Warm Up with Winter Squash

Winter squash is a powerhouse vegetable—high in nutrients, low in calories, inexpensive, easy to cook, stores long-term and is highly satisfying. Basically, if winter squash was a baseball player, it would be the Stephen Strasburg (2019 World Series MVP) of the veggie patch. And if it was a Beatles song, it would be: “Gotta to Get You Into My Life”.

It’s nutritional resume is impressive. It’s a good source of: fiber, potassium, Vitamins A and C and multiple B vitamins. It’s also a rich source of health-supporting phytonutrients and antioxidants. And, despite it’s carbohydrate content, it has a low glycemic load and recent evidence has shown that it helps stabilize blood sugar when eaten as part of a balanced meal.

Common varieties include: acorn squash, butternut squash, sugar pumpkin, delicata squash and spaghetti squash. You can make full use of this vegetable by cooking the flesh, roasting the seeds, and, in thinner skinned varieties like delicata or acorn squash, you can even eat the skin. Ok, you get extra credit for that!

Cooking techniques:

  • Roasted: cut peeled squash into 1 inch cubes, toss with a little oil and seasoning/spices, spread out onto a baking sheet, roast at 400 degrees until tender (stir cubes every 15 minutes)
  • Baked/steamed in oven: see recipe below for description of technique
  • Diced and added to soups, stews or casseroles
  • Steamed: cut peeled squash into bite-size cubes, cook in steamer
  • Mashed: can mash when cooked squash is very tender

Herbs/spices and flavors which pair well with winter squash include: sage, rosemary, garlic, ginger, curry, chili powder, cayenne, cumin, cinnamon and nutmeg. Be playful, experiment with these.

Try this simple spaghetti squash recipe to add a taste of the Mediterranean to your next sit-down meal.

Mediterranean-style Spaghetti Squash

1 spaghetti squash (about 3 lbs)

Extra virgin olive oil (4-5 Tbsp total)

Garlic (5 cloves chopped)

½ large red onion, diced

1 or 2 red bell peppers, sliced

1 or 2 zucchini, sliced

Parmesan cheese

Fresh basil or Italian parsley, chopped

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Halve the squash lengthwise and remove the seeds. Place the squash halves cut side down in a roasting pan. Add 1 inch of water to the pan. Cover pan tightly with foil. Bake at 375 degrees until very tender (about 1 hour).

While the spaghetti squash is baking, about 10 minutes before it’s done, heat 1-2 tablespoons of olive oil in a nonstick skillet over medium heat.  Add the red onion and bell pepper and sauté for a few minutes. Next, add the garlic and zucchini to the pan and sauté for a few more minutes until the vegetables are just tender.

When the spaghetti squash is cool enough to handle, scoop out the flesh into a large bowl, using a fork to separate it into strands. Season with salt and pepper and stir in 3 tablespoons of olive oil.

Empty the sauteed vegetables and fresh herbs into the bowl with the spaghetti squash and mix together. Serve with parmesan cheese grated over the top and garnished with fresh herbs.

Serves 4

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