Thursday, November 4, 2010


Let's talk about squash.  I love squash.  All kinds of squash, even the sport!  Squash squash squash!
Sweet dumpling and acorn squash
Squashes belong to the family Cucurbitaceae which includes such wonderful fruits as melons, gourds and cucumbers.  There is a huge variety of squashes, including pumpkin, zucchini, butternut, acorn, hubbard, cushaw, buttercup, sweet dumpling, celebration, cream of the crop, sweet mama, turban, spaghetti, delicata, heart of gold.... and still more that I haven't heard of yet.

Celebration, Cream of the Crop, and Heart of Gold squash
Although there are so many varieties, they belong to only four species:  Cucurbita maxima (hubbard squashes), C. mixta (cushaw), C. moshata (butternut squash), and C. pepo (pumpkins, zucchini, acorn squash).
Butternut squash and pie pumpkin
Squash were domesticated in Mexico eight to ten thousand years ago [1].  They were an important food staple in central and north america.  Native Americans know squash as one of the "Three Sisters", along with corn and beans.  The three crops were planted together - the corn stalk was used to support the bean vine, and the large squash leaves trapped moisture in the ground for the growing plants and inhibits the growth of weeds.  Incidentally, combined together, squash, beans and corn make an excellent "Three Sisters soup".
Oven-roasted Sweet Dumpling squash with Sweet & Savory Quinoa
There are many ways that I like to use squash.  Have a sweet tooth?  Try these totally awesome chewy pumpkin oatmeal cookies.  They're my all time favourite cookie and I have yet to meet someone who doesn't love them.  Zucchini is awesome sliced, seasoned, and roasted in the oven or grilled on the barbecue (or campfire!).  Acorn squashes and their kin are perfect cut in half, roasted in the oven, with a little margarine and brown sugar sprinkled inside.  Butternut squash is my favourite for making fantastic (and filling) soups.
Butternut squash soup with maple syrup drizzle (and my cat Skrabble!)
Basic Butternut Squash Soup

1 onion, diced
1-2 tbsp margerine
1 Butternut squash, peeled & cubed
vegetable bouillon cubes
Nutmeg, cinnamon & allspice, a few good dashes of each
Maple syrup for drizzle (optional, but awesome)

Saute onion in margarine until caramelized.  Toss in the squash and add enough water to just cover the squash. *Tip: measure your water as you're pouring it in so you know how many bouillon cubes to add!* Add your bouillon cubes and spices, and bring to a boil.  Let it simmer until the squash cubes are soft.  Puree the soup with a hand blender. If you're using a regular blender, make sure you vent the lid and cover it with a cloth so it doesn't create a pressure build-up and burst hot steam/soup in your face.  Nobody wants to be burned by squash.  At this point the soup could be pretty darn thick, so add some water, a little at a time.  I like to be conservative with my water during cooking because you can always add more but it's so much harder to take it away if you've added too much!  When you get the soup to the desired consistency, ladle some in a bowl and swirl a drizzle of real maple syrup on top, perhaps grate a little nutmeg on there.  Not only does it taste delish, it makes it look extra snazzy!

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