It’s that time of year, when the markets are bright with orange gourds. And while some suggest we’re all a little pumpkin crazed by the time November comes around, I think squash is really where it’s at. The creamy, slightly sweet vegetable can be cooked in so many different ways—roasted, steamed, pan-fried, boiled, and purèed. From spaghetti squash with tomato sauce and acorn squash chips to brown sugar-roasted delicata, there are a slew of interesting types to choose from. (And they all have seeds that toast up wonderfully, adding texture to your meal). Here are four varieties I recently picked up at the market and am greedily eating my way through this week.
The generic word for squash in Japanese, Kabocha usually refers to a thick-skinned variety that’s incredibly sweet, nutty, and similar in texture to sweet potatoes or chestnuts. Also known as the Japanese pumpkin, it has knobby-textured, bright orange or deep green skin. It’s often used for tempera preparations and in Asian soups, but the versatile vegetable can also be steamed or roasted as a side dish.
This bell-shaped squash is the most multipurpose of the bunch; it’s a standard for purèes and soups. Peel off it’s thick beige skin with a sharp peeler or pairing knife, and inside you’ll find bright orange flesh, the deeper the color, the sweeter the taste. Its thick orange, fleshy pulp is similar to pumpkin, and is most often roasted or steamed and mashed into a purèe.
Because of its smaller size, this heart or “acorn” shaped squash is often halved and stuffed, making the perfect meal for two. It’s most commonly found in the green variety, but you can also find orange and white versions. This squash keeps for a long time, so you can buy ahead and keep a back stock in the pantry.
I don’t have a favorite squash, but this variety is certainly my go-to choice lately. The long tubular yellow and green stripped squash has tons of flavor. And it’s easy to cook—a thiner skinned variety, the sweet orange flesh roasts quickly and the skin is edible and crisps up quite deliciously. It’s perfect roasted in salads or sautéed into a winter stir-fry.