Monday, November 08, 2004

Sqaush Stories

I know that many of us have recently been attempting to tackle that Godzilla of vegetables, the winter squash. Unparalleled in frugality, nutrition, and difficulty of cooking, the various winter squashes pose a unique challenge to the chef. I, for one, am not satisfied with my current method of tackling the beasts.

Perhaps we can improve by pooling our knowledge. So here's the challenge: post your most recent squash-related adventures. Please include the type of squash, the approach you took to get it from a raw solid lump to digestible portions, how long it took, the end dish or dishes for which it was used, your overall level of satisfaction with the experience, and what you might do differently next time (if there is a next time). If you have multiple experiences that would provide insight, feel free to make multiple posts.

I'll be back and add mine once I finish with it. So far it's a tossup which of us will lose our skin first.


Queen of Carrots said...

I finally won with only one nick to the thumb while the pumpkin lost its entire skin and is pureed.

The pumpkin was too hard to peel or cut initially. I had bad memories of trying to remove pumpkin skin from fully cooked pumpkins, and I vaguely remembered reading about putting squash in the microwave for a little while to soften it up before peeling, cutting, and completing baking. But I don't have a microwave, and no microwave would have contained this pumpkin anyway.

So instead I tried baking it for awhile. Not wanting to overdo it, I only gave it a few minutes before I took it out and tried to peel it. That was when I nicked my thumb. I put it back in again and let it cook for quite a while--maybe 45 minutes. Then I pulled it out and let it cool off so I could handle it. At that stage, it peeled quite nicely and cooperated well with me slicing it up into chunks. (I threw out the seeds. My mother always saved them and dried them and they sat around the house for several months before we threw them out because nobody liked them.)

I then saved out about two cups of the chunks to put in Rochelle's minestrone recipe later; the remainder (two 13x9" pans full) went back in the oven with a little water and cooked for an hour or so--after awhile, I thought they might cook better if I covered them, so I did.

When I was sick of waiting for them, I took them out of the oven and ran them through my Squeezo-Strainer (a contraption that separates the pulp of cooked food from the less-edible portions). It gunked up horribly and took most of the stringy part out, which left hardly any pumpkin at all. So I gave up on the Squeezo-Strainer (it works great on applesauce, but apples aren't stringy), and just ran everything through the blender.

End result: two ice cube trays full of future baby food, about six cups of puree for pies or bread, and a very messy kitchen. Took about five hours all told, but only about one of actual labor. Next time I'll just use the blender, and maybe cook them in liquid on the stove so they're mushier. It seems like it took way longer to cook than it ought to have. I'm still not sure about the best peel removal method.

the Joneses said...

My most recent personal encounter with squash was when I was nine years old and my parents made me finish it even though I gagged every time I put it in my mouth. After they decided I wasn't just being dramatic (what a thought!), they didn't make me eat it again. Now that I'm grown up and married, I've never had squash in my house.

But just the other night I was thinking I might try it again. Approach it cautiously, and make Darren promise not to require me to clean my plate. So squash recipes and techniques are appreciated. -- SJ