Squash the Competition
By Emily Caldwell
Fall into the season by including winter squash into your menu. Whether you are preparing a specialty holiday dish or want to warm up your customers on a frigid fall night, traditional gourds provide a variety of flavors that will draw clients to the comfort of your establishment.
These hearty vegetables will attract vegetarians and loyal diners alike, with their nutrient rich ingredients. According to the Academy of Culinary Nutrition, “winter squash are exceptionally rich in carotenes… and are loaded with antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, anti-diabetic, and insulin-regulating properties. They are an excellent source of vitamins A, C, and B1, folic acid, potassium and dietary fiber.” Best of all, they are versatile vegetables that you can use in your soups, salads, side dishes, and desserts!
The most popular and well-known are Acorn, Butternut, Spaghetti, and Pumpkin. Not sure how they taste or how to use them? Here is a guide to help you discover how to incorporate these flavors into your fall menu.
Acorn squash is a smaller squash that can vary in color. * It has a mild, subtly sweet, and nutty flavor. For the best result, try acorn squash baked, roasted, steamed, or sautéed. Although it has a small shape, when acorn squash is cut in half for roasting, it acts like a bowl for endless options of delicious fillings.
Try it out:
- Scoop a mixture of spicy sausage, sweet cranberries, and crunchy walnuts for the perfect fall entree.
- Combine the flavors of fall into a savory and sweet Acorn Squash Apple Soup.
Butternut squash is the sweetest variety of winter squash. * It is known for its distinctive shape and bright orange flesh. Its consistency makes it perfect for roasting, sautéing, or making a smooth purée or soup.
Try it out:
- A sweet and spicy Creamy Thai Butternut Squash Curry that is crunchy, rich, and comforting.
- Include the option of a warm side salad consisting of Roasted Brussels Sprouts, Cinnamon Butternut Squash, Pecans, and Cranberries.
Like its name indicates, spaghetti squash can be a great alternative to pasta. * It has a tender, chewy, and fragile texture with a very mild flavor. Roast or steam the squash, then scrape out the inside to make pasta-like strands. Toss it with a simple marinara or zesty pesto sauce, or mix in other veggies to make a primavera.
Try it out:
- Make spaghetti squash noodles to create a tangy and sharp Lemon and Garlic Shrimp Scampi.
- Substitute traditional fries and tots with crispy Bacon Spaghetti Squash Parmesan Fritters served with a smooth garlic aioli.
Notable during the Halloween season, small and sweet sugar pumpkins are the perfect squash for your fall decor and dining. * Sugar pumpkins, have a sweet, earthy taste. You can use these smaller pumpkins just as you would the other varieties of winter squash — bake, roast, or purée them. Pumpkin is ideal for soups, creamy sauces, and of course, classic pies. Don’t let any part go to waste, roast and season the seeds and toss them on a salad, an acai bowl, or to garnish any of your fall dishes with a crunch.
Try it out:
- Deviate from sweet pumpkin flavors and indulge in a savory pumpkin dish with a velvety and rich pumpkin Alfredo sauce.
- Switch your traditional white dinner rolls for a moist pumpkin bread with cinnamon maple-butter.
Emily is a former Performance Foodservice corporate Marketing Intern turned Millennial Correspondent. When she's not traveling the world experiencing new cuisines, she's exploring the newest food trends popping up in Chicago.
*Sung, Esther. "A Visual Guide to Winter Squash Varieties." Epicurious. Condé Nast Inc., 06 Feb. 2017. Web. 16 Sept. 2017.
*Williams, Nancy. "Your Ultimate Guide to Winter Squash." Academy of Culinary Nutrition. Meghan Telpner Inc., 19 Feb. 2016. Web. 16 Sept. 2017.