Winter squash, abundant fall through late winter, is one of my favorite winter vegetables. I can remember my mom buying those really big, pink-skinned, banana squash. Sometimes she would cut it into chunks and bake it or, sometimes she would peel it, cut it into chunks and steam it till soft, then mash it with some butter. I remember it tasted so good. When my son was a baby squash was one of the first vegetables I introduced him to and when I my first grand child came along I introduced it to him too.
Throughout the years I have experimented with different ways to prepare winter squash. I’ve tried it in soups, rice dishes, pasta dishes, and baked items I’ve baked it, steamed it, sauteed it and mashed it. Last year’s, favorite preparation was to peel it, cut it in small sized chunks, toss it with olive oil, fresh thyme, salt and pepper and bake till it’s just starting to caramelize. The leftovers were wonderful incorporated into rice or pasta dishes.
Winter squash is good for you too. It rivals cabbage, carrots, potatoes and spinach in its nutritional value and it is a good source of complex carbohydrates and fiber and is very high in beta carotene, the source of vitamin A.
Not only is it good tasting, easy to incorporate into a wide variety of recipes and highly nutritious, winter squash are beautiful in their colors, textures and shapes. Last year I had a fall party and used various sized squashes and small pumpkins as a table centerpiece. When the party was over I moved them out to the garage. I had read somewhere that you could store them for months in this way if you just placed them on some newspaper on the floor. It worked just fine. Sure was great to have such a nice selection of winter squash right outside the kitchen door.
All this writing about winter squash this morning got me in the mood to look through my old cookbook collection for something new and different to do with squash. Here’s what I came up with.
Glazed Winter Squash with Pine Nuts
¾ cup pine nuts
6 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 ½ cups chopped yellow onion
2 teaspoons minced or pressed garlic
4 pounds winter squash, peeled, cleaned and cut into slices 1/8” thick
2 cups heavy (whipping) cream
2 cups light cream or half and half
1 teaspoon minced fresh thyme, or ¼ teaspoon crumbled dried thyme
½ teaspoon ground coriander
¼ teaspoon ground mace
Freshly ground black pepper
½ cup freshly grated dry Monterey Jack or Parmesan cheese
Place pine nuts in a small dry skillet over medium heat and cook, stirring frequently, until lightly toasted, about 5 minutes. Pour onto a plate to cool.
Melt 2 tablespoons of the butter in a sauté pan or skillet over medium heat. Add the onion and cook, stirring often, until very soft and golden, about 10 minutes. Stir in the garlic and sauté 1 minute longer. Remove from the heat and reserve.
Preheat an oven to 425 F.
Combine the squash, heavy cream, light cream or half and half, thyme, coriander, and mace in a heavy-bottomed saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce the heat to low and simmer, uncovered, until the squash is tender and has absorbed most of the liquid, about 15 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
Toss squash mixture with the reserved onion and transfer to a highly greased 8 by 12 inch baking dish. Sprinkle with the cheese and dot with the remaining 4 tablespoons butter. Bake for 10 minutes, then sprinkle with the toasted pine nuts. Continue baking until the top is lightly browned, about 5 minutes longer. Serve immediately.
Serves 10 to 12
From James McNair’s Squash Cookbook
Chronicle Books 1989
Pick up these ingredients at your local Farmers Market:
• 4lbs winter squash (Buttercup, Butternut, Hubbard, Marina di Chioggia or Musquee de Provence would be good choices)
• 2 yellow onions
• fresh thyme
• dry Monterey Jack cheese (some Farmers Markets will have this)
• and if you’re in New Mexico you’ll be able to find pine nuts at the Farmers Market