Winter squash are versatile fruit vegetables that keep for months after harvest. Native Americans have grown and cooked these gourds, of which pumpkin is only one variety, for eating for many thousands of years. Winter squash prove to be superfoods because they provide important fiber to our diet.
Of course, winter squash makes a tasty pie at Thanksgiving and is delicious in risotto with carrots. About the only thing you can’t do with winter squash is eat it raw. I’m offering three recipes: a Middle Eastern pumpkin rice dish, which was my contribution to Thanksgiving feast this year, my sister’s rich tasting butternut squash soup and chicken with squash and cranberries.
half a medium/large pumpkin or large butternut squash, peeled and diced
1 teaspoon sea salt
a large pinch of saffron threads
1 stick of unsalted butter
2 cinnamon sticks
4 allspice berries, crushed
2 onions, halved, thinly sliced
1/3 cup currants or yellow raisins
1 cup unsalted, shelled pistachios
1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
2 cups basmati rice, soaked in tepid salted water for one hour
4 cups vegetable stock
4-5 caramelized onions — optional topping
Toss the pumpkin cubes with half the salt and some olive oil. Roast in a single layer on a baking sheet at 450 degrees for about 30 minutes or until soft. Mix the saffron with 3 tablespoons of boiling water and add 4 tablespoons of the butter which should melt. Set aside so it stays warm and the butter liquidy.
Heat the remaining butter in a large saucepan and add the cinnamon and allspice until the butter foams. Add onions and remaining salt. Fry over medium heat for 10-15 minutes, stirring occasionally until onion is soft and starting to color.
Add the currants, pistachios and cardamom, and cook another 10 minutes until the onion is golden and sweet.
Drain and rinse the rice. Add to pan, stirring for 3 minutes to coat. Add stock. Taste for seasoning. Scatter the roast squash on top.
Cover the saucepan with greaseproof paper and a tight-fitting lid. Cook over medium heat until liquid is gone, about 20 minutes, and rice is steamed-cooked.
Remove the paper and lid, and drizzle the buttery saffron water over the top. Replace lid and let rest off the heat for 5-10 minutes. Serve with caramelized or crispy onions. Remove the cinnamon sticks when serving. It fulfills its name and is jeweled pumpkin rice, indeed.
Alice’s butternut squash soup
Cut a large butternut squash in half, remove the seeds, brush with oil and roast at 400 degrees until soft. Let cool.
Scrape the flesh from the squash and into a soup pot. Add 8 cups of vegetable or chicken stock. Chop up several carrots and celery stocks, and add to soup pot. Cook on low boil for 3 hours. Cool enough to safely puree in the blender and return the puree to the pot and heat. Add 1 cup half & half until the soup is nice and creamy. Season to taste. Serve.
Chicken with squash and cranberries
1 large butternut squash, peeled and cubed
2-3 pounds chicken pieces, thighs, legs or cut-up breasts
1 red onion, halved and sliced thinly
fresh sage, chopped finely (still from the garden!)
fresh coriander, chopped finely (still from the garden!)
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
2 cups chicken broth
1/2 cup dried cranberries
Season chicken with salt and pepper. Brown the chicken in a large Dutch oven about 5 minutes. Remove the chicken to a platter and clean the pot.
Add olive oil and cook the squash and onion until beginning to soften about 5 minutes. Add the spices and herbs about 2 minutes.
Add stock, scraping down any brown bits off the pan, and flour. Add chicken pieces in among the squash. Add cranberries and bring to a boil. Reduce heat, partially cover and simmer about 25-30 minutes until the chicken is done.