Fall’s here - and so are the winter squashes. You’re probably noticing tons of them starting to show up at your grocer and at your local farmers market. I thought I’d zero in one one of these varieties in particular; one that gets a little less notice than the spaghetti squash, the butternut squash, or the ubiquitous pumpkin. Let’s talk acorn squashes for a minute. These guys are one of my absolute favorites.
Picking an Acorn Squash
While you can get acorn squash year-round these days, their true peak season is from October until December. I’m sure you’ve seen plenty of them before. They are relatively small (which is one of the things I love about them) and their skin is dark-green with deep ridges. They usually run 1-2 pounds. To choose a good one, pick it up. It should feel kind of heavy for its size (trust me, it will make sense when you do it) and it’s skin should be blemish-free. Acorn squash (like most hard winter squash) will easily keep for a month at room temperature - or longer in a cooler environment lis the fridge or other cool, dark place.
Like other winter squash, the acorn squash is healthy (low fat, lots of fiber, etc.), relatively sweet, and can be prepared in a variety of ways. They are often baked, roasted, sautéed, or steamed. Baking is probably the most common technique used. In addition to that the acorn squash has a number of properties that I think makes it unique.
Whats’ So Special?
Size. The acorn squash’s small size makes it easier to handle and cut than its much larger cousins. The skin is still quite hard (like the other winter squashes), but since it’s smaller you can practice your squash-opening skills on it more easily.
Shape. The acorn squash is the perfect size and shape to use as a bowl. How cool is that? Yes, it has that nice firm shell that lends itself nicely to its use as a bowl. To use it as a bowl is pretty simple. Cut it in half length-wise. Then cut a small piece from across the bottom of the skin. (That way it sits flat instead of having a wobbly rounded bottom.) Then just scoop out the seeds and flesh for whatever dish you are preparing. Of course, you could also just leave the flesh inside (and still scoop out the seeds and stringy stuff) and roast it or bake it that way. Just add some butter, salt, and pepper and you can simply bake or roast it that way. You could them still stuff it.
Edible shell. Another thing to know. It’s shell is edible. (Actually, did you know that the shell of most squashes are edible?) But that (in addition to the things I talked about above) makes it doubly-great. A bowl you can eat. Nice!
Seeds. The acorn squash has plenty of those great seeds like a pumpkin does. If you are like me, you’ll see them as a treat, rather than as something to throw away. Roast them. They are great!
A Few Recipes to Get You Started
So now that you have those squashes in your kitchen, what should you do with them? Nope. I'm not gonna leave you hangin'. Here are a few recipes to get you started:
- Roasted Acorn Squash with Maple and Red Pepper Flakes from Food52.com
- Acorn Squash Stuffed with Bread, Cheese, and Bacon from TheKitchn.com
- Baked Acorn Squash with Brown Sugar and Butter from FoodNetwork.com
- Farro with Acorn Squash and Kale from Epicurious.com
The acorn squash’s size, shape, and firm shell make it kind of unique among squashes. Bake it, roast it, steam it. Prepare the sweet, nutty flesh alone or stuff it and use it as a bowl. Its smaller size and bowl-like shape (when halved) can become the center of attention at a meal. So next time you are at the market pick up a few of these guys. You'll really be happy you did. Can't we just admit it? The acorn squash is the coolest-looking, cutest squash out there.
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