One Ingredient: WINTER SQUASH
by Julie Van Rosendaal
The prairie provinces are not known for their abundance of local produce when they arrive at bleak midwinter. A few root veggies cling to life well into the new year, though, and winter squash car-ries on with little effort, its sturdy exteriors protecting vitamin-rich and flavourful innards from the elements.
Beyond pumpkins (the smaller ones are more than ornamental), supermarkets in the past rarely ventured beyond the usual trio of squashes – acorn, butternut and spaghetti. But dusty grey-blue Hubbards are becoming easier to find now. You may come across a teardrop-shaped red kuri, a lumpy, lanky crookneck, or a squat green buttercup or kabocha, and you might even discover some varieties you’re unable to identify. So long as you know it’s some sort of winter squash, thick and gnarly, you can take it home, warts and all, scoop out the seeds and stringy bits and treat it the same as others that are more familiar, even if you’re not on a first-name basis.
When searching for recipes, butternut squash is often the default, its solid neck easy to handle, providing a large enough chunk to spiralize into ribbons, coarsely grate or even hasselback. Beyond butternut, and besides spaghetti squash, which has a stringy texture that can be pulled into strands with a fork, most winter squash has dense flesh in shades ranging from yellow to deep orange; its hardy, often awkward surface is the only obstacle between inside and out. Smooth but-ternut can be peeled with a vegetable peeler, but ridged or warty squashes aren’t as easily accessed, particularly when they’re almost the size of a watermelon. Delicata – long and narrow, yellow with green stripes – has a thinner skin, sort-
of halfway between acorn and zucchini, that is perfectly edible once cooked and requires no significant upper body strength to wrestle a knife through. Whichever variety you’re attempting to tackle on your kitchen counter, use a large chef’s knife or cleaver to cut it into manageable pieces and microwave or bake it in the oven until the flesh is soft enough to scoop from its skin. Or toss wedges in oil, sprinkle with salt and/or spices and roast at 425°F until tender and golden.
Read One Ingredient in the digital issue of City Palate.