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As fall turns into winter, the produce aisle tends to mimic the slate gray sky - everything's a bit darker, duller and more somber. Knotted parsnips take over where crisp, red radishes once sat; tart cranberries replace sweet strawberries.
Yet, despite the season's best efforts, squash shines even brighter this time of year in a cornucopia of shapes, sizes and colors.
Justin Woodward of Castagna Restaurant in Portland, Oregon, wants to quash your notions of the winter doldrums. Behold the squash.
Five Fall Squashes Worth Trying: Justin Woodward
1. Musquee de Provence
I like to use this squash very fresh, unlike a lot of the other squashes that are typically stored for a few weeks or even months. The flesh of these is incredibly moist when first harvested and the color is unlike any other squash you have ever seen.
I really like juicing the flesh and using the juice like paint on plates. The flesh, when young, is a little stringy. If you plan on roasting these to eat plainly, I would advise on using a more mature Musquee de Provence.
2. Galeux d' Eysines
This guy is great when roasted. Moist and soft, but not wet and mushy. This one is easy to enjoy: cut it into pieces or just roast it whole. It's also great for pies or purées too. The meat is easy to cut up into pieces and they stand up to pretty much any cooking technique.
It has a great depth of flavor - sweet, dense and rich. It's a good all-purpose squash with a medium water content and a really nice, textured flesh that stands up to roasting well.
3. Boston Marrow
Per Slow Food USA: "This lovely, mid-size winter squash has a custard-like, buttery flavor with almost 200 years of documented history, though possibly of prehistoric origin. It reaches maturity in 90 to 100 days and has striking, reddish orange skin and an average weight of 10 to 20 pounds, though it can be larger in optimal growing conditions."
The skin is very thin and easily peeled away; again great for pie filling, custard or ice cream because it is just dense enough but has a good body and consistency. It's easy to work with and yields a good amount of meat. A noble squash!
The best bet for these is to roast them whole, let them cool down a bit, peel and seed then purée. The skin is very thick and the flesh is so dense that cutting up one of these raw can be dangerous, so it's much easier to just roast it whole. Plus, they are small enough that roasting one whole is not a huge investment of time, space or cost.
Traditionally, these are tempura-battered and fried. Look for one that is heavy for its size with soft skin. A light kabocha with tough skin may have lost too much water.
5. Pennsylvania Dutch crookneck butternut
Where the butternut misses the mark is in the flavor department. Most supermarket butternuts do not taste like anything. The Pennsylvania Dutch crookneck is the best tasting butternut. Also, the super long neck means you can cut nice rounds or other shapes when uniformity is an issue.
The meat is sweet, nutty and bright orange. These keep well, and they look super cool too.
Squash Quick Bread
Previously - How to cook squash
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