Tuesday, November 01, 2016

Grate Your Winter Squash!

Being a winter squash fan myself, I can't get enough of these thick-skinned beauties when they begin appearing in the farmers' markets. The ubiquitous Hubbard and acorn squashes are okay, I guess, but I like to wait for the giant Sibley to turn from blue to peach as it cures, or admire the sculptural bronze beauty of a Musquée de Provence. Even a warty Marina di Chioggia, with its bumpy blue-green skin, makes a stunning centerpiece until its time to serve it. This week Jim Dixon of Real Good Food gives some suggestions for doing just that.

Grating winter squash is such a good way to take advantage of the abundance of squashes available in stores and at the farmers' markets right now. While smaller, thin-skinned squash like Delicatas can be cleaned, sliced and cooked without peeling, the bigger, pumpkin-y squashes require a bit more processing. These Cucurbita maxima (usually, but not always, the big ones; Delicatas and similar are C. pepo) need to be split with a big knife, cleaned of the seeds (save for roasting) and cut into manageable pieces. Even a smallish, three-to-four-pound squash gives you enough for a couple of meals.

So after you roast a few slices and make something like winter squash caponata, you'll probably have raw squash left over. Time to grate. While you can use a box grater, a food processor works much better. Besides being fast, the grating disk gives nice, uniform shreds. Try cooking a handful in hot olive oil until they get a little brown and eating with just good salt. I use it raw to make a celery root and squash remoulade; mixed with potatoes (or by itself), grated winter squash makes a great latke. And there's always fritters. You can freeze the grated raw squash, too.

Winter Squash and Cabbage with Walnuts

I've made this using cubes of winter squash (cut about 1/2 inch, cook in oil until brown and slightly tender), but I like it better like this. To get started toast a handful of walnuts, chop coarsely, and set aside.

Cook a couple of cups of grated winter squash and a good pinch of salt in fairly hot olive oil until it starts to brown. Add a sliced red onion and a couple cloves of chopped garlic, cook until it softens, then add about a quarter head of chopped green cabbage. Sage and squash are a classic combination, so add 6-8 fresh sage leaves that you've chopped. When the vegetables are tender, remove the pan from the heat and stir in a tablespoon or two of Katz Trio red wine vinegar, the walnuts, and about 3 tablespoons of grated Parmigiano Reggiano. Grind some black pepper over it, too.

You can eat this as a vegetable side or toss it with some shaped pasta.

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