Three Autumn Squashes That Add a Little Creativity to the Supper Menu
You butter-not stick to plain old pumpkin and spaghetti squash this season.
Fall usually means an onslaught of spaghetti squash, pumpkins, and butternut squash. Soups, pies, pasta sauces, even simple roasted side dishes—there's a lot you can do with them, and they are trusty, tasty autumn staples.
However, there are so many different types of squashes and gourds available that each offer a unique flavor or way of preparing it. Over the past year, I've been working at a farmers market on Saturdays and have been able to discover a multitude of new-to-me produce, including those in the squash and gourd family. Here are three out-of-the-box autumn squashes or gourds that you may not have considered, but really should.
With an edible skin, velvety texture, and a flesh that caramelizes beautifully in the oven, the Delicata could be likened to the taste of a sweet potato. Texturally, it's a little firmer, and the heartiness makes the Delicata a great candidate for stuffing. Good pairings include: some combination of Italian sausage, apples, pecans, and cheese (Mozzarella, Parmesan, Feta, and Blue cheese in particular).
If you're in favor of simplicity, opt to cube the squash or slice it into rings for roasting. Olive oil, salt, and pepper are a nice, neutral, yet still flavorful route, but if you want some real fun, try dressing with maple syrup, brown sugar, cinnamon, and/or nutmeg before sliding the tray into the oven.
Say it with me: "ku-BO-cha." This is also known as a Japanese pumpkin and is heavenly when fried. I've most often eaten it as tempura, but recently tried a beer-battered version and, holy cow, it was good.
The exterior of the Kabocha is a deep green but cut one open and reveal the orange flesh. It's creamy but firm and holds up well in the fryer and the oven. My mom prefers to skin it (this is difficult but doable; make sure your knife is good), but you could skip this step. The rind is edible and in no way unpleasant. (Case en point: My mom ordered a second basket of fried kabocha at a restaurant—and the restaurant did not skin it, either.)
This is a gourd I've been selling at the farmers market but haven't worked up the personal courage to try. This is due, in part, to its size. Winter melons are no joke, and the smallest ones I've sold are around eight or nine pounds, minimum. They can grow to up to 40 pounds. (Perfect for feeding that Thanksgiving crowd!) While they keep exceptionally well unopened on the counter or, once cut, in the freezer, you need a game plan to finish it.
Many liken the winter melon to a large cucumber with the consistency a cross between the former and the white portion of a watermelon rind. If you've ever come to the end of a juicy watermelon slice, you know there's not much flavor in it, and you can expect the same from a winter melon.
The winter melon is usually available at farmers markets (look for a vendor selling Asian produce) or at a specialty supermarket—if you're intimidated at the thought of committing to 10 pounds of the fruit, rest assured that at the grocery store, they will be pre-cut and plastic-wrapped. Pick some up for soup or stir-fry, use as a zucchini replacement, and try it in a dessert or smoothie.