picked before it had time to grow ripe and flavorful. Store winter squash in a cool, dry place until you're ready to make it into something delicious.

Helpful Harvest Hints:
-Acorn squash is an acorn-shaped winter squash with dark green fluted skin and yellow to orange flesh. Its large seed cavity makes it a perfect candidate for stuffing.
-This winter squash is characterized as having a thick hard skin and seeds. Its firm flesh requires longer cooking times than summer squash.
-The typical acorn squash weighs between 1 to 3 pounds and is noted for its sweet flavor.
-Choose squashes that are heavy for their size with hard, thick shells. Avoid those with any signs of decay, soft spots or cuts in the shells.
-Store whole unwashed squashes in a cool (50F), dry, dark place with good ventilation for up to two months. Smaller varieties do not keep as long as larger ones. Do not wrap them or place them in a plastic bag. Wrap cut pieces securely in plastic food wrap and refrigerate for up to five days.

Decisions, decisions. First of all, don't bother eating bland field pumpkins - that is, the kind sold for carving jack o' lanterns. Instead, select the little dark orange variety called sugar pumpkins. Most other winter squash varieties vary only slightly in flavor and texture: sugar pumpkins, as well as butternut, acorn, delicata, Hubbard, kabocha and dumpling squash can all be used interchangeably in recipes. The only common variety that requires unique treatment is the stringy-fleshed spaghetti squash.

Squash, the Easy Way. Butternut and delicata squash have fairly thin skin, making them easy to peel when raw. For most other varieties, don't waste your time or risk losing a finger by trying to wrestle the peel off of them while raw; just cut them in half or quarters and bake them at about 375 degrees F (190 degrees C). For squash puree, let it cook until the flesh is really soft, then scoop it out of the shell and run it through the food processor. To serve the squash in cubes, bake it just until tender, then cut it into wedges the way you would a cantaloupe, and trim the flesh away from the skin with a paring knife.

Serving Squash. Pureed squash is most often used in pies, cookies, cakes and breads, but give it a try in savory dishes like soups, sauces, mashed potatoes or risotto. Cubed, roasted squash is wonderful when topped with brown sugar and dried cranberries, or sprinkled with breadcrumbs and Parmesan cheese. It's also exquisite when tossed with pasta and accented with other fall flavors like sage, bacon, and sauteed leeks and mushrooms. Or, make a marvelous salad by tossing chilled squash cubes with mixed greens, red onions, dried cherries or figs, and roasted pumpkin seeds.


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