September has mostly turned into a squash fest, with a few exceptions.
Every time I go to the grocery store now, I see new squash that I’ve never seen before, like these two interesting specimens. Do you know what they are?
The smaller squash is one I had never heard of, and apparently is used a lot with sweeter recipes, so I decided to use it more as a dessert. I also felt compelled to buy it because it shared the name of my cat. On the left: Sweet Dumpling Squash. On the right: sweet Dumpling the cat.
This may have been the recipe I used, though I don’t remember poking holes in the squash or putting water in the bottom of the pan. It’s possible that I just didn’t read the recipe that carefully. I did cut the squash in half and scooped out the seeds, which I left outside for the squirrels.
It used lots of pure maple syrup, butter, cinnamon and nutmeg to turn the squash into a really yummy as well as hearty dessert. And it was easy to bake in the oven.
Jacques and I decided that it tasted like a combination of French toast and pumpkin pie.
The delicata squash I had heard of, I think on one of the cooking shows I’ve watched, but I was pretty sure I’d never tasted it. Again, the first step is to halve and scoop out the seeds.
I found a fun recipe from theprettybee.com, which specializes in allergy-friendly recipes, using ground turkey. Instead of cherry tomatoes I just chopped up some on-vine tomatoes I already had, and instead of chopped onions I used pearl onions, which I’d eaten many times but had never cooked with. It was not hard to make this recipe, and it turned out to be really tasty. I would definitely make it again. I served it with a simple romaine salad and crusty garlic toast.
The lesson I’m learning about squash is that overall it’s really easy to use, you can simply bake it if you want less fuss, and most of the squash varieties do not have that strong of a flavor, so they absorb a lot of what you’re cooking with them.
This was really true of the last one I tried this week, spaghetti squash.
I’d seen it on cooking shows, often used as a substitute for pasta. If you’ve never cooked with it, I recommend giving it a try! This squash has a harder shell, so it can be difficult to cut in half. The recipe I used recommended poking holes in it and scoring where you want to cut it first, then putting in the microwave for a few minutes to soften up the rind before cutting.
This recipe from inspiredtaste.net called for cutting the squash in half, removing seeds, then baking the halves with olive oil, salt and pepper.
Then you shred the spaghetti-like cooked insides of the squash with a fork, so it looks like this:
Then you use as you might a pasta, mixing it with cut-up cooked chicken thighs, cheese, fresh lemon juice (I also mixed in some lime, as I didn’t have enough lemon), and pepper. It really absorbed the citrus flavors and cheese wonderfully, which was a surprisingly delicious combination!
It looked like a hot mess after I added the cheese. I didn’t have enough Parmesan, so I added cut-up mozzarella too, which turned it into a gooey but very addictive mess. I served it with a simple salad of romaine and cut-up tomatoes to add those extra colors (see last week’s blog).
I did make one new dish this week that did not include squash. This recipe featured pearl onions.
They were difficult to peel, though if you boil them for a few minutes they peel easier. Based on the general idea of a recipe I found on potsandpans.com with pearl onions and mushrooms (I didn’t have fresh thyme, so used dried thyme), I started what was supposed to be a side dish. Then I added some cut-up ham and some tomatoes too, because I had them in the fridge waiting to be used, plus I really like tomatoes. That turned it into a meal.
Here’s what I’m learning about myself as a cook: I get creative when I don’t have the right ingredients. This happens a lot, either because I don’t plan ahead, I’m too lazy to run out to the store for just one thing, OR I just feel like using up something I’ve got in the fridge that might go bad if it’s not eaten. The results have been amazingly good! I sometimes google substitutes for the missing ingredient, which can be more or less helpful, but lately I’ve just been winging it. I wouldn’t have had the nerve to try that even a year ago, so I can tell that my confidence is increasing. And the more positive results I achieve, the more confident I become. I guess that could be true with anything.
Keep on cooking!