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Market Fresh: Look what's out there -- 'winter' squash



Anne Freeze



Last Saturday I was a late volunteer at the Hitching Lot Farmers' Market. That is, I arrived at 8:30 a.m. to stay until time to pack up the coffee and tables, around 10. I was delighted to see how busy things were when I arrived. Some years ago, the crowd would descend at 7 a.m. and be gone by 8. Now, we have customers arriving at 8 or 8:30 keeping the energy going till the end. As Martha Stewart would say, "It's a good thing." 


I was surprised to find butternut and acorn squash available. It's usually described as a winter squash. Lydia Enlow explained to me that they are grown in the summer and can be held until winter to eat. They differ from summer squash in that the fruit (they are a fruit, not a vegetable) is left to ripen until the mature stage and the skin toughens.  


Although a lot of cooks peel the skin with a knife, you can actually use a vegetable peeler, which is much easier and certainly safer. To cook, either roast them or boil. I prefer the no-water method of roasting, which caramelizes the sugars and concentrates the flavor.  


One method of roasting is in the first recipe below. Another method would be to simply halve the squash lengthwise, scoop out the seeds, sprinkle with olive oil, salt and pepper and roast until soft. From there you can scoop out the flesh and mash with a little butter, or put into a food processor with some chicken broth and maybe a dash of cream or milk and it becomes soup. Season with what strikes your fancy: cinnamon, allspice, cayenne or perhaps some plain yogurt. For a more intense spice flavor, sprinkle your spice of choice on the squash before roasting.  


The first recipe is from Sara Foster's cookbook, "Fresh Every Day." Sara owns two food markets, one in Durham, North Carolina, and the other in Chapel Hill. Her reputation has grown since her first cookbook, "The Foster's Market Cookbook," published in 2002. She is known for her fresh, simple dishes that highlight the flavor of the ingredients.  


The second recipe is from "Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone" by Deborah Madison. If you are a devoted vegetarian cook, then you are probably familiar with Ms. Madison. Even if you are not a vegetable-only eater, then you should get to know her cookbooks. They are bibles for how to prepare our market produce and fruits A-Z.  






Serves 6 to 8 




1 medium butternut squash, peeled, seeded and cut into 1-inch cubes 


1 tablespoon olive oil 


Salt and freshly ground pepper 


2 cups (about 12 ounces) fresh or frozen black-eyed peas (or purple-hull peas) 


1 red bell pepper, cored, seeded and diced 


1 jalapeno pepper, cored, seeded and diced 


2 tablespoons chopped fresh marjoram leaves (or oregano) 


2 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves 


Sweet and Spicy Vinaigrette 


2 ounces goat cheese, crumbled (about 1/2 cup) 




  • Preheat the oven to 400 F. 


  • Scatter the cubes of butternut squash in one layer on a baking sheet with sides. Drizzle the squash with the olive oil, season with salt and pepper and toss to coat. n Roast for 30-35 minutes, until the squash is brown around the edges and tender when pierced with a fork, stirring the squash periodically so the cubes brown evenly. 


  • Meanwhile, place the fresh or frozen black-eyed (or purple-hull) peas in a medium saucepan with enough water to cover by 3 inches. Salt the water and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce heat and simmer, stirring occasionally, for about 20 minutes, until peas are tender but still firm. Drain in a colander, rinse under cool water and drain thoroughly. 


  • Gently scrape the warm squash into a large mixing bowl. Add the peas, bell pepper, jalapeno pepper, marjoram, parsley, salt, pepper and 1/2 cup of the vinaigrette and toss gently. Season with additional salt, pepper or vinaigrette to taste. Sprinkle with crumbled goat cheese to serve. 


    (Source: "Fresh Every Day," by Sara Foster) 






    Makes about 1 cup 




    1/3 cup apple cider vinegar 


    2 tablespoons honey 


    Grated zest and juice of 1 lemon 


    1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes 


    Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste 


    1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil 


    1/4 cup canola or safflower oil 




  • Stir the vinegar, honey, lemon zest and juice, red pepper flakes, salt and pepper together in a medium bowl. Add the oils in a slow, steady stream, whisking constantly until all is incorporated. Use immediately or refrigerate in an airtight container for up to one week. 






    Serves 4 to 6 




    2-2 1/2 pounds butternut squash 


    5 garlic cloves, finely chopped 


    1/2 cup chopped parsley 


    Salt and freshly ground pepper 


    3 tablespoons flour 


    Extra virgin olive oil 




  • Preheat the oven to 325 F. and oil a shallow earthenware baking dish. Peel squash and cut it into even-sized cubes, from 1/3-inch to 1-inch. Toss cubes with the garlic, parsley, salt and pepper. Add the flour and toss again until pieces are coated lightly, letting the excess fall to the bottom.  


  • Pile the squash into the dish and drizzle oil generously over the top. Bake uncovered, until squash is browned and tender when pierced with a knife, about 2 hours. When served, the individual pieces will collapse into a puree. 


    (Source: "Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone," by Deborah Madison)



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