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WINTER SQUASH
EDITED BY SARAH BLACKBURN / PHOTO BY MICHAEL PIAZZA / STYLED BY CATRINE KELTY

Is there another symbol of fall as iconic as a big, orange pumpkin? Just as asparagus and peas sing of spring, and tomatoes and corn are the signs that summer’s really arrived, winter squash and pumpkins at the farmers markets truly announce the transition to autumn. Farm stand tables are practically overflowing with squash of all varieties and colors, some bumpy and lumpy, others smooth and sleek. Their long season runs from early September to Thanksgiving and beyond, well into the winter months. Stored properly, a large Blue Hubbard squash bought in October can be cooked in December, its thick, tough skin protecting the bright orange flesh underneath, making winter squash a favorite for root cellars and late-season CSA storage crops. Better still, winter squash is nutrient-dense, full of beta-carotene and other antioxidants, and there are so many delicious ways to use it beyond the pie plate.

Choose a squash from the hundreds of varieties at the famers market, lug it home, and get to work. You’ll need a sharp knife, a mallet, and some confidence to make these often-unwieldy fruits ready for the oven, but with a few tricks and some good tools, it’s not that difficult. Many grocers and some farm stands even sell their squash pre-cut and pre-peeled, so all that’s left to do is roast, steam, or shred! And don’t forget the seeds: doused in olive oil and salt, the roasted seeds of any winter squash or pumpkin are a healthy snack, especially nice with sharp sheep’s milk cheeses and a glass of sherry.

We reached out to a few local chefs to share with us their favorite recipes that highlight winter squashes. Whether savory or sweet, the recipes below celebrate the glorious flavors of the different squashes.

Notes from Our Kitchen:

If you’ve chosen a huge, hard squash like Blue Hubbard, Kabocha, Red Kuri, Turban, Jarrahdale, or Long Island Cheese Pumpkin, getting into it might be tricky, but here are a few suggestions.

First, steady the squash on the cutting board and carefully stab into it with a very large chef’s knife. Using a mallet, tap the blade and maneuver the knife in and around the middle of the squash until you’ve almost cut through it. Sometimes it’s best just to shove your fingers into the opening and pull it apart at this stage; the halves won’t be perfect, but at least you’ll have opened it!

Then set out to peel it, or not. The skin of some small squash, like Delicata, is perfectly lovely when left on, but other, thicker skin is better peeled off before cutting into chunks and roasting.

I’ve found that the inexpensive Swiss plastic Y-shaped vegetable peelers from Kuhn Rikon (found at most kitchen supply stores for less than $5.00) are the best way to tackle the skin of a pumpkin or large winter squash.

If you want to toast the seeds, scrape them out of the cavity but don’t bother removing the stringy pulp; toss the whole seedy mess with

olive oil, salt, and freshly ground black pepper and spread it as evenly as you can on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Roast at 400°F for 15-20 minutes or until browned and crispy; the stringy pulp will concentrate and become sweet and crunchy.

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Get the Recipes

Red Cooked Butternut Squash Soup >>Submitted by Chef Jason Bond, Bondir of Cambridge and Bondir Concord

Roasted Spaghetti Squash with Hazelnut Brown Butter & Pomegranate >>Submitted by Chef David Drew of Cambridge Brewing Company, Cambridge

Fresh Pumpkin Whoopies with Cream Cheese Filling >>Submitted by Julie Ganong of Chococoa Baking Company in Newburyport

Sofra’s Pumpkin Jam >>Submitted by Maura Kilpatrick, Executive Pastry Chef of Oleana and Sofra, Cambridge

Brown Butter Crepes with Pumpkin Jam >>Submitted by Maura Kilpatrick, Executive Pastry Chef of Oleana and Sofra, Cambridge

Toasted Barley Risotto with Blue Hubbard Squash, Hen of the Woods Mushrooms >>Submitted by Chef Will Gilson of Puritan & Co., Cambridge

Rabbit and Long Island Cheese Pumpkin Stew >>Submitted by Chef Will Gilson of Puritan & Co., Cambridge