Askutasquash. That is the Native American Narragansett word for “the things that can be eaten raw,” or, as we know it today, squash. Native to the New World, squash was cultivated widely by indigenous people who used it in many aspects of their lives. They ate it, of course, but also used different squash varieties as storage containers, utensils and even musical instruments. It is believed to be the oldest cultivated food in North America.
Technically, like a tomato, squash is a fruit; it is the edible fruit that develops from the flower of a squash plant, but, also like tomatoes, it is used as a vegetable in the modern-day kitchen. Squash has a variety of health benefits. It is high in nutrients and vitamins including vitamin C and beta-carotene. It also contains antioxidants, is high in fiber and has a high water content, which means it can be low in calories, depending on how it is cooked. Speaking of which, squash can be roasted, fried, grilled, sauteed or boiled. Squash blossoms and seeds are edible as well.
Different types of squash peak throughout the year. The varieties of squash that are harvested in summer, such as yellow squash, zucchini and pattypan squash, are some of the most prolific types of produce. The skin on summer squash is tender and edible, which is the main difference between summer and winter squash varieties (such as acorn, butternut, and spaghetti squash). These have a thicker rind which allows them to weather the winter and store better. But here’s the thing about almost all squash: when it comes in, it really comes in. It is long-lasting as well as easily freezable. And no matter what the season, the array of squash varieties means there is always one ready for eating.
Here are three recipes featuring different squash varieties. The first recipe, from Chef Lise Jaeger of Chef For Hire, LLC in Middletown, Conn., turns butternut squash into a creamy bisque filled with all the best flavors of fall. The second, a stuffed zucchini, is a versatile recipe from Chef Luke Greika, Chef de Cuisine at the newly opened Fire by Forge in Hartford, Conn.—like the restaurant, it features flavors from across the Americas. Finally, there is a recipe for savory acorn squash tartlets. All three recipes can be easily adapted to be gluten-free, vegetarian and dairy-free (see notes). Here’s to “fall”-ing for squash!
Butternut Almond Bisque
Recipe courtesy of
Chef Lise Jaeger, Chef for Hire, LLC
Yield: 8 servings
3-4 tablespoons olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
3 carrots, peeled and chopped
2 teaspoons salt
1 large butternut squash, peeled, seeded and cubed
4 cloves garlic, chopped
1 tablespoon cumin
1 tablespoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground coriander
½ teaspoon nutmeg
½ teaspoon cayenne pepper
½ cup white wine
3-4 cups vegetable broth
1 cup almond butter
Salt and pepper, to taste
½ cup heavy cream to swirl as garnish (optional, leave out for dairy-free)
½ cup toasted almonds as garnish (optional)
In a large soup pot, heat the olive oil over medium high heat. Add the onions, carrots and salt, and cook, stirring occasionally, until the onions are golden and the carrots are softened (about 8-10 minutes). Add the butternut squash, garlic and all the spices. Coat the vegetables with the spices and cook for about 5 minutes. Add the white wine and reduce for 2 minutes. Add the vegetable broth, then increase the heat to high and bring to a boil for 3 minutes, then reduce heat to medium low. Allow vegetables to cook until fork tender (about 15-20 minutes). Remove from heat and allow the soup to cool before blending in a blender in batches.
Note: Do not fill the blender to the top with warm soup. This could blow the top off and potentially burn you. Using an immersion blender works well.
Return the blended soup to the pot and warm over low heat. Blend soup in batches until smooth, adding the almond butter to the last blending batch. If the soup seems too thick you can add more vegetable stock to thin it out. Season with salt and pepper to taste and garnish with a swirl of heavy cream and toasted almonds if desired.
Recipe courtesy of Chef Luke Greika, Fire by Forge
4 large zucchinis
Kosher salt and ground black pepper
1 pound ground chorizo (Impossible sausage will make this vegetarian)
8 ounces crushed tomatoes in juice
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 tablespoon cilantro, chopped
1 teaspoon chipotle sauce
1 cup queso fresco (leave out for dairy-free)
Preheat the grill to the highest setting. Cut the zucchini in half lengthwise and hollow out the center to form a well. Cover with olive oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and grill on high about 4 minutes each side. Mix the ground chorizo, tomatoes, garlic, cilantro and chipotle sauce together in a bowl. Stuff the grilled zucchini boats with the chorizo mixture and bake at 350°F until the chorizo is cooked through and golden brown (about 20-25 minutes). Garnish with queso fresco.
Acorn Squash Tartlets
Recipe by Amy S. White
1 package puff pastry sheets (regular or gluten-free), defrosted
1 acorn squash
1 cup ricotta cheese
2 tablespoons parmesan cheese
1 egg, beaten
1 teaspoon lemon juice
2 teaspoons fresh thyme
¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
Kosher salt and ground black pepper, to taste
Preheat the oven to 350°F. Cut off the ends of the acorn squash, then slice it in half and scoop out the seeds. Place face down on a parchment-lined baking sheet and bake for 30-40 minutes, until soft. Set the cooked squash aside to cool, then raise the oven temperature to 400°F.
While the squash is baking, prepare the puff pastry by rolling it out on a flour-dusted surface. Use a pizza cutter or sharp knife to cut the dough into eight squares. Place the pastry squares on a parchment-lined baking sheet about ½ inch apart. Use a knife to draw a square inside each square, about ¼ inch in (this will help the filling stay inside the middle). Use a fork to make holes in the inside square of each pastry (this will help this area not puff up too much). In a large bowl, combine the ricotta, parmesan, egg, lemon juice, thyme, nutmeg, salt and pepper. Spread a light layer of the ricotta mixture on the inside square of each pastry square. Thinly slice the cooled squash and arrange three or four squash slices slightly overlapping each other over the ricotta mixture. Bake for about 15 minutes, until puffed up and golden brown. Serve warm.