This rustic gratin is the perfect beginning to a simple autumn supper. It's also a great choice for a holiday meal because you can make it ahead and bake it at the last minute. Substitute long island cheese squash or buttercup in place of butternut.
These are long-keeping squashes. The most difficult thing about winter squash is peeling it -even smooth-skinned varieties, such as butternut, can defeat many peelers. For acorn and other bumpy squash, you have no choice but to cook with the skin still on. Try baking, roasting, boiling or mashing them. All species of squashes and pumpkins are native to the Western Hemisphere. Since this is a plant that requires a fair amount of hot weather for best growth, it has never become very well known in northern Europe, the British Isles, or in similar areas with short or cool summers.
Butternut squash will keep longer than any other winter squash you have received in your CSA share, and should be eaten last. If stored properly in a dark, dry area, you should be able to save this squash to serve on Thanksgiving. Alternatively, like other winter squash, you can cook and freeze butternut, if you are planning to use it for a soup.
Butternut squash, like all winter squashes, is a good source of carotenoids, nutrients that improve night vision and eye health. As vision acuity often decreases with age, it is particularly important for seniors to get enough dietary carotenoids. Carotenoids are also antioxidants, and can decrease the risk of certain cancers. Additionally, squash contains a high amount of vitamin C, which plays an important role in immune function and disease prevention.
When peeling winter squash, it is much easier to remove it after it has been baked. The roasting process of the squash allows the skin to lift off in the oven. Otherwise, the process can be quite difficult and tedious. If peeling before baking is necessary for your recipe, a sharp potato peeler should do the trick, but may yield less squash than the former method.
Winter Squashes have a light, sweet, slightly nutty flavor and can be added to almost any recipe. Adding certain spices can change the taste of your squash to one that coincides with the taste of your main dish. Winter squash is a versatile cucurbit that can be used for soups, smoothies, stuffed in mushrooms, or a simple side dish.
If you are interested in saving the seeds, you can prepare them in the same way you would prepare pumpkin seeds. After cleaning them with water, these seeds are best when tossed with a little bit of oil and seasoning. Feel free to use salt, or even spice it up with some chili powder, or wasabi powder. These seeds can be eaten after they’re cooked, but are also a clever garnish for winter squash recipes.
Storing & Cooking Information
Handling: The most difficult thing about winter squash is peeling it -even smooth-skinned varieties, such as butternut, can defeat many peelers. For acorn and other bumpy squash, you have no choice but to cook with the skin still on.
Storing: Winter squash will last 3-6 months stored at room temperature in a dry and cool (50-55 degrees) but not cold location.
Freezing: Cook the squash until soft, scoop out the flesh, pack in freezer containers, label, and place in the freezer.