Thursday, February 18, 2010

Squash-Buckling Adventures, Part II

Well, I cooked the squash. My roommate said it looked like a vegetable massacre in the kitchen, after I was done slicing, peeling, seeding, roasting, smashing and pureeing.

To be honest, I had some reservations about the results of all this squash. Having so many different varieties to deal with (see last post for the particulars) made me realize that squash and other gourds can be intimidating. They have this hard, seemingly impenetrable exterior, with vibrant, sometimes wild streaks and blotches. From the outside, there is no indication of the flavor and texture of what lies within. And when you slice them open, the fibrous, fleshy pulp doesn’t immediately smell or look appetizing. It takes long, slow cooking to coax out the buttery, earthy flavors. But I learned you just have to jump in, roast the suckers, and hope for the best. It was quite a day and I was exhausted at the end. But I did conquer my fear of the squash unknown. Following is an overview of the results of a pie, soup, roasted seeds and mashed squash.
But first, I cooked all the squash the same way. They were sliced, seeded, and roasted with a little butter until they were tender, and the skins had begun to collapse. Once cool, I scooped out the flesh and composted the skins. All the recipes begin from this point.

Pumpkin Pie with Brown Sugar-Walnut Topping (click here for recipe)
I forgot to take a picture of this baby, but it was good. It’s really gratifying to make a pie completely from scratch — homemade crust, homemade pumpkin, homemade whipped cream. The best part was the topping. The nuts gave it a savory note to combat the sweet brown sugar. At least just try the topping sometime. Yum. I substituted one cup of fresh cooked pumpkin (from the cushaw and pie pumpkin) for the one cup of canned it calls for. For the record, there is nothing wrong with using canned pumpkin. I’ve read it’s one of the best products you can buy canned, because it’s just cooked pumpkin, without any of the hassle. But if you want to use fresh, just make sure you puree the cooked flesh (for a smoother-textured pie) and use cheese cloth or a couple of paper towels to squeeze out the excess water (so the pie doesn’t get soggy). Even though I used cushaw squash and a pie pumpkin, the flavor was still earthy and pumpkin-y — just like mom used to make.

Gingery Squash Soup
This was a made-up recipe, that turned out pretty well, if I do say so myself. I sauteed a chopped medium onion in olive oil until the onion was translucent, then added in a few cloves of minced garlic, just until the garlic was fragrant. Then I added about 3 cups of cooked squash, 4 cups of chicken broth, 3 tablespoons of ground ginger, 1.5 tablespoons ground cumin, and one tablespoon of cayenne. Then I scooped portions into a blender, added a dash of milk, and pureed it until fairly smooth, but still with texture. Then I added it back to the pot, added salt and pepper to taste, and let it barely simmer for an hour to meld the flavors. I ended up freezing about a third of it in individual plastic baggies and have been enjoying it in single-servings for lunch. Yum.

Roasted Squash Seeds
I mixed all the seeds from the various squash together for the roasted seeds. After doing some research, I learned that the key to good seeds is getting the seeds dry enough to ensure they brown. There are several ways to accomplish this. Some people rinse them to get the slime off, then leave them out to dry overnight. Others boiled the seeds in salted water for 10 minutes to season and clean them, then dried and roasted them. Still others just rinsed and dried and roasted them. I tried the latter of the two techniques (I have no patience for overnight drying!), first tossing the cleaned seeds with a tablespoon of unsalted butter and some table salt. The seeds that were boiled in salted water first had a better flavor than those that were just roasted.

Mashed Squash with Blue Cheese
I had a little squash left over from the cushaw and the acorn squash, so I mashed it up with a little milk, salt and pepper and sprinkled it with some gorgonzola and fresh parsley. It was good, the flavors worked, but it needed some fat or heavier cream instead of the milk. If I make it again, I’ll add in a little butter during the mashing.


5 Responses to “Squash-Buckling Adventures, Part II”

  1. 1

    DJ B — February 18, 2010 @ 4:31 pm

    See, I knew you would do a better job with those raw materials than I would have.

    Now, when I can I stop by for a slice of that pie? If that doesn't qualify as a reason to deviate from the diet I don't know what does. At least you could help a brother out with some seeds… 🙂

  2. 2

    Pot Luck Mama — February 18, 2010 @ 7:39 pm

    Mmm…been on a ginger kick lately, myself…
    I'm excited about trying the salt water boil with the seeds. I never seem to get those right.
    Oh and something I learned from my uncle last year – don't compost cooked veggies. All the nice microbacteria and whatall die and so don't do their composting magic.
    Sounds like you had a great time…sorry to have missed it! (especially the soup…mmm…)

  3. 3

    Annakate — February 22, 2010 @ 11:02 am

    Thanks for the cooked vegetable info, PLM. I didn't know that. Just started composting…

  4. 4

    Rebecca Scampini — February 23, 2010 @ 10:50 am

    have you read animal vegetable miracle? she describes hacking away at squash the same way!

  5. 5

    La Aguacate » Pickled Beets from Scratch — July 6, 2012 @ 5:40 am

    […] pickled beets from scratch reminds me of when I made that pumpkin pie a few years ago completely from scratch. I started with a whole pumpkin and ended with a pumpkin pie. It was a sense of accomplishment for […]

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