by Nancy Sweet, director, culinary programs and operations, LLCC
Now that I have faced the facts that winter is pretty much here, I’ve turned my cooking over to heartier, wintery foods. Braised meats, nourishing soups and creamy pastas are all great for keeping the cold out. But, I do like to stick with keeping some of my meals vegetarian, and a great way to do that is with inventive winter squash recipes.
Winter squash varies from summer squash in that it is more mature, making the skin not edible, but allowing the squash to be stored for much longer, and it is almost always cooked before being eaten. Butternut, acorn, and spaghetti squash along with general pumpkins seem to be the most readily available, but with the continuation of the farmers’ markets throughout this winter, lesser known varieties should be found easily. Try experimenting with kabocha, delicata or hubbard. In addition, most winter squash are relatively low-calorie and a good source of complex carbohydrates and dietary fiber.
Winter Squash Braised in Cider
From the New York Times
*3 pounds delicata or butternut squash
*3 tablespoons butter
*3 tablespoons finely chopped rosemary
*4 cups unfiltered apple or pear cider
*1 teaspoon balsamic or apple cider vinegar, to taste
*Freshly ground black pepper
Peel squash, halve lengthwise, and remove seeds with spoon. If using delicata, slice into half-moons 1/2-inch thick; if using butternut, dice into 1/2-inch chunks.
Melt butter in a 12-inch skillet over low heat until foamy. Add rosemary, and cook over medium heat to flavor butter, stirring frequently, about 2 minutes. Add squash, cider, and 1 teaspoon salt. If squash is not covered by cider, add water to cover.
Bring to a simmer, and cook until squash is tender, about 30 to 40 minutes. Remove squash to a plate. Cook cider mixture until it has reduced to a glaze, stirring frequently, 5 to 10 minutes. Add squash back to skillet. Cook until just warmed through. Sprinkle with vinegar, and season with salt and pepper. Transfer to warm serving bowl, and serve immediately.
Fall Spiced Quinoa Salad with Apples and Butternut Squash
Serves 2 entrée salads
*1 cup quinoa, cooked according to package directions, drained
*½ butternut squash, peeled, and cubed
*1 granny smith apple, sliced
*1 tablespoon olive oil
*2 teaspoons salt
*2 TBS cider vinegar
*¼ cup apple juice
*½ tsp cinnamon
*½ tsp cumin
*1 TBS Dijon mustard
*¾ – 1 cup canola oil
*1/4 cup toasted walnuts
*3 scallions, sliced thin
*½ cup blue cheese, optional
To roast squash, toss squash with olive and salt. Spread in one layer over a foil-lined cookie sheet and roast in a 400 degree oven for about 40 minutes, stirring every 10 minutes. Let cool to room temp.
Make vinaigrette in a small bowl, whisking together vinegar, apple juice, cinnamon, cumin and Dijon mustard. Slowly whisk in oil. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
In a larger bowl, mix together quinoa, squash, apples, dressing, pecans and onions. Season with salt and pepper. Add blue cheese if desired. Serve warm or at room temperature by itself or over mixed greens or spinach.
Acorn Squash Stuffed with Mushrooms and Rice
From Martha Stewart
*2 acorn squash (about 1 pound each), halved crosswise, seeded, and bottoms trimmed to lie flat, if needed
*salt and pepper
*3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
*1/2 pound cremini or button mushrooms, trimmed and diced
*1 medium onion, diced
*3/4 teaspoon thyme
*1 cup long-grain white rice
*2 cups vegetable or chicken broth
*1/2 cup Parmesan cheese
Preheat oven to 450 degrees. On a rimmed baking sheet, season cut sides of squash with salt and pepper, drizzle with 1 tablespoon oil, and turn cut sides down. Cover sheet tightly with foil and roast until tender, about 35 minutes.
Meanwhile, in a medium straight-sided skillet, heat remaining 2 tablespoons oil over medium-high. Add mushrooms, onion and thyme; season with salt and pepper. Saute until mushrooms are golden, 8 minutes. Add rice and broth and bring to a boil; cover and reduce heat to low. Cook until liquid is absorbed, 20 minutes.
Remove squash from oven and heat broiler. Carefully scoop out 2 to 3 tablespoons flesh from each squash half and stir into rice; season with salt and pepper. Divide rice mixture among squash halves, sprinkle with Parmesan, and broil until melted, 2 minutes.
Risotto with Winter Squash and Collard Greens
From the New York Times
To save time, you can roast the squash and blanch the collard greens up to two days ahead. If collard greens are not available, feel free to substitute kale, but no blanching required.
*1 ½ pounds winter squash, such as butternut, banana or hubbard, peeled, seeded and cut in 1/2 inch dice (about 2 cups diced squash)
*2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
*freshly ground pepper to taste
*1 bunch collard greens, about 1 pound, stemmed and washed
*2 quarts chicken or vegetable stock, or 1 quart chicken or vegetable broth and 1 quart water
*1 small or 1/2 medium onion
*2 large garlic cloves, green shoots removed, minced
*1 ½ cups arborio rice
*½ cup dry white wine
*½ cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese (2 ounces)
*3 to 4 tablespoons chopped flat-leaf parsley
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Cover a baking sheet with foil. Toss the squash with 1 tablespoon of the olive oil, season with salt and pepper, and spread on the baking sheet in an even layer. Place in the oven, and roast for 30 to 40 minutes, stirring every 10 minutes until tender and caramelized. Remove from the heat.
While the squash is roasting, blanch the collard greens. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Fill a bowl with ice water. When the water comes to a boil, salt generously and add the collard greens. Blanch for four minutes and transfer to the ice water with a slotted spoon or skimmer. Drain and squeeze out extra water. Chop coarsely, or cut in ribbons.
Bring the stock to a simmer in a saucepan. Heat the remaining oil over medium heat in a large, heavy nonstick frying pan or a wide saucepan, and add the onion. Cook, stirring, until the onion begins to soften, about three minutes, and add the garlic and about 1/2 teaspoon salt. Cook, stirring, until the onion is tender and the garlic fragrant, about one minute, and add the rice. Cook, stirring, until the grains of rice are separate.
Stir in the wine, and cook over medium heat, stirring constantly. The wine should bubble but not too quickly. When the wine has just about evaporated, add the collard greens and a third of the squash. Stir in a ladleful or two of the simmering stock, enough to just cover the rice. The stock should bubble slowly. Cook, stirring often, until it is just about absorbed. Add another ladleful of the stock, and continue to cook in this fashion — not too fast and not too slowly, adding more stock when the rice is almost dry — until the rice is tender all the way through but still chewy, 20 to 25 minutes. Taste and adjust seasonings.
Add the remaining roasted squash and another 1/2 cup of stock to the rice. Stir in the Parmesan and parsley, and remove from the heat. Add freshly ground pepper, taste one last time and adjust salt. The mixture should be creamy (add more stock if it is not). Serve right away in wide soup bowls or on plates, spreading the risotto in a thin layer rather than a mound.
Want to know more?
Lincoln Land Community College offers associate degree programs in Culinary Arts and Hospitality Management and academic credit certificates in Culinary Arts and Baking/Pastry. For more information call 217-786-4613 or visit www.llcc.edu/hospitality-culinary-arts/ .