CRAVE: Savory recipes add variety to autumn’s bountiful harvest

As autumn descends, vibrant oranges, reds and golds dapple the countryside, especially at local farm stands and urban markets, where richly hued pumpkins and squash are piled high in assorted shapes and sizes. You can enjoy these quintessential fall fruits in a variety of nutritious soups, appetizers, main dishes and desserts.

There are more than 40 varieties of squash, including pumpkins. Some of the most popular varieties include butternut, delicata, Hubbard, turban, acorn, spaghetti and pumpkin.

Pumpkin varieties ideal for cooking are called “pie” or “sugar” pumpkins. Most pumpkin varieties can be used interchangeably in cooking, but beefy jack-o’-lantern types are grown mainly for decoration, because their flesh may become watery with cooking.

During the harvest season – September to February – choose squash that are firm, unblemished and heavy for their size. In addition, look for squash with a dried stem, which indicates the fruit was left on the vine longer and is especially sweet. Winter squash keeps throughout the winter when stored in a cool, dry place.

Butternut Squash & Pumpkin Soup

This slightly sweet, low-fat soup provides a cornucopia of heart healthy antioxidants, carotenoids and bioflavonoids. Served in a pumpkin shell, it makes a grand opening to a holiday meal. Yields 6 servings.

Ingredients:

1 medium pumpkin or 6 mini pumpkins

2 1⁄2 pounds butternut squash, or any other orange-fleshed winter squash

3 cups vegetable stock

1 cup water

1 small sweet potato, peeled and cut into chunks

1 cup peeled, diced carrots

1 apple, cored and diced

1 teaspoon brown sugar

1⁄2 teaspoon ground ginger

1⁄2 teaspoon ground allspice

1⁄2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1 teaspoon fine sea salt

1⁄4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Directions:

1. Wash pumpkin, then cut off the top and reserve it for a lid. With a spoon, scrape out and discard the seeds and fiber. Scrape out the flesh, making sure you don’t scrape so much that you puncture the shell. Set shell aside.

2. Cut squash in half lengthwise. Remove the seeds and fiber, and peel if waxed. Cut the flesh into 1⁄2-inch pieces and set aside.

3. In a large saucepan, combine pumpkin and squash flesh with remaining ingredients. Cover and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to simmer, and cook for about 30 minutes, until squash, pumpkin and vegetables are tender.

4. Transfer a quarter of the mixture to a blender, and blend until smooth. Transfer to a large bowl. Repeat with remaining squash mixture. Stir batches together to blend.

5. Serve hot in hollowed-out pumpkin shell.

Squash Stuffed With Herbs & Wild Mushrooms

photo by: Charlotte Lake

Winter Squash stuffed with quinoa, mushrooms and onions.

Ingredients:

1⁄2 cup bulgur or quinoa

1 teaspoon olive oil

1⁄2 teaspoon plus 1⁄2 cup water, divided

2 celery stalks, coarsely chopped, optional

Chopped onion, optional

1 cup finely diced green beans, optional

1 cup sliced shiitake mushrooms

1⁄2 cup sliced maitake or portobello mushrooms

1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice

1⁄2 teaspoon sea salt

1⁄2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1⁄2 cup finely minced parsley

1 teaspoon dried oregano

1 teaspoon paprika

3⁄4 cup vegetable stock, divided

2 delicata or acorn squash

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 350 F.

2. Prepare bulgur or quinoa as directed on package.

3. Heat oil and 1⁄2 teaspoon water in a sauté pan. Add celery, onion, green beans and mushrooms, and sauté over low heat for 4 to 5 minutes. Add lemon juice, salt and pepper. Continue to sauté for 5 additional minutes.

4. In a large bowl, combine sautéed vegetables with bulgur or quinoa, parsley, oregano, paprika and 1⁄4 cup vegetable stock. Toss well.

5. Cut both squash in half lengthwise, then remove and discard the seeds and membrane.

6. Place squash in a shallow baking dish and mound squash cavities with mushroom mixture.

7. Pour remaining vegetable stock and remaining water around the squash. Cover with aluminum foil and bake for about 1 hour, or until squash is tender and filling is hot.

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