The mighty winter squash

Roasted acorn squash stuffed with a rosemary goat cheese dip. —Tina Miller

The mighty winter squash took its time to mature during chilly late summer and early fall nights, producing a tough, mature skin, filled with big, hard seeds, and flesh of golden yellow and orange. Sweet and tasty, winter squash is perfect roasted or boiled and mashed. Winter squash arrives in fall and has cute names like butternut, acorn, ambercup, buttercup, and sweet dumpling, along with not-as-cute delacatia, hubbard and spaghetti. 

Winter squash is from the same family as summer squash, but think of winter squash as adult squash that grows bigger, stronger, and more robust. When harvested, winter squash is “hardened off” in open air which toughens the skin even more, protecting it for long storage without refrigeration. It becomes a hearty main attraction, appetizer, salad, or side dish for the time of year when the oven is your friend and slow cooking and rich smells from the kitchen are welcome. Winter squash is your friend.

Roasted Butternut Squash and Brussels Sprouts Salad with Cranberries, Pepitas, and Arugula

Serves 4. This is a great side dish for a holiday meal or a hearty salad. Feel free to add a protein such as cheese, chicken breast, or fried egg.

4 cups peeled, seeded, large diced butternut squash
2 large shallots, peeled and sliced
4 cups Brussels sprouts, stem off, sliced in half and rinsed
1/4 cup olive oil
¼ cup dried cranberries
¼ cup toasted pepitas
Salt and pepper
2 cups arugula
Roasted butternut squash and Brussels sprouts. —Tina Miller

Preheat oven to 400°F.

In a mixing bowl add squash, sliced shallots, half of the olive oil, salt and pepper, and toss and pour evenly onto a sheet pan.

Bake 30 to 40 minutes until tender but not mushy.

After slicing Brussels sprouts, rinse and drain in a colander, and add to a mixing bowl. Combine the rest of the olive oil, salt and pepper and toss. Pour evenly onto a sheet pan. 

Bake 20-30 minutes until golden.

Oil and Vinegar Dressing

½ tsp. salt
Black pepper
1 Tbsp. balsamic vinegar
1 Tbsp. cider vinegar
2 Tbsp. olive oil

Combine the dressing ingredients well.

After removing the roasted vegetables from the oven, let them rest until they are room temperature and then gently combine together in one bowl. Add cranberries, pepitas, and dressing. Carefully fold in arugula and serve.

Butternut squash and Brussels sprouts with cranberries, pumpkin seeds, and greens. —Tina Miller

Winter Squash Soup with Manchego Croutons

Serves 4. A hearty soup made better with a crunchy crostini crouton topped with nutty sheep’s milk Manchego cheese. 

3 Tbsp. olive oil
1 leek, green top and stem removed, halved lengthwise, rinsed and sliced
1 large yellow onion, diced
3 tsp. Moroccan spice mix
8 cups butternut and acorn squash, peeled, seeded and large diced
1 quart chicken broth
Salt and black pepper 
Manchego cheese

Heat a heavy soup pot on medium-high. Add olive oil, onions, and leeks. Mix and saute on medium-high, slightly browning the onions. Add Moroccan spice, stir and cook a bit. Add diced squash, mix well. Add salt and pepper and chicken broth. Cook partially covered on medium, slowly simmering until squash is very soft. Remove from heat and let sit for about 15 minutes. Puree in batches in a blender or in the pot with emulsion blender until smooth. If it is too thick, you can thin a bit with hot chicken broth or hot water to desired texture.

Manchego Croutons

1 baguette, sliced into 12 slices of bread. Coat each piece with olive oil on both sides. Bake for 10 to 15 minutes on a sheet pan until golden. Remove from oven. Cover each crouton or crostini with shaved Manchego cheese. Heat until melted. Top bowls of soup with croutons.

Winter squash soup with Manchego croutons. —Tina Miller

Rosemary Goat Cheese stuffed Acorn Squash Dip

This is a perfect winter season hors d’oeuvre, that can be done ahead of time and warmed up at party time. The light maple-sweetened roasted acorn squash, stuffed with warm, tangy goat cheese is perfect smeared on a simple rustic bread.

Roasted Acorn Squash

1 small to medium-sized acorn squash sliced in half lengthwise, seeds removed
1 Tbsp. butter or olive oil
2 Tbsp. maple syrup

Preheat oven to 400°F. Season squash with salt and black pepper.

Goat Cheese Filling

8 ounces goat cheese, room temperature
2 Tbsp. cream cheese, room temperature
1 Tbsp. chopped fresh rosemary
1 Tbsp. chopped Italian parsley
2 Tbsp. olive oil
Salt and black pepper

In a shallow baking pan add halved squash, flesh side up. Add butter or olive oil, followed by maple syrup; season with salt and pepper. Bake 45 to 60 minutes until soft and slightly browned.

Remove from oven and let come to room temperature. Cream together all ingredients for the filling, divide among the two squash. Bake for 10 minutes, then broil until slightly golden. 

Roasted acorn squash stuffed with a rosemary goat cheese dip. —Tina Miller