Friends have been gifting me with squash from their gardens. Somehow, I ended up with a few small butternuts, three acorns, one sweet dumpling, one buttercup, two delicata and one last zucchini.
The season for summer squash like zucchini, pattypan, crookneck and kousa is ending … but the season for winter squash is just beginning.
Cucumbers, gourds, melons and squash are all part of the large Cucurbitaceae family. A staple for 8,000 years in central and north America, squash is part of the “Three Sisters,” along with beans and corn. These foods comprise the three staples of the Native American diet.
8,000 years ago, squash, beans and corn were gathered from the wild and eaten with occasional game that was hunted. Later, Native Americans from the Mayas in Mexico and into north America began growing these crops. By the time Europeans arrived in the 1600s, cultivation was well established. The trio provides complete protein (from beans, corn and squash seeds) and all necessary nutrients.
All squash are used as one of the first foods for babies because they are so tender and delicate, and winter squash are a rich source of carbohydrates. All are also a good source of fiber and potassium. Yellow and orange squash varieties contain ample vitamin A. Winter squash have more starch — and thus more calories — than summer squash, which are mostly water. Winter squash takes longer to cook and become tender than do summer squash.
Parsley, marjoram, dill, sage and basil are all good herbs for seasoning squash. Onions, garlic and mushrooms are other good additions. Cheese, eggs, pasta, beans and various meats from chicken to ground beef or sausage can all blend with squash in casseroles, skillets, soups, stews and stir-fries. Breads, muffins and pies can also be made with squash.
So what did I do with all that squash? I decided to combine winter and summer squash. I used a little cooked mashed acorn squash and some grated raw zucchini in oatmeal muffins. I made a salad and added roasted squash and sliced zucchini (instead of cucumber). I made a skillet for supper with squash, apples and sausage.
Squash, Apple and Sausage Skillet
1 small butternut or medium delicata squash
2/3 cup penne pasta (or another pasta)
1 Tablespoon cooking oil
1/4 to 1/2 lb. breakfast sausage or sweet Italian sausage
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1/4 teaspoon turmeric
2 – 3 ounces portobello mushrooms
1 clove garlic
1 medium zucchini squash
2 or 3 apples
2 – 3 Tablespoons Parmesan cheese
2 – 3 Tablespoons sharp Cheddar cheese
Fresh minced parsley, for garnish
Prepare the squash: Cut in half lengthwise; remove seeds. Peel (not necessary, but it will make for a smoother dish). Dice and set aside.
Put a pot of salted water to boil for the pasta. When boiling, add penne (or another pasta) and cook according to package directions; drain and set aside.
Heat oil in skillet; add sausage and brown. Peel and dice an onion, and add. Sprinkle with salt, pepper and turmeric, if using. Slice mushrooms and add. Cook about 5 minutes.
Add the reserved delicata and a half-cup liquid (broth, cider, or pasta cooking water). Cover and simmer 10 minutes or longer, until soft.
Mince the garlic and add.
Chop zucchini; core and dice the apples; add. Cook another 10 minutes; the delicata and apples should be falling apart, and the zucchini should be tender.
At the end, stir in cooked penne pasta. Stir in cheese and cook to melt, and garnish with parsley.
Serves 2 to 3.
Main Dish Salad with Squash
1/3 cup cooked grain (like barley or farro)
1/3 cup cooked lentils or beans (I used black lentils)
About 3 or 4 cups mixed greens (baby kale, arugula, spinach, lettuce)
1 cup sliced Sweet onion or scallions
1 cup zucchini or cucumber slices
About 1 cup diced red peppers or 1/2 cup craisins (dried cranberries)
1 Tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 Tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1 Tablespoon prepared mustard
1 teaspoon maple syrup
1 clove garlic
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 ounce crumbled feta cheese, optional, for garnish
Roast squash, or have on hand 2 cups diced roasted winter squash like butternut or delicata. To roast, toss squash segments with a mixture of olive oil, balsamic vinegar, maple syrup and salt. Bake at 400 degrees F for 20 to 30 minutes.
To cook grain and lentils, follow package directions. (you can also use canned black beans or canned garbanzo beans)
Wash greens and set aside to drain.
For the dressing, combine olive oil, balsamic vinegar, mustard and maple syrup in bottom of salad bowl. Grate garlic (I used a microplane) and salt; stir to combine.
Add cooked grain, cooked lentils and greens to salad bowl, and toss to combine.
Stir in remaining vegetables and half of the roasted squash.
Garnish with remaining roasted squash, red peppers and feta cheese, if using.
Serves 3 to 4.
Author of the award-winning cookbook “Garden Gourmet: Fresh & Fabulous Meals from your Garden, CSA or Farmers’ Market,” Yvona Fast lives in Lake Clear and has two passions: cooking and writing. She can be found at www.yvonafast.com and reached at [email protected] or on Facebook at Words Are My World.