Monday, October 19, 2009

Winter Squash

Autumn is here and that means it’s winter squash season. I love winter squash even more than I love summer squash. I even liked it as a small child. My mother used to cook butternut squash and mash it up with a little maple syrup or brown sugar. Mmmm. It was so good. And this sounds like a really odd combination, but I used to mix my mashed potatoes and butternut squash together on my plate, put a pat of butter on top, and let it melt in. Yum. I could never convince any of my family members to try this. They really missed out.

My New England paternal grandfather loved squash pie. My mother, born and raised in the Mid-West, made Thanksgiving dinner every year. She’d never heard of squash pie, and was sure it would be in every way identical to pumpkin.

“Make sure you bake a squash pie,” Gramps would remind her each November.

“Oh, I will,” she’d lie.

A couple of hours after dinner (New Englanders always like to let their food settle a bit before dessert), everyone would come back to the table, and my mother would bring out the pies.

“Make sure mine’s squash,” Gramps would say.

She’d make a big production of distinguishing between the pumpkin and the supposed squash pies.

“Here you go,” she’d say, passing him a dessert plate with a piece of pie on it. “This one is definitely squash,” she’d insist, while we kids gleefully smirked around the table. We were in on it. Then Gramps would rave about the pie and go on and on about how much better it was than pumpkin.

One autumn day a couple of years ago, my neighbor, Beth, showed up at my door with a piece of pie.

“Callie and I thought you needed to try this. It’s the best pumpkin pie we’ve ever had,” she said, “but it’s made from banana squash.”

Squash pie!

It was wonderful. I don’t think I’ve made a pumpkin pie since.

Banana Squash Pie

3 cups cooked, pureed banana squash
4 eggs
1 ¼ cups sugar
2 Tablespoons flour
½ tsp nutmeg
1 tsp cinnamon
¼ tsp allspice
1 tsp ginger
1 tsp salt
2 cups cream or 1 cup cream and 1 cup milk
2 unbaked pie crusts

Cut up a banana squash and scrape out the seeds and string. Cover each piece with plastic wrap and cook them in the microwave. They seem to cook more evenly if you do them one piece at a time. One piece takes about fourteen minutes. Let it cool a little bit. Scoop out the cooked squash and puree it in a blender. Measure out three cups for the recipe. Eat the rest plain on a plate with a little salt and pepper. It’s so good. Or freeze it in Ziplock freezer bags.

In a large bowl, beat the eggs. Add sugar, flour, spices, salt, and squash. Stir in the cream. (Beth said it was okay to use one cup each of milk and cream, but that I should try it sometime using the two cups of cream. I have. It’s really good.)

I always cut thin strips of aluminum foil the cover the edge of my crusts so they won’t get too dark, and it’s a lot easier to do this before filling them.

Fill the unbaked crusts. Bake at 400 degrees for 15 minutes. Reduce heat to 350 and bake for 30 – 40 minutes. Pie is done when a knife inserted in the center comes out clean.

Another winter squash recipe? How about butternut squash soup? I make this for my daughter and my niece. The three of us absolutely love it. One day this fall, I received a text message from my niece, Emma, who attends college nearby.

“What’s for dinner on Sunday? Butternut squash soup?”

It was all I could think about for the rest of the week.

Butternut Squash Soup

1 medium sized butternut squash
4 T butter
1 medium onion, chopped
3 T flour
3 tsp chicken bouillon
1 ½ cups hot water
2 ½ cups fat free half and half*
salt, white pepper, and sugar to taste

Peel, seed and cut up squash. Place in a large pan, cover with water and cook until soft. Drain and return to pan. OR cut unpeeled squash in half. Scrape out the inside. Cover each half with plastic wrap and cook in the microwave until soft. Scoop out the cooked squash and discard the skin. After squash is cooked, mash it with a potato masher and set aside. Melt butter in a skillet. Add onion and sauté until golden. Add flour and cook for a few minutes. Slowly add the half and half. Set aside. Combine hot water and bouillon, stirring to dissolve bouillon. Puree squash in batches in blender, dividing the chicken broth among the batches. Return pureed squash to the large pan. Stir in the half and half mixture. Heat thoroughly and season to taste with salt, white pepper and sugar.

*I usually use fat free half and half for soups that call for cream or milk or regular half and half. It’s a good way to cut some calories. You can substitute in whatever you’d like to use.

Acorn Squash

Cut them in half, horizontally. Scrape out the seeds and string. Set them in a baking pan, cut sides up. Squirt some maple syrup in each one and add a pat of butter. Add water to the pan until it comes part way up the sides of the squash. Bake them at 350 until soft. Serve them as they are. To eat, scoop out squash, incorporating some of the maple syrup in each bite.

OR, slice acorn squash horizontally into 1 inch thick slices (some will be larger around than others). Remove seeds and string. Spray a baking sheet with non-stick spray. Lay squash slices on baking sheet. Brush them with olive oil. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Bake until soft. To serve, place a slice on each plate and fill center with a spoonful of whole-berry cranberry sauce.

Squash is so good for us. It's dark orange flesh signals that it's loaded with antioxidants, right? I've tried to understand what exactly antioxidants do for us. When metals oxidize, they rust, right? So antioxidants must keep our insides from rusting. Or something.


  1. OK, I am not a squash fan - but that pie almost tempts me to try it!

  2. I'm seriously gonna try the squash soup, it sounds delectable and I love squash! As for the insides not rusting, that's just a bonus :)