There are dozens of varieties of winter squash to choose from. They are harvested in the fall and keep well in a cool dry location for 3 months or longer, which is why they've earned the name winter squash. Hubbard squash is one of the longest keepers. Its extremely hard skin allows it to be stored up to six months.
Squash can be hard to peel, so if you choose, you can bake smaller squash whole. Simply pierce it with a skewer several times before baking. Otherwise, cut it in half and scoop out the seeds and pulp before baking. Squash is done when tender when pierced with a fork. Most squash can be used interchangeably.
Choose hard squash that feel heavy for their size. Here is information about some of the varieties to choose from.
Acorn squash- this common variety is shaped like a giant acorn and is dark green in color. It is great for baking and stuffing.
Butternut squash- another of the most common varieties, it has beige colored skin. The deeper orange the flesh is, the sweeter it is. It is wonderful in soups, baked, pureed and then used interchangeably with pumpkin in muffins and pancakes, steamed, and stuffed.
Spaghetti squash- yellow in color, it resembles strands of spaghetti when cooked. It is great topped with pasta sauce, and spaghetti squash topped with chili is another favorite.
Delicata squash- this one has a thinner skin than other winter squash, is cylindrical in shape, and is yellow with dark green stripes. It's very creamy and great steamed.
Carnival squash- cream with orange and green stripes, this one is similar to acorn squash.
Sugar pumpkin- these orange squash are also known as pie pumpkins since that is what they are primarily used for. They are also great baked with a stew inside.
Buttercup squash- this dark green squash has a very hard skin. It's one of the sweetest varieties of squash. It can be baked, stuffed, pureed or simmered, and is especially good steamed.
Hubbard squash- these blue-gray squash have a very hard skin and are one of the longest keepers. These are usually baked. I was told by a farmer at my farmers' market that the best way to break one open is to place it in a bag and drop it on the ground.
Sweet Dumpling squash- this little one is great for individual servings. It is apple-sized, cream striped with green, and is great for stuffing and baking.
Turban squash- is not often eaten as most varieties are not sweet. It has a bulbous cap at one end that resembles a turban and is usually used only for decorative purposes.
Kabocha squash- these dark green squash are sweet and tend to be drier than other squash.
Cushaw squash- bulb shaped with green or golden stripes, this one is great for pies.
Marina de Chioggia squash- shaped like a turban, this one is dark green and came from Italy. Its flavor improves with age and its sweet dry flesh is great for pies.
Many of the above varieties can be substituted for the butternut squash I used in this creamy, comforting soup recipe. Feel free to experiment.
Butternut Squash Soup
1 red onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 small red pepper, diced
3 c. vegetable stock or broth
2 c. butternut puree
2 bay leaves
1/4 c. jasmine rice
1 tsp. balsamic vinegar
1 tsp. sea salt
1/2 tsp. dried sage
1/2 c. heavy cream
1 c. cooked pinto beans ( I had leftover beans but you can sub canned, just rinse and drain)
fresh ground black pepper to taste
Saute onion, garlic and pepper in 1 T. olive oil for about 10 min. till tender. Add vegetable broth, butternut puree, bay leaves, rice, and vinegar. Simmer 20 min. till rice is done. Stir in salt, sage, cream and beans. Remove bay leaves and sprinkle with lots of fresh ground black pepper.
Note: To Make Butternut Puree- I cut the butternut squash in half, scooped out the seeds, placed cut side down on an oiled baking sheet and baked for 30 min. at 375, then pureed the squash in the food processor. I usually cook 2 or 3 at the same time, then freeze the puree for use later in one or two cup portions. It saves a lot of time this way. I use it in recipes like pumpkin pancakes. and pumpkin cookies as well as this soup.