Ready for another winter? I'd thought I'd share one of the treasures of winter that us chef's love to get this time of year. SQUASH.There are several different kinds of winter squash and many of them have a very unique taste. Butternut is probably the most popular squash and easiest to find. Acorn and spaghetti squash are also found in most food stores. Buttercup and kabocha squash are delicious as well but harder to find. When you pick squash it should be big, usually the bigger the better. It should be very dry, hard, difficult to cut and heavy for its size. The darker it is on the inside, the better. If the skin of the squash is dark(spaghetti & butternut) it usually means it's darker and riper on the inside.Here are some common types of squash:
Butternut squash: Easily found in supermarkets. Beige colored and shaped like a vase. This is a more watery squash and tastes somewhat similar to sweet potatoes. If you're a "squash virgin" I suggest starting out with this one as it is the most consistent squash. This one leaks a lot of liquid while cooking and you might even want to drain the liquid(which can be quite delicious) after an hour or so of cooking so that the squash doesn't get steamed and cooks quicker.
Acorn squash: Also easily found in supermarkets. May be my favorite squash although it can be very inconsistent. If the squash is shiny and a very dark green that means it's not quite ripe yet. Wait till it starts to get a little dull with some orange coloring on the skin. You'll know you have a good squash if you cut it open and it's a dark orange, light yellow means it won't be as sweet.
Spaghetti squash: Also easily found in supermarkets. These look like yellow footballs with stringy flesh. This squash really has a shell instead of skin. Usually not as sweet as the other squashes, but occasionally you may luck out and get some unbelievably sweet and delicious ones. Look for ones with a smooth, dark yellow shell. Best one I ever had was over 5 pounds.
Buttercup squash: Rich flavor, tastes very much like peanut butter.
Kabocha squash: Usually very, very dry and flaky but delicious. You'll get the most bang for your buck from this one because kabocha squash will hardly shrink at all after cooking and gives off very little liquid. 8 lbs of uncooked butternut squash, for example, will only yield a little more than 3 lbs of cooked squash. A dry squash like this one will freeze the best too.
Sweet Dumpling squash: Many refer to this as the best sweetest squash of them all. Although very good, I think I prefer some of the others a little more.
So go out & enjoy some SQUASH this winter! I have some squash recipes on my website www.FourStarChef.com. FYI: I was recently named food editor of the Best Of Long Island Restaurants magazine & will be doing a dining report on WLIR 92.7 FM, M-F @ 12noon! Tune in! Happy cooking.
cookin' with flava!
Marc 0=; )