Everything You Need to Know About Squash
The Kitchen crew gives us shopping, prep and recipe tips for their favorite fall squash.
No need to feel intimidated by the idea of cooking with a whole pumpkin. Sugar pumpkins are one of Carla Hall's favorites because she believes they have the most flavor. They are small, sweet, and very easy to work with, and they're not just for pumpkin pie. Sugar pumpkins are very versatile, and can be used for both sweet and savory dishes.
Carla likes to roast them to make them into savory soups. She also roasts them whole with apples inside and adds cream, butter and cinnamon, sort of like a pumpkin pie with even more fall flavors. The sugar pumpkin becomes the serving vessel, with all that sweet goodness inside. You can also roast and eat the seeds. They add texture to soups and salads and are great for a crunchy snack.
Look for a squash that is heavy for its size; the heavy weight indicates that it has more water in it and is less likely to be too dried out and fibrous. Don't be thrown off by bumpy skin or if they're a little misshapen, but make sure there are no soft spots. Bumpy skin is a totally normal characteristic of kabocha. Alex Guarnaschelli says, "That's just mother nature making things delicious."
To break them down, carefully insert a sharp chef's knife along the equator and gently whack the kabocha onto the cutting board or counter, turning it slightly as the knife goes through. Doing it this way is a good way to keep your hands out of the way. (Let the knife and gravity do the work.) When you get enough of it open, you can split it open fully and remove the seeds with a spoon.
The flavor is great when you roast it, perfect for so many savory dishes. Katie Lee Beigel loves to use them in curry, and Alex even recommends juicing them in the juicer for a nutty flavored alternative to your usual juicing routine!
Like with kabocha, you want to buy acorn squash that are heavy for their size. Look for smooth, dull skin. If they're too shiny, that means they've been picked too early. A little orange on the skin is okay, but not a lot. (Too much orange means they're overripe.) Avoid acorn squash that are larger than 3 pounds, since they were likely picked past their prime and could be dry, stringy and unappetizing.
GZ loves to think of acorn squash as a great "intro squash." They're easy to handle and easy to cook. He loves them because they are "the workhorse of squash." For easy prep, GZ cuts the acorn squash into small slices, removes the seeds and hits them with a little honey, brown sugar and maybe even a little cayenne pepper. Another great way to enjoy them is to roast with garlic, bay leaves or sage. The key is, the smaller you cut them, the quicker they cook. You can even leave the skin on and eat that too, since it softens when it's cooked.