Pumpkins and other winter squash - an introductory course?

Just joined a produce delivery service, in which I get, weekly, a boxful of mostly-somewhat-local, seasonal produce.

Some common stuff like nectarines, pears, green beans, lettuces… but last week we got an acorn squash (that looked like conjoined twins, seriously - it was like 4/5 of a large one and 4/5 of a smaller one joined together) and this week I’m getting a delicata squash.

Now, until last week I’d never cooked a winter squash except for the occasional spaghetti squash, but I’m getting psyched for trying other varieties.

Apparently pumpkin from, say, Libby’s isn’t what most Americans think of as pumpkin (i.e. not something you’d ever carve into a jack-o-lantern - that sort is supposed to be flavorless). What squash do you folks like for sweet usages such as pie? I’ve heard that hubbard (mutant blue-grey misshapen lumps the size of a 3 year old human) is supposed to be tasty, once you’ve cleared out the residue from the explosives required to crack it open.

Then, I gather, I roast the chunks of that in the oven (assuming the nukes didn’t cook it for me), and puree it, and that’s step 1 of pie? Or do people have better luck steaming something destined for pie?

Or should I give it up now and just use the vine-grown 29-ounce cans from aisle 6 of the Giant?

There are specific pumpkins for pies. I think they’re called “Sugar” pumpkins, they’re considerably smaller than jack o’lantern pumpkins and also, unsurprisingly, sweeter. I know lots of people claim they can’t taste the difference between actual pumpkin and canned pumpkin, but I experimented with pies last winter, and I really tasted a difference. You can also use other squashes for “pumpkin” pie to change the taste and the texture. Butternut squash is one. My memory is hazy, but I may have combined acorn with pumpkin, too.

It’s a bit time-consuming to prepare squash for pie (or bread, or cookies, or soups) but well-worth the effort IMHO. I just cut the squash in half, scoop out the mess, and then put it face down on a baking sheet with tinfoil. I cook it for about 30-45 minutes on 350, and then let it cool. After that, I use the Kitchenaid to puree the hell out of it. You can get a LOT of use out of a single pumpkin, so it’s not like you have to go to all this work for one pie. I freeze the stuff I don’t need right away, and it defrosts just fine (I tend to use the stuff I freeze for soup).

Winter squash is wonderful cubed steamed or roasted, or in a gratín.

Other ‘pumpkin-like’ pies are sweet potato pies and lima bean pies. I haven’t made them, but I’ve eaten them and they’re darned tasty.

Best way to cook any winter squash is in a microwave. Cut it in half, remove seeds, add a little brown sugar or pineapple (not required), then cover with plastic and nuke for about ten minutes.

The microwave cooks them thoroughly quickly, and without drying them out.

I’m not much on pumpkin but acorn, butternut, delicata, buttercup, and carnival are all a treat this way.

My wife just cuts them into quarters, cleans them, plops some butter in each piece, and roasts them until they’re soft. Tasty.

I’ve made pumpkin pie from scratch before, and count me in as one of the people who can’t tell the difference between canned and fresh pumpkin.

That said, I loooove winter squash. I’ve got the following recipe bookmarked as it looks REALLY good, but haven’t made it:

Ruth Reichl’s Pumpkin Soup:

Every person I know who has made pumpkin/squash pie from scratch has proclaimed it to be not worth the effort whatsoever.

Winter squashes are good roasted - just halve, scoop out seeds and roast at 350 - or peel, cube and bake with a little melted butter and brown sugar tossed over them.

I prefer butternut.

Sweet potato I’ve heard of (and like).


I’ve had Chinese desserts involving red-bean paste and they’re tolerable but nothing I would eat if there were better choices. So I guess I can almost see that… but still… LIMA BEANS!!! (as you might guess, I do not like lima beans).

Added: Well, apparently bean pie is nothing new at all:

I might have to try this some time… when the kids aren’t around to notice what the filling is made of.

You can peel butternut and other smooth-skinned squashes, with either a sharp peeler or a small knife. Then chunk them and roast them, or put them in soups, or braise, etc. The ribbed kinds, like acorn, really should just be roasted in halves or other sections, or microwaved. It’s not worth trying to peel them.

A great easy very pretty dish to make with acorn squash - halve them and scoop the seeds out, then put them cut side down on a plate in the microwave and nuke for about 12 minutes. Flip them over carefully, cover, and give it another three.

Take some black beans (canned is fine, cooked from dried is better) and some salsa or a chopped chipotle pepper with some of the adobo sauce they come in and mix together, and heat it up a bit. Put the beans in the squash and some plain yogurt (or sour cream, I guess) on top. Looks very classy, takes almost no work, vegetarian friendly.

I made a yummy thing in the crockpot last thanksgiving with chunked butternut squash and sliced apples, but I didn’t keep the recipe. It was called something like “squashed apples”.

I’ve also had yummy squash soup, but I didn’t make that.

a pressure cooker works well for cooking large volumes of chunks quickly for a number of pies or canning.

Oh, I have an absolutely delicious squash soup I always make at Thanksgiving and the kids actually love it and ask about it to make sure I’m doing it! Here’s the recipe.

Delicata are one of my favorite winter squashes because the skin is so tender you don’t have to peel them. Technically the skin on all winter squashes is edible, but I find the texture of acorn, butternut, pumpkin, etc, tough and unpleasant.

One of my favorite things to do with delicata is to cut it in half lengthwise, scoop out the seeds, then slice it thinly. Layer with thinly sliced onion, and sliced apple, butter, salt & pepper, cover with foil and roast in a 350 oven 'til tender. Great with chicken, pork or fish, or just a nutty pilaf for a vegetarian meal (sub the butter with olive oil if desired)

Assuming you’re into that sort of thing, try 'em roasted in the equivalent amount of bacon grease instead next time. Adding big chunks of onion to the roasting pan is another nice touch.

Also, the seeds of any squash are delicious roasted with some salt.

I just got this recipe from my sister-in-law, and it’s FABULOUS.

Butternut Squash With Ginger And Cilantro

4 pounds butternut squash, peeled and cut into 3/4" cubes - about 10 cups
1/4 cup vegetable oil
2 teaspoons ground coriander
Salt and pepper
1/2 cup finely chopped crystallized ginger
1/2 cup cilantro leaves

Preheat oven to 450. In a large bowl, toss the squash with the oil, coriander, 1-1/2 teaspoons salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper. On each of two large baking sheets, arrange the squash in a single layer and bake, turning occasionally, until tender and golden brown, about 30 minutes. Transfer the squash to a serving bowl and toss with the crystallized ginger and cilantro.

I like to cut peeled pumpkin or squash into small, bite-size pieces (because I’m incredibly impatient and this way it cooks faster), toss with honey and cinnamon, roast until a bit dry and caramelly, and serve that alongside a spicy beef vindaloo. The sweetness and the cinnamon really complement the heavy, rich, hot curry.

Steamed bite-size pieces also go nicely in risotto, and if you have a microwave steamer you can steam the pumpkin while you’re getting the risotto started. I like it with chorizo, spinach, a bit of chili, and a ton of garlic - just stir the steamed pumpkin and fresh spinach through right before serving.

Now I’m annoyed that I don’t have any room for pumpkin in tonight’s dinner plan… :mad:

Mama Zappa, without being a total stalker: do you live in California? If so, I think we might use the same service. I’m not a huge squash fan, but I feel so wasteful not using these up. I’ve been giving them away to folks who like them more than me, but I imagine there has to be some way I’ll enjoy them.

I don’t remember where I got this recipe:

Smoky Butternut & Bacon Risotto with Fresh Ginger

3 thick slices applewood smoked bacon, julienned
1 large sweet onion, diced
½ small butternut squash, peeled, halved, seeded, cut into ½ inch cubes
4 cloves garlic, crushed
1 tsp minced ginger
5 cups chicken broth or stock
½ cup dry white wine or broth
1 tsp salt
½ tsp fresh ground pepper
2 cups Arborio rice
2 cups shredded roast duck, chicken or turkey (optional)
½ cup finely grated cheese, such as manchego, aged gouda, parmesan
2 tbsp chopped fresh chives or parsley

Brown the bacon and remove from pan. Add the onion and squash to the bacon fat. Cook until tender, about 8 minutes. Stir in the garlic and ginger; cook 1 minute.

Heat the broth, wine, salt and pepper in a saucepan to a simmer. Stir rice into squash mixture; cook, stirring, over medium heat to coat the rice with fat, 1 minute. Stir in 2 cups of the broth mixture. Keep at a simmer. Cook and stir until most liquid has been absorbed. Add another ½ cup of broth, and continue this process until rice is tender, about 12-15 minutes.

Stir in the meat, if desired, the cheese and chives. Sprinkle servings with bacon and more cheese.

This one is from Gourmet Magazine and will make you swoon:

Butternut Squash Soup with Star Anise and Ginger Shrimp

1 lb shrimp, peeled and deveined
1 tablespoon finely grated peeled fresh ginger
2/3 cup chopped shallot
1-3 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
3 whole star anise
1 tablespoon sweet curry powder
2-3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1-3/4 lb butternut squash, peeled, seeded and cut into ½ inch pieces (5 cups)
4 cups chicken stock or broth
¼ teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
Garnish: fresh cilantro

Toss shrimp with ginger in a bowl and marinate, chilled, no longer than 30 minutes. Meanwhile, cook shallot, garlic, anise and curry powder in butter in a heavy saucepan over moderate heat, stirring, until shallot is softened, about 5 minutes.

Add squash and stock and simmer, uncovered, until squash is very tender, about 20 minutes. Remove star anise. Puree soup in 2 batches in a blender until very smooth, about one minute per batch, then transfer to cleaned pan and keep warm, covered.

Sprinkle marinated shrimp with salt. Heat oil in a large skillet over moderately high heat, then sauté shrimp in batches, stirring, until just cooked through, about 3 minutes per batch, and remove to paper towels. Bring soup to a simmer and season with salt and pepper. Place in shallow soup bowls, mounding three shrimp in the center and garnishing with cilantro.

My wife and I came up with this variation on a dish:

Autumn Pork & Squash Stew

12 oz or so of marbled pork steak, trimmed of fat, cut into chunks
1/2 cup flour
2 heaping TBSP of sweet Spanish smoked paprika
3 strips of bacon
olive oil
1 small onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 6oz can tomato paste
1 15 oz can diced tomatoes with juices
3-4 cups of stock or broth (chicken, pork, veggie, whatever)
1 small squash, peeled and cut into chunks
fresh sage leaves

Saute the bacon in a bit of olive oil until nicely browned. Remove from the pan and cut into smaller pieces. Mix the flour, paprika and salt in a gallon baggie, then dredge the pork in the mixture. Remove from bag, shaking excess flour off. Return the bacon fat to the burner and heat to medium-high. Add the pork in batches and brown quickly. Remove to a bowl. Reduce the heat to medium-low, and add the onion to the fat, adding a bit of olive oil if necessary. When the onion turns translucent, add the garlic and saute for about a minute, stirring.

Add the tomato paste and stir and cook until all the fat is absorbed. Add the can of tomatoes, the stock and the meats. Stir well to combine with the paste. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to simmer and cook for about three hours, or until the pork is fork-tender. Add the cut up squash.

While the squash is cooking, heat some butter in a saute pan to medium. Add fresh sage leaves and saute until crisp. Remove from pan. Add the sage butter to the large pan/pot. Ladle the stew into bowls and garnish with the sage. And sour cream, if you wish.