Janine Gilbertson's Granite Kitchen: Squeeze in some squash

By JANINE GILBERTSON November 08. 2017 1:03AM
Acorn squash stuffed with wild rice and sausage. (JANINE GILBERTSON)

Odd-looking winter squashes are piled high in grocery stores at this time of year, but don’t let their thick, strange exteriors deter you from giving them a try.

Take time to peel the exterior or crack one open and roast it, and you will be richly rewarded.

Winter squashes are an interesting group. Although I’ve long thought of them as vegetables, winter squash are actually fruit species within the genus Cucurbita.

I came across some interesting information about cucurbits while doing a little research: Ancestral species of this genus were present in the Americas before the arrival of humans. Scientists believe their likely center of origin is southern Mexico, and today they are eaten in most places in the world. The largest producer is China, followed by India, Russia and the United States.

Once you get past the thick skin of a winter squash, you’ll find the inside easy to manage. If you can’t be bothered with the skin, you can always cut your squash into pieces, leave the skin on and cook it with the skin. The skin will soften and be easier to remove. 

I love cutting an acorn squash in half and making different kinds of stuffing to fill the center. My mother likes to add a little butter and brown sugar to the center of a halved acorn squash before roasting. I remember loving that as a kid, and scraping every bit of the squash from the skin and mashing it up with the butter and sugar. Heaven.

Butternut is a pretty common winter squash with lots of uses. It can be used as a substitute for pumpkin in many dishes and is excellent in pastas and risotto. 

I also love that when you buy winter squash, it stores well so you don’t have to use it right away. My father once owned an old farmhouse in Merrimack that had a dug foundation and an old stone root cellar. I can imagine that long before refrigeration, this was the time of year when a root cellar like that would be loaded up with plenty of homegrown winter squash, which would keep for months in the cool space.

Wild Rice and Sausage Stuffed Acorn Squash

2 medium acorn squashes, halved and seeded

1 lb sausage, such as mild Italian

2 cups wild rice, cooked

1 zucchini, chopped

1 sweet onion, chopped

8 oz package mushrooms, chopped

1 tbsp olive oil

1 cup chicken broth

1 tsp salt

1/2 tsp pepper

1/4 cup feta cheese for garnish, if desired

Fresh parsley for garnish, if desired

Preheat oven to 350. 

Add the olive oil to a large skillet and heat over medium high. Add the sausage, onion, mushrooms and zucchini. Using a spatula, break up the sausage into smaller pieces while cooking. 

Sauté until the vegetables have softened and the sausage is cooked throughout. 

Stir in the rice, salt, pepper and chicken stock. Simmer for about 10 minutes and remove from heat. 

Set the squash in a baking dish with the flesh facing up (you may need to shave a flat spot on the back side to help it lay flat). Spoon the rice and sausage mixture into the squash, pressing to pack the stuffing in tightly. 

Cover with aluminum foil and place in the preheated oven. Bake for about 50 minutes, or until the squash has softened. Remove from oven and garnish with feta and parsley, if desired, before serving.
Butternut squash risotto. (JANINE GILBERTSON)

Butternut Squash Risotto

1 medium size butternut squash, peeled and cubed

1 tbsp olive oil

2 cups aborio rice, cooked

2 cups chicken stock

1 tsp Kosher salt

1/2 cup parmesan cheese, shredded

1/4 cup pepitos, if desired, for garnish

Preheat oven to 425.

Place the squash in a shallow backing dish, drizzle with olive oil and toss to coat. Place in the oven and roast for 15 minutes. Flip the squash cubes over with a spatula and return to oven. Roast for an additional 10 to 15 minutes, until the edges turn dark brown and the squash has softened. Remove from oven and set aside. 

Add the rice and chicken stock to a large sauce pan and set over medium high heat. Cook for about ten minutes, or until the rice becomes thick and creamy. Remove from heat and stir in parmesan cheese, salt and pepper. 

Stir in the roasted squash and mix gently. Garnish with pepitos, if desired, before serving.

Roasted purple potatoes and buttercup squash (JANINE GILBERTSON)

Oven Roasted Potatoes and Buttercup Squash

24 oz bag gourmet purple potatoes

1 sweet onion, roughly chopped

1 medium buttercup squash, peeled and cubed

3 tbsp olive oil

1 1/2 tsp kosher salt

1/2 tsp ground black pepper

Preheat oven to 425.

Cut the potatoes in half and place in large bowl. Add the peeled, cubed squash and onions and drizzle with olive oil. 

Spread the potatoes, onion and squash in an even layer on a baking sheet or roasting pan and set in preheated oven. 

Roast for about 15 minutes, then use a spatula to turn the vegetables over. Continue roasting for an additional 15 minutes or until the vegetables have softened and have started to brown. 

Sprinkle with salt and pepper before serving.


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