YOU can really tell fall has arrived when you see piles of beautiful winter squash in the stores.
There are so many different kinds available now: old favourites like butternut, hubbard and acorn, as well as more exotic varieties like kabocha (a personal favourite of mine) and turban.
Whatever type you choose, squash is high in vitamins A and C as well as dietary fibre, and it tastes so darned good.
These dishes are delicious accompaniments to any kind of roast meat or they make great vegetarian main dishes. Be very careful when cutting and peeling squash. A damp washcloth on your cutting board can stop the squash from slipping when you cut into it.
Butternut Squash Gratin
3 cups ¾-inch chunks of peeled and seeded butternut squash
1 cup finely chopped onion
1 Tbsp olive oil
½ tsp salt
2 Tbsp mayonnaise
2 ?3 cup freshly grated parmesan or sharp cheddar cheese
1 ?3 cup panko breadcrumbs (crisp Japanese breadcrumbs) Freshly ground black pepper to taste
Heat oven to 350 degrees; generously butter an eight-inch baking dish. In a medium saucepan, cover squash cubes with cold water; put lid on pan and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce heat to a simmer and cook squash for about 15 minutes or until tender. Drain; rinse with cold water, then drain again.
Heat olive oil in a non-stick skillet; add onion and sauté on medium heat, stirring often, until softened.
Set aside to cool slightly.
In a medium bowl beat together the egg, salt and mayonnaise. Add one-third cup of the cheese, the panko, squash and sautéed onion and fold together gently to combine. Season with pepper and more salt if desired. Spoon into the prepared baking dish and top with the remaining cheese. Bake for 45 minutes or until heated through and cheese on top is slightly browned.
Makes six servings.
QUINOA-STUFFED ACORN SQUASH
2 small acorn squash, cut in half lengthwise and seeds removed
2 Tbsp olive oil, divided use
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 cup quinoa
1 Tbsp butter
1 medium onion
1 clove garlic, minced
1 cup sliced mushrooms
1 Tbsp soy sauce
¼ cup chopped fresh basil
1 ?3 cup raisins or currants
1 ?3 cup toasted pine nuts
½ cup grated parmesan cheese
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Brush the cut sides of the squash with one tablespoon of the olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Place squash cut side down in a well-greased baking dish and bake for about 45 minutes or until tender (stick the tip of a sharp knife into one to check).
While squash is baking prepare the filling. Rinse quinoa thoroughly under running water, rubbing grains together lightly. Drain well. Bring quinoa and two cups of water to a boil in a medium saucepan; cover, reduce heat to medium-low and cook for about 15 minutes or until all liquid is absorbed. Set aside. Heat remaining one tablespoon of olive oil and one tablespoon butter in a large skillet over medium heat and sauté the mushrooms, onions and garlic until softened and browned; stir in soy sauce. Remove pan from heat; add the cooked quinoa and mix thoroughly. Add the raisins, pine nuts and basil and stir to blend well; taste stuffing and adjust seasoning if desired.
Remove the squash from the oven; with tongs turn the halves right side up. Stuff each squash half with the stuffing and sprinkle each half with a quarter of the cheese. Return squash to oven for 15 minutes or until stuffing is hot and cheese is melted (if there's stuffing left over you can reheat it as a side dish for another meal). Makes four servings.
Roasted Squash and Parsnips
WITH MAPLE SYRUP GLAZE
2 cups ½-inch cubes of peeled butternut or kabocha squash
1 cup ¼-inch cubes of peeled parsnips
2½ Tbsp butter ¼ cup pure maple syrup
1 small clove garlic, minced
1 tsp chopped fresh rosemary
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 ?3 cup chopped almonds
Preheat oven to 375 degrees; butter an eight-inch square baking dish. Combine squash and parsnips in a large bowl. Melt butter in a small saucepan; whisk in maple syrup, garlic and rosemary. Pour over squash and parsnips and toss to coat evenly; season with salt and pepper to taste.
Transfer mixture to prepared baking dish; cover with foil and bake for 40 minutes, then uncover and bake until all vegetables are tender, about another 20 minutes. Sprinkle with almonds and bake another 10 minutes until almonds are toasted. Makes four servings.
Angela Shellard was born and raised on the North Shore and is a self-professed foodie. She has done informal catering for sports and business functions and enjoys entertaining family and friends at home. Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org.