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Last Chance Foods

Last Chance Foods: Winter Squash

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November's the time for squirreling away winter squash. Varieties like butternut, acorn and Hubbard practically store themselves—the tough outer skin serves as an effective natural plastic wrap, keeping the squash fresh.

"It's always the locavores who lament they only have cabbage and apples through the winter," says Queens County Farm Museum agricultural director Michael Grady Robertson. He points out that winter squashes are an ideal supplement to that menu. Larger varieties can keep for as long as six months, and delicatas, for example, stay good for as long as three or four months. "Put it some where cool and dry, ideally where it's about 50 degrees," he says. Avoid refrigerators; instead put winter squashes in cupboards, basements or cellars.

In a conversation that, we have to admit, is worthy of the best Saturday Night Live-mocks-Public Radio skits, WNYC's Amy Eddings talked to Robertson about heirloom squash. Queens County Farm Museum grew eight types of squash this season, including the 35-year-old farmer's favorite: potiron rouge vif d'etampes, or Cinderella squash. According to Robertson, harvesting winter squash can be like treasure hunting, since the vines produce lush foliage that covers the vegetable.
Queens County Farm Museum is itself a hidden treasure. Located on the eastern edge of Queens, it is the city's only historical working farm and spans 47 acres of the longest continually farmed land in New York State. Established in 1697, Queens County Farm Museum educates the public about Queens County's agricultural history while promoting sustainable farming practices.
The Museum also has a farmstand in the Union Square greenmarket on Fridays, where you can buy their eggs, kale, broccoli, radishes, and beets.
In preparing squash, Robertson prefers the tried-and-true method of roasting a winter squash and then topping it with salt, pepper, butter, or molasses. Here are some additional, more elaborate recipes for those feeling ambitious.

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Spaghetti Squash with Garlic, Parsley and Breadcrumbs
By Martha Rose Shulman
(from The New York Times)

  • 1 spaghetti squash, about 3 pounds
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 3 to 4 large garlic cloves, green shoots removed, minced
  • 2 tablespoons breadcrumbs
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped flat-leaf parsley
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
  • Freshly grated Parmesan
    1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Pierce the squash in several places with a sharp knife. Cover a baking sheet with foil, and place the squash on top. Bake for one hour, until the squash is soft and easy to cut with a knife. Remove from the heat, and allow to cool until you can handle it. Cut in half lengthwise, and allow to cool some more. Remove the seeds and discard. Scoop out the flesh from half of the squash, and place in a bowl. Run a fork through the flesh to separate the spaghettilike strands. You should have about 4 cups of squash. (Use some squash from the other half if necessary). Set aside the other half for another dish.
    2. Heat the oil in a large, heavy nonstick skillet over medium heat, and add the garlic and bread crumbs. When they begin to sizzle and smell fragrant and the breadcrumbs are crisp — that is, after about a minute — stir in the squash and parsley, and season to taste with salt and pepper. Toss together over medium heat until the squash is infused with the garlic and oil and heated through, 6 to 8 minutes. Remove to a warm serving dish, top with freshly grated Parmesan and serve.
    Roasted Acorn Squash with Chili Vinaigrette

    Butternut Squash Muffins
    Roasted Delicata Squash Salad
    Winter Squash Puree