In my mind there aren't any two things in the produce world more quintessentially "Fall" than winter squash and romanesco. Their arrival always makes it easier to say goodbye to summer and shift into the rhythms of fall: coming home a little earlier, turning on the oven to roast some squash, maybe building the first fire in the woodstove (any day now), embracing the shorter days.
This week's first winter squash distribution is a combo of Acorn and Festival. They are similar, except for their skin. Acorn is the dark green guy. Festival is the yellow circus-y one. Neither need time to "age" so we typically send these two varieties out first (some varieties of winter squash benefit from a few weeks or even months in storage to develop their best flavor and texture) .
Winter squash have tough skins (which is what gives them their storage crop super powers), but it means they can be tough to hack into and the cause of many a kitchen knife mishap. Acorn and Festival are among the toughest so be careful! There are a few different tricks to cutting one up:
- For the bold and brave: choose a heavy-duty, sharp-tipped knife. Insert the point of the knife into the side of the squash and then carefully work the blade around its circumference with the tip inside the squash the whole time, until you cleave it in half. From there, it's safer and easier to cut the squash into pieces, or bake the halves face down on a cookie sheet with a little water to help steam-cook it.
- For the patient and cautious: either pre-bake your squash for awhile whole until it softens up, or pierce it a few times with a knife and put it in the microwave for a bit until it softens a little. Then proceed with cutting it up.
With the exception of Delicata squash, which you'll see in a few weeks, I like to peel my winter squash. Depending on how tough and bumpy the skin is, you can either use a good veggie peeler or a sharp knife.
As for eating them, the sky's the limit: soup, soup bowls (acorn and festival make great soup bowls once cut in half), pumpkin curry, roasted, steamed, mashed, stuffed. They can be center of the plate, or one of many ingredients in something else. And best of all, they store for months on your counter and look festive and seasonal while they're hanging out there, waiting for you to get inspired.