Archive for Wednesday, November 21, 2001

Squash adds nutritional color and flavor to wintertime meals

November 21, 2001


How do you know if a squash is a summer or winter variety?

Whether they are green, white or yellow or long, round or scalloped, summer squashes are all thin-skinned and easily punctured with a fingernail. Except for butternut, winter squashes all have hard-shelled skins.

When purchasing summer squashes, look for those that are firm and heavy. Avoid them if the rind is tough or the stem is dry or black.

Winter squashes should be fully mature, which is indicated by a hard, tough rind. Select squash that is heavy for its size. Slight variation in skin color does not influence the flavor. Avoid squash with cuts, punctures, sunken or moldy spots on the rind, which can indicate decay. A tender rind is a sign of immaturity and means poor eating quality in winter squash.

How do you bake winter squash?

To bake any winter variety of squash, except spaghetti squash:

Cut into halves or serving pieces. Remove seeds and stringy parts. Place cut side down in a shallow baking dish. Add a small amount of water (about 1/4-inch). Cook until almost tender, about 30 to 40 minutes at 400 degrees. Add more hot water if necessary. Turn pieces of cooked squash cut side up. Sprinkle with salt, add seasonings and/or filling and continue baking until tender, about 20 to 25 minutes, depending on the sizes of the pieces.

If you are interested in preparing the squash for mashing, it is better to cook it whole until the skin softens. Then, in a pressure pan, steam 5 to 10 minutes, or in boiling water cook for 20 to 30 minutes. Drain, pare and mash. When tender, cut in half, remove seeds and fibers and use a fork to twist out the long strands of flesh.

How do you microwave winter squash?

To microwave, wash and halve a 1 1/2-pound squash lengthwise and remove the seeds and fibers. (If the squash is hard to cut, microwave 1 to 2 minutes on high power.) Cover each half with plastic wrap. Microwave on high power until tender, rotate and rearrange after half the cooking time. For 1/2 squash, microwave 5 to 8 minutes, 1 squash for 8 to 12 minutes and 2 squashes for 13 to 16 minutes. If desired, add butter and brown sugar and cover again with plastic wrap. Let stand for 5 to 10 minutes.

How do you cook spaghetti squash?

You can boil, bake or microwave it. Prick whole squash all over. Boil (about 30 minutes), bake (about 1 1/2 hours at 325 degrees) or microwave (about 20 minutes on high power) until tender.

Cut lengthwise and remove seeds and fibers. Use a fork to twist out long strands of flesh. Serve with: butter, salt and pepper; a sauce of melted butter, Parmesan cheese, basil, oregano, salt and pepper; or your favorite spaghetti sauce.

Can you freeze zucchini?

You can freeze it in 1/2-inch slices like you would freeze other summer squashes, or you can freeze it in a grated form to use in baking.

To freeze any summer squash, including zucchini: Choose young squash with tender skin. Wash and cut in 1/2-inch slices. Water blanch 3 minutes. Cool promptly, drain and package, leaving a 1/2-inch head space. Seal and freeze.

To freeze grated zucchini (for baking): Choose young tender zucchini. Wash and grate. Steam blanch in small quantities, 1 to 2 minutes, until translucent. Pack in measured amounts in containers, leaving 1/2-inch head space. Cool by placing the containers in cold water. Seal and freeze. If watery when thawed, discard the liquid before using the zucchini.

Do you have any quick ways to use zucchini?

I love to stir-fry fresh zucchini with other vegetables. In a large skillet, using a small amount of water, steam a variety of fresh vegetables until crisp-tender and season with seasoned salt and pepper or fresh herbs. Personally, I like to use a combination of peppers with zucchini. Try using 2 medium zucchini (sliced), and julienne strips of 1 sweet red pepper, 1 green pepper and 1 yellow pepper. Not only is this a colorful dish it's healthy, too.

Here's a couple more dishes that use zucchini.

Mexican Vegetables

1 onion

1 tablespoon margarine

1 zucchini

1 1/2 cups corn

1 (16-ounce) can diced tomatoes

1/4 teaspoon garlic powder

1/4 teaspoon chili powder

dash of red pepper

salt and pepper

Chop onion. Cook in margarine until soft. Slice zucchini crosswise into 1/4-inch pieces. Drain tomatoes. Add zucchini, corn, drained tomatoes, chili powder, garlic powder and red pepper to onion. Add salt and pepper to taste. Cover and cook over low heat for 15 minutes. Makes 6 servings.

Nutrition analysis per serving: 77 cal., 3 g fat, 243 mg sodium.

Italian Potatoes And Zucchini

2 large potatoes

2 medium zucchini squash

2 tablespoons canola oil

1/2 teaspoon lite salt

dash of black pepper

dash of garlic powder

dash of Italian herbs or basil and oregano

Scrub potatoes. Do not peel. Cut into 1/2-inch diagonal slices. Scrub zucchini and cut into lengthwise strips 1-inch wide. Blot surfaces of potatoes and zucchini dry; rub oil over all surfaces. Spread a thin film of vegetable oil in heavy bottomed skillet, add vegetables and sprinkle with seasonings. Cover with lid and cook over low heat 18 to 20 minutes or until tender. Slide spatula under vegetables while cooking to prevent sticking. During last 10 minutes, remove lid to prevent steaming. Makes 4 servings.

(For a browner, crispier vegetable, cover and steam potatoes and zucchini for 5 minutes on top of stove, remove lid, then bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes.)

Nutritional analysis per serving: 172 cal., 2 g pro., 23 g carbo., 8 g total fat, 0 mg chol., 215 mg sodium, 3 g dietary fiber.

This recipe is from Patricia J. Stephensons' book, "Easy Everyday Low-Fat Cooking."

Susan Krumm is an Extension agent in family and consumer sciences with K-State Research and Extension-Douglas County, 2110 Harper St. She can be reached at 843-7058.

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