SOS: Operation Save Our Squash!

SOS: Operation Save Our Squash!

We’ve got a food epidemic on our hands dear friends, and I’ve decided I can no longer sit idly by and watch it happen. From this moment on, I’m putting this column on red alert. The baseline issue: ornamental gourds. The bigger picture: irrational fear and underuse of gourds and winter squash.
Your mission, if you choose to accept it, is to stop treating innocent gourds as fancy fall decorations and start broadening your gourd horizon. We can’t take this lying down — we’ve got to make a stand!This issue was first brought to my attention while perusing the food section of magazines in early October. Front and center was Martha Stewart’s Living, its cover gleaming with a seemingly adorable fall landscape. Squash toadstools, random pumpkins, and even a snail made out of a zucchini were splashed across the cover, the headlines promising easy DIY instructions within the pages.

The woman next to me let out a squeal, ripping the issue off the rack and shouting to her friend, “We need to make these!”

I nearly slapped myself to recover from shock. She did realize those adorable toadstools were food, right? She knew there was more to winter squash than butternut and acorn, right? Reeling myself back from total judgment, I stopped for a moment, thinking she could be like me only a few years previous; not realizing those tiny pumpkins weren’t just jacks waiting to be o’lanterned, they were food.

I realize it’s easy to stumble upon the giant bin of squash at your local store, pick out the familiar spaghetti or butternut and move on, thinking “what are those weird things, anyway? What would I even do with them?” I’ve been there. And to be clear, I’m also not against carving a pumpkin or two in the sake of autumnal traditions.

I just think there’s so much more to the great world of gourds. And I’m pretty sure gourds are the only non-edible food that’s grown solely for decoration. I don’t know how that started and I don’t fully understand why it’s perpetuated, but this is also coming from a girl hard pressed to chop down a tree come December.

How will you accomplish operation save winter squash? Let’s all set a goal of making at least one “out of the box” squash dish this month. Pick up a hubbard, kabocha, red kuri, banana, calabasa, carnival, fairy, or turban and get cookin’!

You can use a squash in any way you would use a potato. Roast, mash, fry, grate, puree, or bake, the sky is the limit. Many squashes lend themselves to the sweet side as equally as the savory side and can be slipped into cookies, breads, or bars. They can also be put in egg bakes, curries, stews, soups, and stir fry. I don’t want to sound like an infomercial salesman but there is hardly anything a winter squash can’t do.

And if the shoe fits — I might as well keep on wearing it. This one time, a special offer, I’ll even include a fool-proof winter squash recipe to get you on your feet and moving towards total squash domination. Drumroll please….

I give you a Thai green curry with red kuri squash! The red kuri is a squat little teardrop-shaped squash with orange to red skin. It’s nutty and mildly sweet, and makes a good contrast to a spicy, coconut milk curry served over rice or even rice noodles.

Red Kuri Green Curry
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 small onions — red, white, yellow, or a mix, diced
5 to 6 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
1 two inch piece of fresh ginger, peeled and grated
1 1/2 tablespoons green curry paste, less or more depending on your desired level of spice
2 tablespoons Indian curry powder
1 14 ounce can coconut milk
2 1/2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons sweet chili sauce
4 cups red kuri squash, peeled and cut into one inch cubes (about 2/3 of a squash)
1 tablespoons brown sugar
1 to 2 tablespoons lime juice
1/4 cup water
salt to taste
1 to 1 1/2 cups green vegetable, cut into one inch pieces (use what you have – broccoli, kale, snake beans, etc.)
1 bell pepper, cut into thin slices
1/2 cups chopped fresh cilantro
2 green onions, thinly sliced

Heat the oil in large skillet over medium heat. Add the onions, garlic, ginger, and sauté for about three to five minutes.

Add the curry paste and curry powder and cook for 1 more minute, stirring constantly.

Stir in your coconut milk, soy sauce, chili sauce, brown sugar, lime juice, squash, and water. Bring to a boil, then lower heat. Simmer, uncovered for around 15 minutes or until squash is tender but not mushy.

Add veggies and simmer for five more minutes or until vegetables are tender-crisp.
Serve over rice, and garnish with cilantro and green onions.

I’d love to hear more squash adventures — let me know in the comments!

The Chaser:
This is a great resource for finding out more varietals of squash – and just about every other vegetable known to man.

Victims of Hurricane Sandy still need food assistance – and let’s not forget about Canada! (side note dudes, there was a hurricane. In Canada. Yikes.) Here’s info on how you can help.

However – if you are in the NYC area, my fake boyfriend Anthony Bourdain is telling people how to save NYC restaurants by “Eating Out and Tipping Big.”