Calgary·RECIPE

Enormous winter squash become pies, salads and pockets of yummy

It's the season for enormous vegetables. A sunny summer has nurtured a harvest of huge zucchini and winter squash, even giant kale. Here are a few recipes to try.

CBC food columnist Julie Van Rosendaal gives her top picks for gourd season

Winter squash comes in a variety of shapes. Try a new one this season for your pies, salads and hearty dinners. (Julie Van Rosendaal/CBC)

It's the season for enormous vegetables. A sunny summer has nurtured a harvest of huge zucchini and winter squash, even giant kale.

But the gourds really stand out. During the rest of the year, we're generally limited to acorn, butternut and spaghetti squash. But in fall, winter squash abounds with gnarly specimens that are sometimes as large as carving pumpkins.

You may come across thick, squat dark green or red kabocha squashes or a big dusty blue Hubbard that's thick in the middle with tapered ends.

You might see bulging turban squash or speckled carnivals, a cross between acorn and sweet dumpling. Even small sugar pumpkins are worth buying and roasting rather than reserving for pie.

Although squash can be intimidating, its flavour is infinitely versatile. It pairs just as well with chilies, cumin and curry blends, like garam masala, as it does with earthy rosemary and thyme or warm cinnamon, ginger and nutmeg.

Even if you're not sure what kind it is, take one home and hack into it. Scoop out the seeds, drizzle with oil and roast the pieces in the oven until they're tender and caramelized on the edges.

If you don't want caramelization, or just need it cooked enough to peel or scoop away from the rind, you can bake them whole or halved. Place the cut-side down for baking.

You can also try cooking pieces in a baking dish or Pyrex bowl in the microwave with a splash of water. Once cool enough to handle, the gnarliest squash can be peeled with your fingers.

This Hubbard squash is huge. (Julie Van Rosendaal/CBC)

Don't worry about leftovers. Cooked squash can be frozen or kept in the fridge to toss into pastas or soup. They work especially well in the pureed kind of soups.

Try simmering squash with apples and pears for added sweetness and acidity. Cooked squash also can be used in curries and baked goods. If you're a fan of pumpkin pie, try swapping the common orange gourd for other dark-fleshed winter squash instead.

Roasted winter squash pie

Any kind of dense, dark-fleshed winter squash makes a good pie. To roast your winter squash, scoop out the seeds and cut it into wedges. Drizzle with oil.

Roast at 218 C (425 F) for 20-30 minutes. The cook time depends on the type of squash and size of the pieces. Cook until soft and golden on the edges.

Alternatively, microwave chunks until soft in a baking dish or Pyrex bowl covered with a bit of water in the bottom. Once the pieces are soft enough to handle, you can peel the skin away with your hands.

Substitute any squash in your favourite pie recipe for the typical pumpkin. (Julie Van Rosendaal/CBC)

Ingredients:

1 unbaked 23-centimetre (nine-inch) pie shell

1¾ cups of cooked winter squash, such as kabocha, pumpkin, butternut, Hubbard, red kuri or buttercup

¾ cup cream or evaporated milk

1 cup brown sugar

3 large eggs

1 tbsp molasses, optional

1 tsp vanilla

1 tsp cinnamon

½ tsp ground ginger

¼ tsp allspice

A bit of grated nutmeg

¼ tsp salt

Preparation:

Preheat the oven to 177 C (350 F).

In a food processor, pulse the squash until it's as smooth as you can get it.

Add the cream, sugar, eggs, molasses, vanilla, spices and salt and blitz well blended and smooth. Pour into the unbaked shell.

Each different kind of squash offers a new flavour. (Julie Van Rosendaal/CBC)

Bake for 60-70 minutes, until the filling is set but still a little wobbly in the middle and the crust is golden.

Cool completely in the pan on a wire rack.

Serving: Serve with maple-sweetened whipped cream for eight servings.

Roasted squash, kale and goat cheese hand pies

Roasted kabocha squash can be added to a wide range of dishes. (Julie Van Rosendaal/CBC)

Ingredients:

Olive or canola oil, for cooking

A dab of butter

1 small onion, finely chopped

A few leaves of kale, thinly sliced with stems discarded

1 garlic clove, crushed

Salt, to taste

1 cup chopped roasted squash

Goat cheese

Pastry for a single crust pie

1 egg, lightly beaten, for brushing, optional

Preparation:

Preheat your oven to 204 C (400 F).

In a skillet, heat a drizzle of oil and dab of butter over medium-high heat. Sauté the onion for a few minutes, until soft.

Add the kale and garlic and a pinch of salt. Cook for another minute or two, until the kale wilts. Stir in about a cup of roasted squash.

On a lightly floured surface, roll the dough out about 1/8-inch thick and cut into rounds.

Place a spoonful of the kale-squash mixture on each round, and add a few small pieces of goat cheese.

Chopped kabocha squash can be microwaved. (Julie Van Rosendaal/CBC)

Fold over to enclose like a pocket or top with a second round, brushing around the edge of the bottom pastry with beaten egg to help it seal.

Transfer to a baking sheet. Press down around the edge with a fork or your fingers. Poke a couple holes in the top to help steam escape.

Brush with beaten egg and bake for 20-30 minutes depending on their size, until deep golden.

Serving: Makes six to 10 pies.

Roasted Squash and cauliflower with kale and tahini dressing

This kale and squash salad is a light take on fall favourites. (Julie Van Rosendaal/CBC)

Ingredients:

1 small or a chunk of a large winter squash

½ small head cauliflower

Canola or olive oil

Salt and pepper

Half a bunch of kale, torn and with ribs discarded

Crumbled feta, optional

Chopped almonds and/or walnuts, toasted

Dressing ingredients:

3 to four tbsp tahini

Juice of one lemon, about three tbsp

2 tbsp olive oil

2 tbsp plain yogurt or water

1 to two garlic cloves, crushed

Salt and pepper

Preparation:

Preheat the oven to 218 C (425 F) while you peel and cut the squash into cubes. Mine are usually around 1.9 centimetres or ¾ inches.

Cut the cauliflower into similar-sized florets and spread both out on a parchment-lined rimmed baking sheet.

Drizzle generously with oil and toss around with your hands to coat. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.

Roast for about 25 minutes, stirring once or twice, until the veggies are soft and golden on the edges.

Meanwhile, stir the dressing ingredients together in a small bowl or measuring cup. Shake them in a jar or blend in a small food processor or blender.

Tear the kale into a shallow bowl. Drizzle with a bit of oil and toss to coat. Then top with the warm roasted veggies, some crumbled feta and chopped toasted almonds or walnuts. Drizzle with the tahini dressing.

Serving: Two to four.

Hear more from Julie Van Rosendaal on options for your fall squash harvest:

With files from the Calgary Eyeopener.

About the Author

Julie Van Rosendaal

Calgary Eyeopener's food guide

Julie Van Rosendaal talks about food trends, recipes and cooking tips on the Calgary Eyeopener every Tuesday at 8:20 a.m. MT. The best-selling cookbook author is a contributing food editor for the Globe and Mail, and writes for other publications across Canada.