Piles of shapely winter squash, with their mottled and colorful skins, appear in the grocery store each autumn. To the uninitiated, they can seem a bit intimidating or even merely decorative. But the hard outer shell of most comes off easily enough to reveal sweet, creamy, yellow to orange flesh.
Cooking With Butternut Squash
The butternut, with its distinctive bell shape, has emerged as a favorite of home cooks, especially in the fall harvest season. It’s easy to find, especially easy to peel, and it works well for roasting, sauteing or pureeing.
Among the sweetest of the winter squash, butternut has a nutty flavor and creamy texture. Use it in soups, salads, a frittata, lasagna, and other pasta dishes, or simply cut it into chunks and roast it.
Substituting for Butternut Squash
You can use any winter squash, including butternut, buttercup, Hubbard, sugar pumpkin, and acorn, interchangeably in recipes. So if you can’t find butternut squash, grab whatever you can.
The mild flesh of the smaller acorn squash resembles a less sweet butternut, though the edible skin on an acorn squash can be much harder to peel off a raw squash. Buttercup squash also makes a reasonable substitute, particularly in baked recipes or as part of a stew-like dish such as an Indian curry because its flesh tends to dry out when you cook it.
Hubbard squash grows very large, so you can usually find pre-cut wedges of it in the grocery store. It can be hard to get the skin off a raw Hubbard, so you might want to bake it before you cube it if your recipe allows. Sugar pumpkins produce superior pumpkin flavor, and though known for pies, work in most recipes calling for roasted, baked, steamed, sauteed or pureed butternut squash.
Buying and Storing Winter Squash
With all fresh winter squash, you want to choose a specimen that feels heavy for its size, without any bruises, soft spots, or cracks in the skin. Look for an intact stem as well. Most varieties of winter squash are harvested in the fall and can last in cool, dark storage for up to three months. Butternut squash, with their thinner skin, are a little more delicate than the others, but in the right conditions, you can store them unpeeled for about a month. Peeled and cubed, winter squash lasts in the refrigerator for a few days.