Vegan Grandma

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Winter Squash, and Apple Soup With Ginger Root and Some Interesting things About Winter Squash

I've been very busy packing to move, so I haven't posted in a while, and I have missed blogging. Everything should be back to normal in a few weeks.

I was given two huge banana squash (about two feet long.) I had never seen such big squashes, and I had never eaten banana squash. It turns out they are really good.

I had a lot of squash, so I froze some and I experimented with some squash recipes. Here is a recipe I think is really good. I put this together by adapting a few different recipes.

Winter Squash, and Apple Soup With Ginger Root

About 2 pounds winter squash, (about 4 cups, cubed), peeled, seeded, and cubed

2 tart green apples such as Granny Smith, cored, peeled, and chopped (about 2 cups)

½ cup chopped onion

1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme

2 cups vegetable broth or vegetarian "chicken" broth

2 cups unsweetened apple juice

½ teaspoon salt

2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh ginger root

2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

salt and pepper to taste

Vegan yogurt for garnish (optional)

Steam the squash over gently boiling water until it is tender, about 10 minutes. When the squash is cool enough to handle, scoop out the seeds, peel the squash, and chop into small cubes.

Put 1/4 cup of the broth into a medium-sized saucepan. Add the apples, onion, and the thyme, and cook covered over low heat for 10 minutes. Add the squash cubes, the rest of the broth, the apple juice, ginger, and ½ teaspoon salt. Simmer covered over low heat for 20 minutes.

Puree the soup in a blender or food processor (you can do this in batches) until the mixture is smooth. Rinse the saucepan and place a sieve over it. Press the soup through the sieve, reheat the soup, and add the lemon juice, salt and pepper to taste.

Garnish each bowl of soup with a dollop of vegan yogurt if desired.

Some Interesting things About Winter Squash

Squash seems like such an unattractive for such a beautiful delicious food.

Squash are the fruits of various members of the gourd family, which fall into two classifications, summer squash (such as zucchini, crooknecked squash, pattypan squash) and winter squash (such as acorn squash, pumpkin, butternut squash, and hubbard squash).

Squash got its name from the Native American, Narragansets, who called summer squash "askatasquash", meaning "to eat raw or green". This name works for summer squash, but winter squash must be cooked.

Winter squash come later in the growing season than do summer squash. Summer squash are more perishable than winter squash because summer squash have a high water content. Unlike summer squash, winter squash can be kept for several months, if kept in a cool dry place.

Although, these days, summer squash is on the market all winter; and winter squash are on the market in the late summer and fall, as well as winter, at one time vegetables that would keep through the winter, became known as winter vegetables.

Winter squash are thick-skinned, and have denser, sweeter flesh than do summer squash.
Winter Squash and Pumpkins

The words "pumpkin" and "squash" have been used interchangeably by growers, consumers and the seed industry. The difference between winter squash and pumpkins is more culinary than botanical. Pumpkins are considered to be drier, coarser, and strong-flavored compared to squash and are therefore used differently in cooking. Winter squash have a finer texture and milder flavor and pumpkins have a somewhat coarse, stronger flavor. If you plan to cook and eat pumpkins, use Sugar Pie or other "eating" pumpkins. They taste better, and are less stringy than jack-o'-lantern pumpkins.

Nutritional Value

Winter squash are more nourishing than summer squash. Winter squash are an excellent source of magnesium, potassium, vitamin C, and beta carotene. The deeper the orange color of the squash, the more beta-carotene it contains. Winter squash are also a good source of calcium, folate and other B-vitamins (except B12), potassium, and fiber. Winter squash are one of the few vegetables that do not lose nutritional value after picking.

Selecting Winter Squash

Winter squash is available all year long and is at its peak from early fall through the winter.

Select squash that are heavy for their size, and have thick rinds. The heaver the squash, the denser and moister the flesh. Choose squash with no soft spots, cuts, breaks, and with their stems intact, if possible. Do not choose those that have sunken or moldy spots. Rough patches are ok, and slight variations in skin color will not affect flavor. If the skin of the squash is dark, it usually means it's darker and riper on the inside.

Storing Winter Squash

Most winter squash can remain at room temperature for a week or two. After two weeks they should be placed on top of thick pads of newspapers and stored in a cool (45 to 50 degrees), dry, well ventilated place, such as a basement. The exceptions are acorn, sweet dumpling, and delicata, which should not be kept at room temperature at all, but should be stored immediately in a cool, dry place. Winter squash can be stored this way from three to six months (smaller varieties will not keep as long). Check on a regular basis for rot.

You can refrigerate tightly wrapped, cut pieces of squash for a few days, but do not refrigerate whole squash or they will spoil quickly from the humidity.

Dark-green-skinned squash should not be stored near apples, as the ethylene from apples may cause the skin to turn orange-yellow.

Freezing Winter Squash

To freeze winter squash, scrub and cut squash into cooking-size pieces and remove seeds.

Steam or bake the squash until they are soft. Remove the pulp from rind and mash, or cut into cubes.

Cool quickly by putting the pan with the squash in cold water. Stir the squash occasionally to speed cooling.

Put the cooled squash in freezer containers leaving ½ inch head space. Seal, label, date and freeze.

Use frozen squash within 8 to 12 months.

Using Winter Squash

Various varieties of winter squash can be used interchangeably in most recipes, but winter squash cannot be used interchangeably with summer squash.

Unlike summer squash, winter squash must be cooked. Winter squash can be baked, roasted, fried, or steamed. They can be pureed, used in soups, pies, breads, stews, and casseroles, or they can be stuffed in various ways.

One pound of squash, will make about two servings.

One pound of whole raw squash will yield roughly two cups when cooked, seeded, and mashed.

One medium-size (15 to 20 pounds) pumpkin will yield 5 to 7 quarts of cooked pumpkin.

To cut a squash in half, grasp the squash firmly and use a sharp knife to slice through to the center. Then flip and cut the other side until the squash falls open. Remove and discard the seeds.

Wash the exterior of the squash just before using.

Winter squash is best baked, but it can also be steamed or boiled.

To bake winter squash, cut butternut, acorn, or other winter squash in half lengthwise, scoop out and discard the seeds, brush the cut surfaces lightly with oil, and place squash halves, flesh-side-down, in a baking dish. Bake at 375 degrees F until tender, usually about 30 minutes. Take the squash out of the oven just before the bottom starts to burn, but bake long enough for the squash to caramelize.

Place the cut halves upright on a serving plate, season with salt, pepper, and vegan margarine, or scoop out flesh and puree with garlic, basil, and olive oil or vegan margarine, or use in recipes.

If the squash has exuded a clear liquid during cooking, let the squash cool for about 15 minutes, and it will reabsorb the liquid.

To bake whole squash, scrub the squash and pierce several times with a sharp knife. Place in a baking dish and bake at 400 degrees F, uncovered, until tender when pierced with a fork, about 45 to 60 minutes. If winter squash is baked with other foods or at a lower temperature, bake for a longer time.

Bake unpeeled thicker-skined squash for easier peeling. Because winter squash has a thick rind and can be hard to peel, it is sometimes easier to cook the unpeeled squash, and then scoop out the cooked flesh. Scoop the seeds out before or after cooking.

To microwave winter squash
, place halves or quarters, cut side down, in a shallow dish. Add 1/4 cup water. Cover tightly and microwave on high for 6 minutes per pound.

To steam winter squash, scrub squash and cut in half or into pieces. Put 1 to 2 inches of water in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Put squash pieces into a steamer basket. Place steamer basket over the boiling water, cover and steam until tender, about 12 to 20 minutes. Larger pieces of squash take longer to cook.

Varieties of Winter Squash

Here are some of the most popular varieties of winter squash.

Acorn -These squash are easy to find. They are popular for baking, and for stuffing. One squash can be cut in half and baked to make two generous servings.

Acorn squash are shaped like very large, dark green acorns, with deep ribs running the length of its rind. A small acorn squash weighs from 1 to 3 pounds, and has sweet, slightly fibrous flesh.

Look for acorn squash with dark green skins and a large spot of orange. This usually means that the flesh will be deep orange and sweet. If the squash is shiny and a very dark green that means it's not quite ripe yet. Wait till it starts to get a little dull with some orange coloring on the skin before using.

You'll know you have a good squash if you cut it open and it's a dark orange, light yellow means it won't be as sweet. There are also golden and multi-colored varieties.

The biggest drawback to acorn squash is that the rind is quite hard, and therefore difficult to cut.

You can substitute buttercup squash, butternut squash, banana squash, turban squash, hubbard squash, green papayas or golden nugget squash.

Ambercup - This variety is a relative of the buttercup squash and it resembles a small pumpkin. The bright orange flesh has a dry sweet taste. This squash keeps very long in storage .

Autumn Cup - This squash has a dark green rind, and a rich flavored flesh. Autumn cup squash measure about 6 inches and weigh about 2 to 3 pounds.

Banana Squash-This squash is so large that grocers usually package it in smaller slices. It grows up to two feet in length and about six inches in diameter. It has bright orange, finely-textured, sweet flesh.

You can substitute butternut squash, buttercup squash, acorn squash or Hubbard squash.

Butternut - This squash can be easily found in supermarkets. It is a moist squash and tastes a bit like sweet potatoes. It has a bulbous end and pale, creamy skin, a fine-textured, deep-orange flesh and a sweet, nutty flavor. It weighs from 2 to 5 pounds. The more orange the color, the riper, drier and sweeter the squash. The rind is thin enough to peel off with a vegetable peeler. Butternut squash leak a lot of liquid while cooking. It’s a good idea to drain the liquid after an hour or so of cooking to prevent steaming. The liquid tastes good, and you can drink it.

You can substitute buttercup squash, acorn squash, calabaza, delicata squash, kabocha squash, hubbard squash, or green papaya.

Buttercup - Buttercup Squas have a dark green rind with lighter stripes and a round shape, with a circular gray patch on the blossom (non-stem) end. They have a sweet, creamy, orange flesh. Buttercup Squash can be baked, mashed, pureed, steamed, simmered, or stuffed. They can replace sweet potatoes in most recipes.

A disadvantage of buttercup squash is that they tend to be dry. The rind is a little thick, so baking it whole is easier than peeling or cutting it raw.

Choose buttercup squash that are heavy for their size.

You can substitute butternut squash, acorn squash, Hubbard squash, delicata squash, kabocha squash, or green papaya.

Carnival Squash - This is a cream colored squash with orange spots or a pale green squash with dark green spots in vertical stripes. Carnival Squash have hard, thick skins. The sweet yellow flesh tastes like sweet potatoes or like butternut squash.

Carnival squash can be baked or steamed then combined with vegan margarine and fresh herbs.

Delicata -The delicata squash is an heirloom variety, and is a fairly recent reentry into the culinary world. It was popular in the 1920's.

Delicata squash is also called sweet potato squash, peanut squash, and bohemian squash. It has a cylindrical shape, similar to butternut without the bulbous portion. The skin is pale yellow with dark green stripes. The creamy pulp is sweet and smooth with a nutty flavor and tastes a bit like sweet potatoes. Its size may range from 5 to 10 inches in length. The squash can be baked or steamed. The skin, which is more tender than that of other winter squashes, is edible.

You can substitute butternut squash, buttercup squash, or sweet potatoes.

Fairytail Pumpkin - This pumpkin is both an eating and ornamental pumpkin. It's thick but tender, and the deep orange flesh is sweet, thick, and firm. It has a coach-like shape and a warm russet color. Fairytail pumpkins are usually used for baking. Cut them into pieces and bake in the oven.

Gold Nugget - This variety of winter squash is sometimes referred to as an Oriental pumpkin, or golden nugget squash. It looks like a small pumpkin. It ranges in size from one to three pounds.

Gold nugget squashes are small, weighing on average about 1 pound. Both the skin and the flesh are orange.

Gold nugget squash don’t have as much flesh as other squashes and the heavy rind makes them hard to cut before cooking.

Gold Nugget Squash may be cooked whole or split lengthwise (removing seeds). Pierce whole squash in several places, and bake halved squash hollow side up.

Select squash that are heavy for their size, and have a dull finish. Those with shiny rinds are probably immature, and won't be as sweet.

You can substitute acorn squash.

Hubbard - This squash has extra-hard skin which makes them one of the best keeping winter squashes. They are very large and irregularly shaped, with a skin that is bumpy. They have a blue/gray skin, and they taper at the ends. They have large seeds, and a dense flesh.

Hubbard squash is often sold packaged in pieces because it can grow very large.

Hubbard squash has a somewhat similar taste to Kabocha squash (see below). The yellow flesh is very moist and takes longer to cook. They are generally peeled and boiled, cut up and roasted, or cut small and steamed or sautéed. Hubbard squash is good in pies.

The rind of hubbard squash is hard to cut though.

Hubbard squash, if in good condition initially, can be stored 6 months at 50 to 55 degree F. Less rot will occur if stems are completely removed before storage.

You can substitute golden delicious squash , buttercup squash, butternut squash, banana squash, acorn squash, or green papaya

Kabocha-This squash is also known as a Japanese squash, Ebisu, Delica, Hoka, Hokkaido, or Japanese Pumpkin. Kabocha is the generic Japanese word for squash, but refers most commonly to a squash of the buttercup type.

It is an orange-fleshed winter squash with a striated green rind. It's sweeter, drier, and less fibrous than other winter squash, and it tastes a bit like sweet potatoes.

Kobocha Squash may be cooked whole or split lengthwise (removing seeds). It has a rich sweet flavor, and often dry and flaky when cooked. Use in any dish in which buttercup squash would work.

Kobocha squash freezes well.

You can substitute butternut squash, acorn squash, turban squash, or other winter squash.

Pumpkin-The common Hallowe'en pumpkin is not the best choice for making pies, as it is too watery. The sugar pumpkin which is smaller, sweeter, and less watery, is better for making pies. Canned pureed pumpkin also works very well for pies.

You can substitute autumn squash, Hubbard squash, calabaza, butternut squash , buttercup squash, acorn squash or sweet potatoes.

Red Kuri- Originally from Japan and also known as "baby red hubbard," this squash has an orange-red skin and is round with a slight teardrop shape. The flesh texture is very smooth and creamy, with a savory chestnut-like flavor.

Spaghetti squash-This squash is also called vegetable spaghetti, vegetable marrow, noodle squash, calabash, or squaghetti. This is a small, football-shaped squash which ranges in size from 2 to 5 pounds or more. It has a golden-yellow, oval rind and a mild, nut-like flavor. It is not as sweet as the other squashes.

When cooked, the flesh separates in strands that resemble spaghetti.

Look for spaghetti squash with a smooth, dark yellow shell. Those that are nearly white are not very ripe.

To prepare spaghetti squash, cut the squash in half lengthwise and remove the seeds, then bake or boil it until tender. Once cooked, use a fork to rake out the "spaghetti-like" stringy flesh, and serve with your favorite sauce. Spaghetti squash is also good seasoned with olive oil and herbs.
Spaghetti Squash can be stored at room temperature for about a month.

After cutting, wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate up to 2 days.

Spaghetti squash also freezes well.

Sweet Dumpling - This is a small, mildly sweet-tasting squash which looks like a tiny pumpkin with its top pushed in. The skin color is pale yellow with dark green (and occasionally orange) striping. They weigh only about 7 ounces. They are a great size for stuffing and baking as individual servings. The deep yellow flesh is sweeter and drier than that of other winter squash, and the peel is soft enough to be eaten.

Turban -These squashes come in bizarre shapes with extravagant coloration that makes them useful for decorations. Turban squash can be a combination of orange, yellow, and green. They have a hard, bumpy shell with a turban shaped form at the blossom end. Despite the beautiful rind, the flavor is somewhat bland. You can use them as a centerpiece, or you can hollow them out and use them as exotic soup tureens. They store well.


The Essential Vegetarian Cook Book, by Diana Shaw, published by Clarkson Potter Publishers

Grandmother's Food Secrets, by Dr. Myles H. Bader, published by Mylette Enterprises, LLC, Las Vegas NV 89102

Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone, by Deborah Madison, published by Broadway Books, New York

Brilliant Food Tips and Cooking Tips, by David Joachim, published by Rodale


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