I received a email from a friend who asked how to prepare an acorn squash that we had recieved in last week’s Denison Farm CSA share. Squashes with the deep ridges can be tricky to prepare. You don’t want to waste time peeling because the ridges make it an almost-impossible task. I know from experience. When I first started actually cooking, for real, not just making pasta and salads but tried my hand at seasonal cooking I started dabbling into the winter squashes. I tried peeling the acorn and carnival squash like the butternut. Hahaha. Mistake. Band Aid please….
Most recipes have you cut the squash in half and roast. I find that my squash always came out a little too dry, I even played with the temp and cooking duration. Maybe I’m doing something wrong. What I do know if that through my trial and error, I have found that roasting with some water in the roasting pan/cookie sheet/whatever-you-got produces a moist product with minimal effort- think simply peeling the whole skin off once done. Easy! This is NOT the only way to roast ridged squash, as you can slice skin-on and roast away. See Martha’s recipe here. What this technique does give you is a thick-puree that is the perfect consistency for soups, casseroles and baked goods. The below instructions will also include a quick way to roast the seeds. Oh, and after the instructions stay tuned for a really easy (uses only ONE flour- brown rice) gluten-free Autumn Muffin recipe, using the squash. Bonus!
Its go time: Preheat oven to 400F. Cut Squash in half. Scoop out seeds and guts. Put aside ( I always roast my seeds at the same time). Put the squashes side-down on a sided-baking sheet. I add water to almost top. While the oven is preheating and your squash is done, rinse off the seeds and pull away stringy guts in a small-holed strainer.
The strainer really helps, you can rinse the seeds while pulling away the strings. Anyways, I skip the step of drying out the seeds. I just put them into a small bowl, since they are wet I only add a touch of olive oil then salt, pepper, turmeric and curry powder. I throw them in small baking pan. Put the squash and seeds in the oven. Then head to the gym for a run. Nah, just kidding….
The seeds will roast in no time so watch them carefully. I’d say around 12 minutes they will be lightly crispy. I don’t like my seeds burnt, so I take them out at this time. As for the squash, I roast for 20-30 minutes in the water bath. (UPDATE: Please note that these times are based on small-ish squashes. If you are roasting a bigger squash, say a baking pumpkin, the cooking time will be as long as 60-90 minutes, depending on size) Because all ovens are different, please check the squash and water level frequently. You don’t want to run out of water completely, although very close, as the remnants will start to burn. Once the squash is mushy, its done. Once done, carefully take tongs and place skin side down on a wire rack to cool. Once cool enough to handle, you just peel or squeeze off the skin and throw away. The skins should come off like a coat, in one or two big pieces. If I’m not planning to use the squash within the week, I place into freezer bags. If I’m using sometime that week, I place in storage containers and put in the frig.
Now, onto a recipe that uses your recently cooked squash. This recipe is straight from a book that I recommend for parents of food allergic children, Allergy Proof Recipes for Kids by Leslie Hammond, as the recipes are wheat, gluten, nut, dairy and egg-free. It doesn’t cover all the major eight, like soy, but it doesn’t claim to. Miles has a soy allergy in addition to others (dairy, tree nut, peanut and wheat) and there is very little I can’t make in this book. I haven’t made a ton from the book, but what I’ve made have been winners, especially in the breakfast, baked good and snack department.
As for this recipe, I won’t go into much detail about gluten-free baking, but it can be involved and very tricky, especially if you have to deal with additional food allergies like soy and nuts, which I do. I am very new to gluten-free baking, as its only been 8 weeks (my personal blog for more info). I am sharing this particular recipe because a) frankly, its one of the best muffin recipes I’ve made in quiet awhile and b) its simple and only uses one flour, brown or white rice flour. You can get brown rice flour in most grocery stores now in the “natural” food section. I do hope you’ll give this recipe a try.
adapted from the book Allergy Proof Recipes for Kids by Leslie Hammond
1/2 cup sugar (book says “optional” I used 1/4 cup because sadly, I’ve learned that you can’t skimp that much on sugar with GF baking. Flours tend to be more intensely flavored, ropey, than wheat flours. I chickened out leaving it out entirely. If I use choco chips next time, I will totally omit )
2/3 cup brown sugar (I didn’t have brown sugar so I did 2/3 cup sugar with 2 T molasses)
3/4 cup neutral oil, like canola
2 cups cooked squash, sweet potato or pumpkin (can be canned)
3 cups white or brown rice flour (I used brown- if you have ultra fine brown- use it!)
2 t baking soda
2 t baking powder
1/2 t salt
1 t ground ginger
1 t cinnamon
3/4 cup dried cranberries (I used 1/2 cup cranberries, 1/4 cup raisins but you could add some choco chips here too)
1/4 cup pumpkin seeds (I used sunflower seeds)
Preheat oven to 350F.
Combine sugars and oil in a large bowl (I used a whisk- I don’t own a stand mixer)
Add squash/pumpkin/sweet potato and mix until smooth.
Stir in flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, ginger, cinnamon. Mix until smooth.
Fold in cranberries (other dried fruit) and seeds.
Pour batter into paper-lined or greased muffin tins. (I used mini muffin and made another batch with regular pan)
Bake for around 20-25 minutes if using regular sized muffin tin. 10-12 if mini muffin.