By Christine Hinrichs
One of my favorite things about fall is the delicious additions at my local farmers’ market. And I have a particular fondness for squash. Whenever I head to the St. Paul Farmers’ Market and see the big trucks full of delicious squash, my heart flutters. I’ve been buying my squash from one truck in particular over the last few years, home of Tulips Fresh Produce and Carol, the woman affectionately known as the “Squash Lady.”
Carol was the first person to open my eyes to the endless possibilities of squash. Who knew that you could actually bring a little squash to work and nuke it in the microwave for lunch? I certainly didn’t. But now it’s one of my favorite fall lunches.
I talked to Carol one Sunday morning about all of the squash varieties and the best ways to cook them. According to Carol, Tulips Fresh Produce currently grows and sells 19 varieties of squash. Nineteen! She can point to a variety and tell you everything about it: the taste, the texture, the best way to cook it and another variety that you might enjoy more.
Carol was nice enough to give me some quick tips on the taste of certain squash and, most importantly, delicious and easy recipes to cooking squash.
Delicata and Sunshine squash have edible skins. Carol recommends cutting the delicata into slices and the sunshine into wedges, brushing the pieces with olive oil, and grilling. Honeybear squash is a new variety of acorn squash, but it’s personal sized and it has the favor of an acorn squash but with a bit of a honey flavor. She also recommended Lightning squash, which tastes like sweet corn, and Confetti squash, which has a super sweet flesh.
Spaghetti squash is also popular and delicious. Stand it straight up and cut it horizontally. Bake according to the recipe that follows, and once it’s cooked, remove the “spaghetti strands” with a fork and serve with your favorite pasta sauce.
Carol also told me that people shouldn’t hesitate to cook and eat squash. Each squash has its own unique flavor, and Carol can tell you exactly what you need to know about any variety. A squash with keep for three to eight weeks in a cool, dry place off of cement, so it’s the perfect food to buy now and save for a winter meal. And if you’re buying, check out Tulips Fresh Produce at the St. Paul Farmers’ Market and get some great tips from Carol!
Here are two recipes, straight from the Squash Lady, to help you tackle any squash that you have in the kitchen! I’ve also included my favorite squash recipe –- squash for lunch!
Easy Squash Cooking Method
This is Carol’s go-to method for cooking any type of squash. It’s quick and easy!
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Cut the squash in half and put it cut side down in a pan of water. The water should be about ½ an inch up the side of the squash. Bake for 35-40 minutes, or until soft.
Cool the squash in the pan with water in order to keep it moist and to make the meal healthier. Another option to cut down on calories? Instead of using butter to moisten up the squash, use chicken or vegetable broth.
Stuffed Acorn Squash
4 acorn squash
1 pound maple pork sausage
1 medium onion, chopped
1 stalk celery, chopped
½ cup craisins
½ cup chopped walnuts
Cut the acorn squash in half and scoop out the seeds. Microwave the squash flesh-side down for five minutes.
Meanwhile, drizzle a bit of olive oil into a pan and sauté the onion and celery. Add the pork sausage and cook through.
Cook the stuffing according to the package directions (enough for four servings), but substitute maple syrup for half of the recommended quantity of water.
Combine the stuffing, maple sausage mixture, a handful of craisins and a handful of walnuts. Stuff the mixture into the acorn squash. Put the squash in a baking pan. Pour water into the baking pan up to ½ an inch up the squash. Bake at 350 degrees until soft, about 35-40 minutes. Eat and enjoy!
Squash for Lunch
Carol recommends using any personal-sized squash with a flat bottom for this recipe. But any smaller squash will work. Either cut a small portion of the bottom to get a flat surface, or put the squash into a bowl to microwave if it has a round bottom.
Cut the top off of the squash and using a spoon, remove the seeds and the stringy stuff inside. (I do this step at home where I have a big, sharp chef’s knife. When it comes time for lunch, put a spoonful of water into the hollow of the squash and replace the top. Microwave the squash on high for about five minutes. Once cooled, add a pat of butter and a sprinkling of brown sugar. Scrape the flesh away from the skin and mix everything together. Or you could add a few spoonful’s of any leftover stuffing from your acorn-squash dinner.
Eat, enjoy, and watch your coworkers stare at you enviously while they eat their sad leftovers!