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Cooking The Bounty of the Harvest
The first day of autumn arrived this past week. In many parts of the world, this is the time to harvest vegetables and grains that took all summer to ripen. We think of winter squashes, wheat and other grain-based dishes, apples and hardy greens. A fall menu that incorporates the things that grow on local farms provides us with amazingly delicious meals and superior nutrition.
Look at the wide variety of hard-shelled winter squash now available. There was a time when all we saw in stores were acorn and butternut squashes. If you wanted a Hubbard squash or turban squash, you grew it yourself. Now we have an array to chose from.
In an About.com article, Winter Squash Varieties, we learn about many of them and the characteristics of each.
Squashes with yellow or orange flesh provide us with over 100% of the Daily Requirement of beta carotene (vitamin A). They are rich in vitamin C, potassium and fiber, and also have good amounts of B vitamins and Omega 3 fats. Beta carotene is an important phytonutrient, thought to protect against colon cancer and reduce the severity of arthritis and other inflammatory conditions.
When selecting winter squash, it's important to inspect the skin for any breaks or nicks. If the skin is intact, these squash will keep much longer than most vegetables. Butternut squash is especially long storing and can be kept at cool room temperature for at least a month. Other varieties may be more delicate and will need refrigeration.
Preparation is easy, but you will need a sharp knife to cut raw squash into pieces. An easy way to deal with the hard skin and dense flesh is to bake or microwave it whole until soft, then scoop out the seeds and remove the skin. Pierce the squash near the stem to allow steam to escape. Cooked squash is delicious pureed and seasoned in a variety of ways.
Baked stuffed squash is a popular dish. You'll need a squash with a larger seed cavity, so use acorn squash or the pretty, oval shaped delicata. Cut in half lengthwise and scoop out the seeds.
This week we feature several kinds of squash and an interesting variety of recipes, all from Calorie Count members. We have also included whole grains, either served with the squash or separately. We searched for these recipes using the Recipe Browser, which is fun in itself. Since the recipes are entered directly into the Recipe Analyzer by members, if you have a question about any of these recipes, please do ask.
- Winter Squash and Chicken Tzimmes - A new take on a traditional Jewish dish, tzimmes is warm and comforting.
- Whipped Acorn Squash - Light and fluffy, it's the perfect side dish
- Wheat Berry Salad with Grilled Tofu - A vegetarian delight with ingredients cooked on the grill. It's a nice accompaniment to squash.