Halloween may be over but the season for pumpkins and squash has just begun. These pretty, hearty vegetables double as table decorations and dinner. Unlike summer's fleeting harvest of tender peas, golden corn, blowsy tomatoes, these vegetables are patient, waiting until we're ready to cook. The world of squash is wide and varied with flavors sweet, earthy and nuanced. Try the different varieties in any of these recipes, all work beautifully.*
Coconut Squash-Apple Soup
Serves 4 to 6
My curry worry ended when Raghavan Iyer introduced his line of Turmeric Trail Spices. Turmeric Trail Spice Blend is a new line of spice blends that bring heat, smoke and intrigue to everyday fare. Here, the Mumbai Masala lifts my ordinary squash soup to another level. It's vegan (dairy and meat free) AND completely delicious.
3 to 4 pounds any winter squash (butternut, delicata, Hubbard, pie pumpkin), halved and seeded
1 large yellow onion, chopped
2 tart apples, peeled, seeded and cored
2 tablespoons sunflower oil
2 cups vegetable stock
1/2 cup apple cider
1/2 cup coconut milk
1 to 2 teaspoons Turmeric Trail Spice Blend Mumbai Masala, or more to taste
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1/2 cup shredded, unsweetened coconut, plus more for garnish
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly oil the edges of the squash, turn cut side down on a baking sheet and roast until very tender, about 45 minutes to 1 hour. Remove, allow to cool a little. In a large soup pot, saute the onions and apples until the onions become soft, about 5 minutes. Stir in the stock, cider and coconut milk. Scoop the roasted squash flesh into the pot and stir in the spice blend. Smash the squash with the back of a spoon or a potato masher and bring the soup to a simmer and cook for about 15 to twenty minutes, adding more stock or cider to reach the desired consistency. Puree the soup using an immersion blender or in batches in a blender, and return to the pot. Stir in the coconut. Taste and adjust the seasonings. This tastes best after it's had a chance to sit a while so that the seasonings marry. Serve the soup hot, garnished with more coconut.
Maple Roasted Squash
Serves 4 to 6
Butternut is the easiest squash to peel, cube and roast for this recipe, but Red Kuri, delicata, or Hubbard work nicely here, too. A little salty bacon balances the sweetness and gives it some heft. Make this a main dish by tossing it with pasta and grated Parmesan cheese. Or, for a vegetarian version, omit the bacon, and toss in toasted walnuts.
1 medium butternut squash, peeled, seeded and cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1 head garlic, separated into cloves but not peeled
1 tablespoon sunflower oil
2 to 3 tablespoons maple syrup
2 strips good quality bacon (i.e. Neuske's or Lorentz), chopped
20 whole fresh sage leaves
Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese, optional
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. In a large bowl, toss together the squash, garlic cloves and sunflower oil to lightly coat. Then drizzle in the maple syrup, tossing to coat, then toss in the bacon and sage leaves and season with salt and pepper. Spread this over a baking sheet so that none of the squash pieces touch. Roast, shaking the pan and turning the squash occasionally with a spatula, until the pieces become a deep caramel brown, about 25 to 35 minutes. For a side dish, serve right away. For a main dish, toss with pasta or serve over rice, sprinkled with the Parmesan cheese.
* I have to admit a keen prejudice against spaghetti squash. It doesn't taste like a squash or spaghetti and though I've made valiant efforts to fashion low-carb and low-cal recipes where it plays the part of pasta, I loath the stuff. It won't work in any of these recipes.