I don’t know about where you live, but here in NorCal starting sometime in October, it’s guaranteed the supermarkets will have a giant overflowing bin of a wide variety of winter squash (also called vegetable marrow and hard shell squash, and probably other names as well). They’re all colors, patterns, shape and sizes, and most people glance at them and just keep walking. Or maybe they’ll buy one that isn’t too scary looking and put it on their counter until it rots.
Supermarket winter squash is pretty limited most of the year to butternut squash (the pale elongated-pear-shaped one), acorn (green and/or gold, in a football shape with ribs) and banana (a giant squash that is usually cut into wedges and wrapped in Saran Wrap). The fall season for unusual varieties is short, so next time you see that cornucopia of beautiful squash, stop and get one or two. They’re delicious simply baked and served more or less as is, served in Thai curries, and make wonderful soups (Anna Thomas’s The New Vegetarian Epicure and Love Soup both have numerous recipes).
Last fall I picked up a squash just because it was so pretty. We kept it on the counter for a month or so just to look at it, and finally cooked it. SO GOOD. It was a red Kuri squash, a brightly intense orange color and slight teardrop shape.
Like most winter squash, it’s a bitch to cut into, so you need a cleaver and/or a chef’s knife. Treat those implements of destruction with respect, but don’t be afraid, either.
Scrape out the seeds and either discard them, or put them in a small baking dish with a little oil and bake until the strings shrivel up and the seeds get toasty. Salt them and eat like pumpkin seeds. Put a little butter, brown sugar, and a sprinkle of cinnamon/nutmeg/cloves in the cavity. Bake at 350 until the flesh is easily pierced, basting now and then with the butter-sugar mixture. A quarter or a third of each squash makes a generous serving, so figure on four to six servings from one Kuri squash. Leftovers can be mashed and added to pancake batter or muffin batter.
My husband was shopping and stopped at that big bin of winter squash. He selected a Stripetti spaghetti squash.
“Oh, you got a spaghetti squash!” I said. He looked blank. I explained that the flesh is not like other squashes, that you coax it out of the shell with a fork and it turns into spaghetti-like strands. He continued to look blank.
Spaghetti squash is even more of a bitch to cut in half than the Kuri. It took a cleaver AND a chef’s knife, and a lot of leverage. I whacked it once with the cleaver the way I cut up a chicken, and the cleaver bounced back. It was a bit of a project to get it cut open.
Leave the seeds in. Put the spaghetti squash cut-side-down in a baking dish, pour in a cup of water, and cover the dish with foil. Bake at 350 until the flesh is more-or-less easily pierced (do not overbake). The seeds will be easy to scrape out with a spoon. Then take a couple of forks, or a fork and a big spoon, and start digging at the flesh. It will be reluctant to give up, but you will start to see spaghetti strands form as you loosen it. Keep digging until you have removed the flesh from the shells. The strands will be slightly crisp and crunchy.
Most recipes tell you to serve it with spaghetti sauce, and you can do that, but I think that masks the lovely nutty corn-like taste and crisp texture. I mixed some minced parsley and butter together and put that on top, let it melt in a few minutes, then sprinkled salt and pepper on top and tossed it all together. A little grated cheese would be good too.
One spaghetti squash will make about four to six servings. Leftovers are nice fried up crisp as patties.