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Both the summer and winter squashes planted in my garden produced abundantly this year, providing lots of stirred fried crook-neck and yellow patty pan.
But now, the harvest of the winter varieties – curvy, large yellow butternut and green or yellow thick-ribbed acorns is underway. These wonderfully nutritious squashes store very well in a cool, dark place so
we can count on eating them for many months.
Winter squash always has a prominent place on the holiday dinner table. But, like another very nutritious yellow-fleshed vegetable, the sweet potato, they should be enjoyed at many other times through the year.
For more than 9,000 years, winter squashes have been cultivated in the Americas. And way back then, there were far more varieties than there are now.
According to research, the Pilgrims found more than 25 varieties when they landed in Massachusetts. The squash, like the sweet potato, originated here, then was introduced to European kitchens as explorers visited the New World and brought them back home. My winter squashes will soon be safely stored in an upstairs, unheated bedroom – under the bed.
Baking squash is the easiest way to prepare them. And stuffing them can provide an entire meal, or a significant part of it, depending upon the stuffing contents. Dozens and dozens of recipes have been developed using everything from breadcrumbs and nuts, to apples and sausages.
One of the simplest ways to prepare squash for an evening meal is with a mixture of brown sugar, a few chopped nuts, a bit of butter, and a sprinkling of salt and pepper. I like preparing acorn squashes that way because they very often are just the right size for two people. Whether you are preparing acorn or butternut, always bake them for 45 to 60 minutes in a 350 degree oven before stuffing them and returning them to the oven.
Scoop out the seeds, butter the cut edges, and place on a baking sheet, cut side down.
Here are a couple of stuffed acorn or butternut squash recipes we often enjoy throughout the autumn and winter months.
Apple-Stuffed Acorn Squash (4 generous servings)
2 small acorn squashes
2 or 3 apples, cored, but not peeled
one-quarter cup raisins
2 tablespoons brown sugar
about one-quarter cup orange juice
2 tablespoons butter or butter substitute
one-half teaspoon cinnamon
one-quarter teaspoon nutmeg
one-quarter teaspoon salt
Cut acorns in half, scoop out seeds, oil cut area, and bake for about 45 minutes in a 350 degree oven.
Meanwhile, in a small bowl, combine everything but the juice and butter. Melt butter in a small fry pan. Simmer apple mixture for a few minutes, then stir in the juice.
When the squash are almost soft, remove from oven and fill each half with the apple mixture. Dot each half with butter. Bake for 15 additional minutes.
Butternut is another of our favorite squashes. Here, sausage (I use turkey or chicken sausage) and some of the squash flesh itself, is included in the filling.
Butternut Squash with Sausage and Apples (4 servings)
2 small or 1 large butternut squash, cut lengthwise, strings and seeds removed
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 cup bulk sausage (or meat removed from casings)
1 large apple, cored and diced
2 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon light or dark brown sugar
one-quarter teaspoon dried sage or 1 teaspoon fresh
salt and pepper to taste
additional butter and brown sugar, as desired
Brush squash halves with oil, place cut side down on baking sheets, and cover with foil.
Bake at 375 degrees for about 40 minutes.
Meanwhile, crumble the sausage in a skillet and cook until no longer pink. Add the diced apple and cook for several minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat.
When squash is soft, remove from oven, let cool for a few minutes, then scoop out most of the flesh, leaving about a half-inch in the shells. Mix the squash flesh with the sausage mixture. Add 2 tablespoons butter, 1 tablespoon brown sugar, the sage, and salt and pepper.
Pile this mixture into the squash shells. Dot with 1 tablespoon cold butter cut into pieces and sprinkle with 1 tablespoon brown sugar. Return to oven and bake for 20 minutes. Remove, let stand for a few minutes, then serve.
For a slightly less sweet stuffed squash, this acorn-stuffed recipe uses
Onion Stuffed Acorn Squash (6 servings)
3 acorn squashes, cut in half and seeds removed
2 cups cooked and drained whole pearl onions or the equivalent in cooked,
chopped mild onions
one-half cup chopped walnuts or pecans
one-third cup butter or butter substitute
one-quarter cup molasses
one-quarter teaspoon salt
one-quarter teaspoon cinnamon
Bake squash halves, cut side down, on a lightly oiled baking sheet for 35 to 40 minutes at 400 degrees.
Remove from oven and fill cavities with onions and nuts.
In a small pan, melt the butter. Stir in molasses, salt and cinnamon.
Spoon over squash filling.
Return to oven and bake for another 15 to 20 minutes, brushing occasionally with the molasses to create a glaze.
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