You can't "squash" our enthusiasm for this essential fall ingredient! This handy guide to Canada's winter squashes will have you cooking up a storm.
There are many good reasons that butternut squash is a household staple. It's widely available, it consistently delivers the classic, sweet flavour that many associate with squash, and it's versatile (working as well in a soup as it does in a stuffing or gratin). But at times, butternut squash can be watery or bland, and it's fun to have a reason to mix things up in the kitchen.
Different squash can have different flavour profiles, and some are better suited to certain cooking applications than others. Many different varieties thrive in the Canadian climate, so if you're interested in branching out, look for these squash alternatives at smaller markets, or seek them out from your local producers.
Spaghetti squash is large, oblong and pale yellow. It earned its name from the fact that, when cooked, the flesh separates into strands reminiscent of spaghetti noodles. It has a very mild flavour that isn't overly sweet, and pairs especially well with bold Italian flavours, such as Parmesan, roasted tomatoes, garlic, basil, oregano, and capers. It makes an excellent baked holiday side dish, or you can split it lengthwise, roast it, and then stuff it with the fillings of your choice.
Acorn is a smaller, dark green squash with (usually) a patch of orange blush on the skin. It's acorn-like in shape, hence the name. It's similar to butternut in texture and flavour, though it has a lower water content, resulting in a richer, creamier flesh. It works best roasted, and the skin becomes soft after cooking in the oven, which means you can eat it too, without having to worry about the hassle of trying to peel it. Roast it up in wedges and serve it in this gorgeous quinoa salad as a surprisingly filling main.
Delicata squash is narrow and beige, with stripes of green running across its length. This squash was named for the 'delicate' nature of its skin, which becomes tender when cooked and doesn't require any peeling. It has a mild, sweet flavour, and works in just about any application. The narrowness and uniformity of its shape makes it (generally) easier to cut than most other squash. Swap it into this roasted rack of pork dinner for a spectacular meal you won't soon forget, or slice it width-wise into rings and roast them with your favourite stuffing in the centre for a generous vegetarian-friendly main.
Kabocha (sometimes called Japanese pumpkin) is, as its second name suggests, pumpkin-shaped, appearing on the market in both red and green varieties. It has a sweetness and velvety texture similar to that of a sweet potato. It works especially well as a soup, but can also be sliced and roasted for pieces that will retain a their shape and texture. Creamy coconut is a great flavour pairing, so try it in this richly spiced coconut curry soup.
Red Kuri is a flame-coloured squash with creamy, gold flesh, which gets its name from the Japanese word for “chestnut.” It has a mild, nutty taste, and skin that starts off quite hard but softens when cooked. Be sure to save and rinse the seeds, as they're excellent roasted, just like pumpkin seeds on Halloween. Try slicing it in fat, generous wedges and substituting it for the acorn squash in this roasted fall veggie platter.