Yesterday my friend Larry was telling me about a group of people out in North Dakota or someplace who sit around and make up those “national days” of the year then put them on Twitter.
You know…Black Cat Day, followed by Crazy Cat Lady Day, Eat Pie Day, etc.
Why should those folks get all the power? I think we need a national Baked Winter Squash Day.
We can even give it a hashtag so it is Internet Official.
This isn’t a recipe so much as a method. I wasn’t even going to post this, thinking that it was too basic, but judging by the number of people in the grocery store THIS MONTH who have randomly asked me, “What do you do with that? Is that a gourd? Can you eat it?,” I think this post is right on time.
Winter squash come in many sizes, shapes, and varieties. Pumpkin, Acorn, and Butternut are three of the most popular. If you have a farmer’s market that is still going, you can find really cool varieties that don’t always make it to the supermarket.
Just to be clear, Winter Squash are hard and have seeds in the middle that you need to scoop out. Summer Squash like zucchini & yellow squash, are tender and have edible seeds.
Of course winter squash seeds are edible too – think Pepitas or Pumpkin Seeds, but they need to be toasted first.
By far my favorite winter squash, and the squash garnering so much attention at the checkout line, is this Sweet Dumpling Squash.
You can only get them a few months out of the year. Yes, they look like a gourd in color, but they are the most sweet, tender, delicious squash I’ve ever tried. These usually come from Michigan and I used to grow them in my garden when I lived there.
They are similar in size and shape to an acorn squash but are not the least bit bitter. They have an orange interior like a butternut squash but are so much more flavorful.
I have one sitting on Larry’s kitchen counter right now. I might be a Sweet Dumpling hoarder.
The method is the same for any baked winter squash:
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
Cut the squash in half vertically through the stem end (you might need to knock off the stem with the end of your knife or use a pair of pliers) and scoop out the seeds.You can keep the seeds and toast them if you’d like or toss them.
I keep a huge old chef’s knife just for cutting squash. Please be careful doing this. A handy hint is that if your knife gets stuck half way through the squash, DON’T try to pull it out. Instead, firmly holding the knife handle, give the squash a couple of good whacks on the cutting board. This should split it open the rest of the way.
If you still feel that you can’t tackle cutting a bigger squash, don’t give up! At my grocery store, you can ask them to cut it for you back in the produce room. The only downside to this is that you will have to cook it in a day or two. Uncut squash will keep in cool storage for weeks.
Place the squash cut side down on a baking pan covered with foil or parchment.
Put it in the oven and bake for about 30-45 minutes.
The cooking time varies depending on the type and size of your squash (butternut will take about 45 minutes) but you can always tell when they are done by poking them with a small sharp knife. When they are tender and the knife easily slips through the skin into squash, they’re done.
Lighter colored squash like these Sweet Dumplings will also turn a lovely golden color.
You really can’t over cook these. They should feel nice and soft when you squeeze them.
Here’s the reason I always bake my squash cut side down…
Turn them over and you have delicious caramelized squash edges from the hot pan. Mmmmmmm!
Now dress it up with some butter and a little salt & pepper.
If I’m feeling especially festive, and I usually am, I add a drizzle of pure maple syrup.
I am a squash lover so I always serve a half a squash per person for smaller squash like these. I could, however, easily eat a whole one myself in one sitting.
This is a great, super easy side dish for any meal. It also makes a warm comforting vegetarian lunch on a fall day.
Need something painless to add to the Thanksgiving line-up? Baked Winter Squash is the answer.
It’s a thing!
A more important thing is Veteran’s Day. Maybe you should bake a winter squash and a whole dinner for someone who served our country. My dad was in the Navy and we thank all who have served our country. A good way to say thank you, I love you, or I’m proud of you, is to cook someone a good, homemade meal and share your time with them. – xo, Claudia