Winter Squashes – dinner, snack, dessert
The really cool thing about winter squashes is if you keep them dry and not too cold and not too hot, they keep for pretty much ever. I had three squashes that had been sitting on the kitchen counter forever: a spaghetti squash, a sugar pie pumpkin, and a butternut squash. I decided I wanted spaghetti squash lasagna for dinner and the pumpkin was older, so I roasted both.
Coolest tip ever: Roast the squashes whole. Don’t endanger your fingers by trying to cut up the squash, don’t boil the goodness out of them. Just poke a bunch of holes in them so they don’t explode (4-6 well-spaced holes is perfect), put them on a lipped baking sheet, and roast at 425 degrees F for about an hour. You can cut them up and seed then once they’re nice and soft.
The spaghetti squash lasagna was delicious, as always, but it was the pumpkin custard that stole the show. I didn’t like it at first. I tried to make it healthier by adding less sugar, which made it kind of bland, but a spritz of whipped cream and a drizzle of real maple syrup made this dessert transcendent. Like pumpkin pie, but without the crust, and way better for you. You could probably substitute canned pumpkin for this, but the flavor won’t be the same. Commercial canned pumpkin actually contains quite a bit of butternut squash. You could also make this custard with sweet potatoes, butternut squash, or any other sweet winter squash.
Real Pumpkin Custard
I basically winged this recipe remembering the pumpkin pie recipe on the back of the pumpkin can. Not quite the same, but just as good, if not better. Not really a creamy custard; more like crustless pumpkin pie, but so much better. Do not under any circumstances skip the real maple syrup. It makes the dish.
1 large sugar pie pumpkin, roasted and mashed (appx. 4 cups)
1 can condensed/evaporated milk (not sweetened condensed)
1/2 cup sugar (add more if you like your desserts extra-sweet)
a whole bunch of pumpkin pie spice, or a shake or two each of ground ginger, nutmeg, and cloves and a half tablespoon of ground cinnamon
splash of heavy cream (optional)
real maple syrup to top
real whipped cream to top
Puree pumpkin either in food processor, with food mill, or with immersion blender. Add all other ingredients and whisk or blend together.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Pour liquid into two ungreased pie plates and fill another pie plate or custard cups with the remainder. Bake custard cups 20-30 minutes and pie plates 30-45 minutes. Custard should be firm when cooled.
Serve with lightly sweetened whipped cream and/or a drizzling of real maple syrup. Each pie serves eight, but probably only four, because everyone will want seconds.
Spaghetti Squash Lasagna
If you’ve never had spaghetti squash with tomato sauce, get on it. The mild sweetness of the squash is wonderful with the acidity of tomatoes. Meat sauce or marinara, you can’t go wrong. This recipe makes one 9×13″ pan or two 8×8″ pans. I made two 8x8s and froze one for later.
1 large spaghetti squash, roasted, seeded, and scraped into strings
1 – 16 oz. can crushed tomatoes
1 pound ricotta and/or cottage cheese
shredded mozzarella cheese
Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. In a 9×13″ or two 8×8″ glass baking dishes, start with a layer of spaghetti squash, then spoon over crushed tomatoes and top with ricotta or cottage cheese spread to edges. Repeat for one more layer, top with a hearty sprinkling of shredded mozzarella. Bake 30-45 minutes or until cheese is bubbly and browned on top.
This casserole can get runny due to the squash, but sopping up the juices with some good bread is just the icing on the cake.
Poor Man’s Peanuts
Pumpkin and squash seeds are easy to roast and an oh-so-cheap snack.
1-2 cups pumpkin and/or squash seeds
Rinse seeds thoroughly and remove any remaining squash or pumpkin pulp. Discard very small immature seeds. Soak seeds overnight in salted water. Drain and rinse the next day, then spread on large baking sheet and sprinkle with salt. Roast at 375-400 degrees F just until the seeds start to smell caramelized. If some seeds get brown, they will taste burnt (trust me), so stir them occasionally to keep them pale. Check frequently to prevent scorching.
If plain salted is to bland for you, try adding some ground black pepper to the wet seeds, smoked Spanish paprika, garlic or onion salt instead of plain, or mixed herbs.
Squash is a wonderful year-round vegetable, good for dinner, dessert, or a snack! That lonely butternut squash left over might get turned into custard if it’s not careful. Or I’ve got some apples laying about too. And a cabbage. I’m overdue for roasted root vegetables with cabbage, apples, and bacon. That might be next on the dinner list.
What is your favorite way to eat squash?