Squash can be a little scary to work with in the kitchen. Getting through the tough outer shell can be a formidable challenge, to say the least, and the solutions often veer toward the dramatic. People use heavy meat cleavers, small hatchets, serrated electric knives, or they may drop squash from stairs or ladders onto concrete decks. I finally opted for safety, eating only smaller squash varieties with thinner skins, such as delicata.
This year, though, my friend Nancy Simmerman came up with a less drastic solution for almost any kind of squash. It still requires one cut to divide the squash in half along its “equator”–halfway between the stem end and the end where the blossom used to be, but then it gets easier.
I used a very sharp, heavy chef’s knife for making the single cut. “Sharp” is the key word here. I pushed the knife just barely through the shell in one place, pulled out the knife, rotated the squash, and lined up the knife blade with the end of the previous cut. Then I pushed it through the shell again, repeating until I’d cut all the way around the squash and it fell into two pieces. Now comes the good part–microwave the squash halves, cut-side down on a plate, for 8-10 minutes on high. If not completely cooked, turn the squash halves over and cook them for another 2-3 minutes. Use a towel to grasp the hot squash and spoon out the seeds, discarding any tough fibers from the center as well. Then spoon out the rest of the squash flesh to prepare however you like. Easy!
If you were going to roast the squash and eat it as is, you could cook it in an oven instead of the microwave. If you’re going to use the squash in a recipe, though, the microwave method is a fast and easy way to go rather than trying to cut chunks of tough raw squash to steam or boil.
This week’s recipe is the soup I used for the Ciderfest sampling. Squash is a vegetable that not everyone likes, but this brought surprised smiles. One fellow made a point of coming back to my table later to let me know that even though he “didn’t like squash,” he loved this soup. Even children (at least the ones who were willing to taste it) expressed satisfaction. That’s the ultimate in high praise, don’t you think?
Note: Also see the recipe for homemade Brown Beef Stock.
- 2 small or 1 large squash (I used spaghetti squash from a friend's garden, Lummi Island)
- 2 Tbsp butter (Breckinridge Farm, Everson)
- 1 onion, chopped (Alm Hill Gardens, Everson)
- 1 tsp dried sage, minced (Half Acre Farm u-pick, Ferndale)
- ½ tsp dried thyme (Half Acre Farm u-pick, Ferndale)
- 1 tsp dried chopped jalapeno pepper (friend's greenhouse, Lummi Island)
- 1 tsp salt
- 1-2 cups beef or vegetable broth (homemade with soup bones from Second Wind Farm, Everson)
- 1 cup apple cider (BelleWood Acres, Lynden)
- 1 lb tart apples, peeled, cored, and sliced (I used Jonagolds from BelleWood Acres, Lynden)
- Cut squash in half across the middle. Put halves cut side down on a plate, and microwave for about 10 minutes on high until squash flesh is soft. Remove seeds and any tough center, and discard. Remove squash meat from the shell, and discard the shell. Chop the remaining squash into ¾ inch chunks. (For spaghetti squash, use a fork to scrape out the squash meat. It will naturally form spaghetti-like strands.)
- Meanwhile, heat the butter in a stockpot over medium-high heat. When hot, add onion, sage, thyme, jalapeno, and salt. Saute until onion just begins to brown, about 3-5 minutes.
- Add 1 cup broth, cider, and the apple slices. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low and simmer for about 15 minutes until apples are softened. Add more broth, if needed. Add squash and simmer for another 15 minutes or so to blend flavors. Taste and correct seasoning, if necessary.
- Use a stick blender, or blend in batches in a regular blender, to puree the soup. Reheat, if necessary. Serve.
BelleWood Acres, 231 Ten Mile Rd., Lynden
Bellingham Farmers Market, Railroad and Chestnut, Bellingham
Community Food Cooperative, 1220 N. Forest St. or 315 Westerly Road, Bellingham
Friend’s garden, Lummi Island
Half Acre Farm U-pick at Boxx Berry Farm, 6211 Northwest Road, Ferndale
Second Wind Farm (Paul Chudek), Everson
Terra Organica, 1530 Cornwall Ave., Bellingham