Thursday, October 21, 2010

Squash Season: Just like a Fairytale

With gorgeous fall weather in full swing, our gardens are winding down. Though it’s always a bit sad to see things in such decline, not everything is on its last legs. Squash is the fall and winter favorite filled with fun possibilities. Squash can be used for lots of things, from birdfeeders to table centerpieces to Halloween decorations. Cinderella’s fairy godmother even managed to make a carriage out of a squash. But in my opinion, the best thing to do with squash is to eat it. Recipes using squash are as varied as our fall weather. So while I don’t have any advice on how to turn a pumpkin into a carriage, I do have lots of great squash recipes from Carla Emery to share with you.

Cooking Squash and Pumpkin: Basically you start any recipe by boiling, baking, or pressure-cooking the flesh. If you then mash, you’ve got the equivalent of the canned pumpkin that is called for in most recipes. Just substitute from there.

Boiling. Halve the fruit and scoop out the seeds and stringy fibers that are mixed up with them. Peel and cut what’s left into cookable-sized pieces. Boil until tender (a half hour or so). To pressure-cook, cook the peeled pieces 15 minutes at 15 lb. pressure.

Baking. Arrange your peeled pieces cut side down in some sort of baking pan. Bake about an hour at 400˚F. Then scoop out the part that stayed soft and mashable. Another system is in Ruth’s Vegan Squash Pie recipe a bit later on. Of that one, Lane Morgan says, “That’s how I always prepare my pumpkins for pies, except I scrape out the seeds before I bake because I don’t know how good they’d be for roasting after being cooked in all that moisture. You don’t have to peel or chunk the pumpkin, and I hate peeling pumpkin. Don’t use a rimless baking surface because the pumpkins will ‘weep’ as they cook. I save that liquid to get the puree going in the blender.”

Instant Mashed Squash/Pumpkin

Blend 2 c. cut-up pumpkin with 1⁄2 c. water until smooth. If you aren’t going to use your puree in a recipe where it will get cooked, you can cook it plain in a pan, but you have to stir constantly to prevent burning.

Squash Half (or Chunk) Baked in the Shell

This is my family’s winter squash favorite. We use acorn squashes. I cut them in half (or into appropriate-sized baking sections) and remove seeds. In the cavity of each squash half, I sprinkle a little brown sugar and butter. Or some cooked bacon bits and butter. Or maple syrup. Or a honey/mustard mix. Or I mix 1⁄2 c. orange juice concentrate, 1⁄2 c. honey, salt, 2 T. butter, and 1⁄8 t. nutmeg and divide this among the squashes. Or combine prefried crumbled bacon (about 4 slices), half a small onion (cut up and sauteed), 1⁄2 c. brown sugar, a big pinch of ground cloves, and 11⁄2 c. peeled apple sections. In any case, put filled squashes in a loaf pan, sprinkle bacon bits on top, and bake in a loaf pan at about 350˚F until fork-tender. Or stuff with a meat-loaf mix and bake. Or fill with a mixture of chopped apples, raisins, bread crumbs soaked in orange juice, a little honey, cinnamon, and cloves. Then serve. Since it’s hard for any child (or most adults) to eat an entire half of an acorn squash, we carve them up at the table and serve the pieces, trying hard not to lose much of the filling in the process. Then just spoon the squash off the rind into your mouth. Use mashed leftover squash in any baked goods (bread, cookies, cakes, and muffins).

Squash Stuffing

Mix together 2 c. mashed squash, 1 egg, 1 c. each finely chopped onion and celery, 1 T. chopped parsley, 1 chopped green pepper, 2 T. melted butter, 1⁄2 t. sage, and a dash of thyme.

Vegan Squash Pie

From Ruth: Cut 1 large or 2 medium butternut squashes (you can substitute any other winter-keeper squash) in half lengthwise and bake, cut side down, for an hour (till very soft when forked). Discard seeds.

Then scoop out flesh and puree in blender till smooth — add 1⁄2 c. maple syrup or honey, 11⁄2 t. cinnamon, 1⁄2 t. nutmeg, 1⁄2 t. ginger, 2 T. tahini (sesame seed butter), and 1⁄2 c. rice (or soy milk). Bake in pie shell or glass baking dish at 375˚F for 30 minutes, till slightly browned.

Pumpkream Pie

It was a red-letter day for me indeed when this one came in the mail from Esther Shuttleworth, mother of the famous editor of Mother Earth News (John):

Mix together 1 c. granulated sugar, a pinch of salt, 1 t. cinnamon, 1⁄4 t. cloves, and 1⁄4 t. nutmeg. Beat in 2 eggs. Then add 1 c. wellcooked– down (cooked-dry) pumpkin. Add 1 c. thick cream or whipping cream. Bake in an 8-inch pie pan, which will be full, for 20 minutes at 425˚F. Then reduce to 375˚F and bake until it rises and then makes small cracks around the edge.

Ivy’s Pumpkin Pie from Scratch

Ivy Isaacson lives here in Kendrick and helped me a lot with mimeographing earlier editions of this book. I got a request in the mail for a pumpkin pie recipe from scratch, and Ivy offered hers. Here it is for everybody: Cut pumpkin in pieces; peel and cook in small amount of water. Drain well, mash, and put through strainer. Line a 9-inch pie pan with plain pastry. Set oven at 450˚F. Mix 11⁄2 c. of your cooked and strained pumpkin, 1⁄3 c. brown sugar, 1⁄3 c. white sugar, 1 t. cinnamon, 1⁄2 t. ginger, 1⁄4 t. nutmeg, 1⁄2 t. salt, 2 slightly beaten eggs, 11⁄2 c. milk, and 1⁄2 c. cream or evaporated milk. Pour into pie shell. Bake 10 minutes; then lower heat to 300˚F and bake until firm (about 45 minutes). For spicier filling, add 1⁄4 t. cloves.

Vegan Pumpkin Pie From Ruth of Bonaire:

“Take 2 c. cooked-down pumpkin, 1 c. rice cream cereal (cooked and cooled), 2 T. tahini, 1⁄2 c. apple juice (or 1⁄4 c. juice and 1⁄4 c. honey), 2 t. each of allspice and fresh grated ginger root, and 1⁄4 t. cloves. Puree all that in a blender until very smooth, and then bake in an ungreased glass baking dish 30 minutes at 375˚F or until set.”

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