WhatsFresh_WinterSquash_10-25-06.jpgWell, here we are on the cusp of fall. The weather is cold and the last vestiges of summer items like tomatoes are emerging from those farms that employ greenhouses to extend the seasons. Halloween is right around the corner, pumpkins for carving are in the Greenmarket, and this is a fine time to talk about eating their cousins, winter squash, as well. Well-stocked farm stands like Alex and Linda Paffenroth’s will have numerous varieties for you to experiment with. Some of the best choices are buttercup, butternut, hubbard, and kabochas – something of a catch-all marketing term - which have been the chefs’ darling for the last few seasons. Here is a great rundown on winter squash from Ganda’s joint.

When it comes to preparation, cooking in the oven is our go to method for these large vegetables. That being said, anything is possible. Last week at Lupa they were featured on the menu shredded raw (along with celery root) in a salad, dressed with a zippy dressing, and topped tableside with crisped guanciale and its rendered fat.

Start by washing your squash, cutting it in half, and scooping out the seeds. Preheat your oven to 375 degrees and put olive oil in an ovenproof pan. Determine your final desired dish; peel & cut the squash into 1/8ths if you just want simple roast squash for a side dish or salad, or leave it halved if you want to do a mash as described after the jump. Either way liberally coat them in sea salt and cook in the oven until they are soft enough to pierce the flesh with a paring knife.

Here is a recipe for a mash:

- Bake off a halved, medium-large squash till soft, cool slightly and scoop the flesh out of each half.
- Force the squash through a ricer, this is really a superior way to mash starch for mashed potatoes, gnocchi, and other dishes without gummy results. A hand masher can be substituted if need be.
- You can prep ahead to this point and chill, or proceed as below.
- Place riced/mashed squash into a heavy bottomed saucepan add in approximately ½ - ¾ cup whole milk and heat over medium heat whisking occasionally to incorporate the milk fully. Feel free to vary the amount of liquid to end up with a stiffer mash, a light puree or even a soup.
- Some complementary flavors you can introduce: maple syrup, ground coriander or cumin, nutmeg, paprika, cinnamon, chopped pecans, minced & sweated leeks, brown butter.

Care to share some of your favorite preparation techniques ?