For many, these words are synonymous with fall decor or the frothy latte of the season. But–for cooks–these beauties are far from just decor… these are the delicacies of autumn. With so many varieties to choose from, it’s time for a snapshot of my favorite cooking wonders and an explanation of what culinary hats they don.
And remember! Squash and pumpkins have delectable seeds. While you may find some seed coats are too thick to roast, it’s almost always worth toasting seeds. To do this, just scoop out the pumpkin or squash seeds, remove the stringy fibers attached, and rinse the seeds in a sieve. Shake these dry, coat with olive oil, season with salt or cinnamon sugar, and roast in the oven on 400°F. Be sure to check them frequently to stir, as cooking times vary and you only want them to turn golden brown.
This petite variety of squash tastes just as it is named. Its interior has a delicate texture that can be stuffed or simply eaten with some butter. The flavor is sweet and slightly nutty, though not as strong as the Butternut squash flavor.
To prepare, it is easiest to just cut the Delicata lengthwise, scoop out the seeds, and lay the two halves down (skin-side up) on an oiled baking sheet. Bake at 400°F. until a fork pricks the squash without resistance.
When I was young, I read that this was the surprisingly strange-looking squash that Martha Stewart selected to make pumpkin pies. Whether or not Martha Stewart truly loves this odd squash, hubbards (and their smaller cousins of the Blue Ballet variety) are delicious for pies and all manner of baking projects.
Just like other pumpkins and squash, to bake with a hubbard, you will need to slice it in half lengthwise, remove the seeds, and lay the two halves down (skin-side up) on an oiled baking sheet. Bake at 400°F. until the flesh is completely soft. Once cooled, the squash meat is easily scooped out and used in pumpkin cake, pie, muffins, custard… the list is endless!
Rouge vif D’Etampes Pumpkin
This is the famous Cinderella pumpkin. It excels in both pumpkin pies and in soups. This is my pumpkin of choice by which to make Potter-esque pumpkin pasties, a savory hand-pie filled with pumpkin chunks, meat, dried fruit, and gravy. Because these pumpkins are often unwieldy in size, rest assured that the pumpkin flesh freezes well.
Most everyone has tasted the silkiness of a good Butternut squash soup. Truly, this squash tastes as it is named: nutty and buttery. It’s texture is not quite as fiberless as Kabocha, but it certainly isn’t stringy like Spaghetti squash… it’s a nice in-between. Peel and roast it with chestnuts and quince for a show-stopping side, or keep some roasted for an quick-and-easy soup night. (And in your soup, add in some apple, a bit of cayenne and paprika, and creme fraiche for a spark of extra flavor.)
People say it looks like a wheel of cheese, hence the name. This is another favorite of pie bakers. It is also delicious when stuffed and roasted. I like my Long Island Cheese stuffed with stale Italian bread, bits of smoked gouda cheese, sausage, garlic and thyme, onion, and a bit of cream. Warm, comforting autumnal food. (And quite the beautiful Thanksgiving contribution!)
Kabocha squashes have a lovely smooth texture, especially the Red Kuri variety. Out of all the squash I mentioned, the Red Kuri has a texture most like a sweet potato. I like it roasted, seasoned, and stuffed into homemade perogis, which are easier to make than most people imagine. You can also stuff it with a lentil stew, as evidenced by this recipe.