November Superfood: Winter Squash

Winter squash is a warm-season vegetable that can be grown in most of the country. It differs from summer squash in that it is harvested and eaten in the mature fruit stage, when the seeds within have matured fully and the skin has hardened into a tough rind. When ripened to this stage fruits of most varieties can be stored for use throughout the winter.

Winter squash are one of the best sources of carotenes, offering an off season antioxidant boost. Type of winter squash are acorn, delicata, spaghetti, butternut, pumpkin, hubbard and banana.

To easily add winter squash to your meals, prepare by peeling, deseeding and roasting, boiling or steaming until tender. An “easier” preparation is to cook the squash cut in half since peeling can be difficult. Once cooked, pulp can be scooped out or skin gently removed. Peels of many winter squash can be left on eaten as such as for delicata, butternut, kabocha and acorn. It gives a nice texture, nuttiness and extra fiber to your meals. Just be sure to wash well before cooking and enjoy!

Butternut Squash Gratin
Layers of butternut squash and potatoes with cheddar and nutmeg
Yield: 12 servings

1-1/2 tsp Olive Oil
2 cups Leeks, Fresh, Sliced
2 tbsp Minced Garlic Cloves, Fresh
2 cup Half & Half Cream
3/4 tsp Kosher Salt
1/4 tsp Ground Black Pepper
3/4 tsp Ground Nutmeg
2 lb Butternut Squash, Fresh
1 lb, 8 oz Yukon Gold Potatoes, Sliced, 1/4″
1-1/2 tsp Olive Oil
1 cup Cheese, Cheddar Shredded

Heat oil in a pan and sweat leeks and add garlic. Add the half and half, salt, black pepper and nutmeg and set aside. Peel and deseed squash; slice thinly using a mandolin. Slice potatoes (no need to peel) slightly thinner than the squash.
Place both in a bowl and toss well with milk mixture. The slices will stick together so take the time to separate as much as possible to get the seasoning on all slices. Brush the inside of roasting pan with oil.

Arrange 1/3 of butternut squash and potatoes into the pan neatly and evenly. Sprinkle 1/3 cheese; then arrange 1/3 more butternut squash and potatoes. Sprinkle 1/3 cheese; then arrange remaining squash and potato. Reserve remaining cheese for topping later. Pour in the remaining half and half mixture. Cover and bake in a preheated 350F degree oven for 45 minutes. Remove cover and sprinkle remaining cheese on top. Continue to cook until vegetables are tender when poked with a fork, about 20 to 30 more minutes.

Chef’s Note: This takes some time to cook. You can cook this the day before and reheat for your dinner.