Squash Wars: Orange Kuri

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Orange Kuri, a hubbard squash, has the reputation of being flavourful and dry-fleshed. Unfortunately the one I got at the farmer’s market was completely forgettable. It wasn’t the worst squash in the world, but it definitely wasn’t anything special, particularly after eating Tiger Stripe Butternut (FYI: another name is Honeynut, I found out) and Kabocha a bunch. So far Orange Kuri gets relegated to soups or other dishes that are fine for a mediocre squash.

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Tiger Stripe Ice Cream

Tigerstripe ice cream – orange with a licorice swirl – used to be my favourite flavour when I was about 10. This entry is not about that at all. At the risk of sounding like a totally flaky hippy health food weirdo, I need to share what I had for dessert last night. It was vanilla ice cream with plain baked squash. And it was incredibly delicious. The thing is, the squash was the Tiger Stripe Butternut  I raved about already. To illustrate how sweet, faintly spiced and maple syrup-y it tastes, I have to add that eating it with ice cream was like having the best pumpkin pie filling you have ever had, a la mode. Normally I am not even really that keen on the sweeter squash varieties because a lot of times the sweetness is cloying, or the it covers for a lack of other flavour. This squash tastes complex, and I haven’t been able to get enough of it so far.

As for the ice cream, it was So Delicious Creamy Cashew, which I am mentioning only because I think the new cashew ice creams are the best non-dairy commercially available ice creams right now, so if you’re into non-dairy ice cream, they are worth a try.

Squash Wars: Buttercup

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During my Turban squash search, I noticed that Buttercup (not to be confused with Butternut) squashes have the beginning of a little butt coming out of their bud spot, like an undeveloped Turban. I wondered about their flavour, and tried to remember if I had ever tasted a high-quality Buttercup squash.

Reading about them, I learned Buttercup is one of the parents of Turban, so naturally I decided to give it a try. I picked one up at Karma Food Co-op and was not disappointed. While it doesn’t have that elusive hazelnut flavour, it wouldn’t be a stretch to say it had a bit of a chestnut flavour, and just the right level of sweetness – that is not overpowering but quite pleasant. If Butternut is the standard to measure against, I would say it’s on par: not a squash to mount a campaign looking for, but a great reliable option.

 

Squash Wars: Turban

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For a while I was searching all over the place for a Turban squash and coming up with nothing. This was surprising and annoying as it’s a popular and (usually) easy-to-find squash that is delicious, so it should be about as easy as Butternut to track down. Even more frustrating was that early in my search I did happen to come across one at a farmer’s market and almost bought it until I saw a squash I couldn’t identify, asked the grower about it, and he sold me on its deliciousness. It was the worst squash I have had this year: just what I would expect to find if I bought some random acorn squash or something grown in another continent and shipped to Superstore. It was sweet but bland; I used it for soup, and kicked myself for not getting the Turban squash as my search for it stretched out.

Finally I found a Turban at a mid-size non-chain grocery store. I had actually looked there before, but hadn’t realized I had only looked at their organic squash section; this was not organic, but at least was Ontario-grown. This Turban squash didn’t have the intense hazelnut flavour of one I had in Vancouver last year. It also didn’t have the hard shell almost impossible to cut through without a cleaver, so I suspect it was not fully mature. It was still deliciously sweet and flavourful, though, as long as it was baked at 450 until soft as butter.

I found a harder-skinned Turban squash at the same store the other day, buying it with the hope that it has the same nutty flavour as that one from last year. It’s very good but sadly no nuttiness. Turban is one of those surprising squashes that look so interesting that you assume they weren’t necessary bred for flavour. People use them as ornamentals pretty often, and their shape isn’t as convenient to cut as some others. But they are uniquely delicious at best, and even at worst (in my opinion) are as good as Butternut (which is really good in my books).

Squash Wars: Spaghetti

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Why am I writing about spaghetti squash? Everyone knows it, and knows whether they love it or they bitterly complain that it’s not an adequate substitute for pasta. But I am so into these miniature spaghetti squashes that seem to be all over the place in the past few years. I knew their variety name at one point but I forget right now. I know I talked about the benefits of giant squashes in a previous post, and those hold true. The mini spaghetti squashes taste the same as their large counterparts, though, and the only issue I can see is that they are usually (always?) hybrids unlike most of the large ones, which mostly just matters if you want to grow them and save seed.

So back to the question: why am I writing about them? I love them. They are one of my favourite squashes and it’s nice to have something so readily available and delicious. Also I have a couple of recipes I made up using them. Both are fast, easy, use few ingredients and add protein. Unlike the Blue Banana, Tigerstripe Butternut and other really flavourful squashes, I generally don’t eat spaghetti squash plain, but I also don’t think eating it with tomato sauce is the tastiest option. Lately I’ve been making this stuffing, based on vegan “cheese curds” that someone made for poutine at the RAT House like 15 years ago in Edmonton:

Tahini Stuffing for one mini spaghetti squash

  • ¼ of a package extra firm tofu
  • 1 Tbsp. nutritional yeast
  • Bragg’s (to taste)
  • 1-1.5 tbsp. tahini

Preheat the oven to 450, cut the mini spaghetti squash in half, scoop out the guts, and bake it until almost done.

Crumble the tofu into a bowl, and mix it up with the other ingredients.Mash it a bit with a fork so the tofu is in small but irregular pieces – not a total crumbly mush – leave some bigger chunks. Fill the squash’s cavities with the tofu mixture and put back in to bake at 450 until it’s hot and crusty on top. It would be great with a little miso too, but I feel bad destroying the good stuff in the miso by raising its temperature to 450.

There is also this creamy garlic sauce. I use it on all sorts of things, including spaghetti squash.

Creamy Garlic Sauce

  • ½ a package of silken tofu (I use Mori-Nu Lite silken, in the shelf-stable pack – also works with soft regular tofu)
  • 1-2 cloves garlic
  • 1 tbsp. nutritional yeast
  • salt to taste
  • lemon juice to taste
  • pepper to taste
  • oregano or other herbs to taste (optional)

Bake your squash and scoop out all its spaghetti flesh onto a plate. Put the garlic in a food processor, and process until it’s in tiny pieces. Scrape it down, add all the other ingredients and process until smooth. Pour it over the spaghetti squash and bake at 450 until it’s hot and a little brown on top.

For a Creamy Sriracha Sauce: omit herbs and lemon juice and add sriracha sauce to taste. Nutritional yeast is optional in this case.

 

Squash Wars: Black Futsu

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Black Futsu, aka Futtsu, is a tasty little squash that, according to a seed saving pro who I met on PEI, matures on her cool Cape Breton farm where other winter squash doesn’t. I had wanted to try it for a while when I noticed it at the farmer’s market last year, ignored among the more conventional butternut and acorn squash. I talked to the grower about it enthusiastically enough that it caught the attention of other people around me, who then showed an interest. The grower told me that she cooks it by throwing the whole thing in the oven without cutting it open, so that’s what I tried – it has just a thin skin, which is edible, and not too much in the way of guts. The flesh is thin too, so cooking it whole doesn’t take long.

I went back every week to buy Black Futsu until the grower warned me that they were on their last couple of squashes that week, and promised to grow them again the next year.

This year I went back to the same farm table and was sad to see that they only have acorn squash. Happily, I noticed one single Black Futsu at the same table where I got my Blue Banana, so I grabbed it up.

With the one Black Futsu I have so far this year, I decided to halve it and bake it like I normally do with other squash, rather than cooking it whole. My only issue with cooking it whole is that the seeds aren’t as tasty, and I like the dryness of the flesh when it’s baked open.

Black Futsu is slightly sweet and has its own flavour – it’s not terribly different from other squash, but complex, good and a little more savoury than sweet. Maybe “nutty” would be an OK description, but not, say,  the distinctly hazelnut flavour of some Turban squash.

Lately I’ve been dehydrating squash seeds in my food dehydrator rather than toasting them, and I am totally sold on this method: I just rinse them (sometimes), add a little salt and throw them in for 8 hours or so, on a low-ish heat (labelled as nuts/seeds on my dehydrator). They end up crisp and delicious, especially when they are warm straight from the dehydrator. Plus no worries about burning them, and no added oil. I ate a whole cup of them as a snack one night after coming home from seeing Dirty Dancing live in the theatre.