We love our pumpkins to the point of culinary dependency this time of year. Not only do we decorate our homes with them and carve them, but we put them in all manner of drinks, pies, cakes and even savory dishes including curries, gnocchi, ravioli and soup.
This fall, it's time to smash your pumpkin habit. Experience the remarkably diverse tastes, textures and applications of the following winter squash pumpkin-relatives.
Color: Golden flesh.
Texture: Firm, non-stringy, moist.
Flavor: A good balance of sweet and nutty.
Application: Another classic winter squash, the acorn variety is perfectly sized for cutting in half into two single servings. Stuff with savory cornbread, rice and mushroom stuffing or decadent fill with butter, brown sugar, maple syrup, vanilla, cinnamon and nutmeg; sprinkle with walnuts or pecans.
Color: Golden flesh.
Texture: Very fine, tender and creamy.
Flavor: Sweet and moist.
Application: This aptly-named squash is very delicate with a much briefer storage period than other winter squash. Use it quickly within season. The delicate flavor and texture of delicata squash is superb if minimally adorned. Simply wash, halve and scoop out the seeds. Rub the skin and flesh with olive oil, season with sea salt and fresh cracked pepper. Roast and eat the tender skin and all.
Color: Deep yellow-orange flesh is a rich source of beta-carotene.
Texture: Fine-grained, non-stringy, dense texture is both firm and moist.
Flavor: Rich and nutty, medium sweetness.
Application: The nice balance of starch and sugar as well as the dense, fine texture make the classic butternut squash highly adaptable to both sweet and savory dishes. It is delicious roasted, baked, boiled and mashed. The nutty flavor pairs well with browned butter, sage, curry blends and robust greens such as kale and chard. Complimentary flavors in sweet dishes include walnuts, maple syrup, brown sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg and orange fruit.
Recipe: Spaghetti Squash Lasagna
Color: Light yellow to yellow-orange.
Texture: Dry and extremely stringy. In fact, the entire flesh breaks apart into tender strings when this squash is roasted.
Flavor: Lightly sweet and nutty.
Application: Spaghetti squash’s great advantage is that it is a fiber-rich, gluten-free, low-calorie stand-in for wheat and grain-based spaghetti pasta. To prepare, halve the squash, remove the seeds and roast with cut side down for a moist “spaghetti” or face up for a drier consistency. Don’t limit use of this squash to a spaghetti pasta stand-in though—spaghetti squash hash browns anyone?