Your Guide to Gourds

Visiting farmers markets and getting ready for Thanksgiving, you’ll likely encounter a dizzying variety of squash. Some of the more unusual varieties of gourds can be intimidating because many people simply aren’t sure how to use them.

Don’t shy away from the many unique winter squash offerings available. Melissa Graham, the executive director of Purple Asparagus and the author of the blog Little Localvores, notes that “squash are nutritional powerhouses. They are high in beta carotene, vitamin C and fiber. With the great variety of winter squash at the market, you and your kids can explore the diversity of this healthy food.”

Although squash comes in a variety of shapes, sizes and flavors, nearly all types of winter squash benefit from roasting. This easy cooking method intensifies its sweetness.

Cooking Squash 101

Begin by halving the squash and scooping out any seeds. Preheat the oven to 350 F. Line a baking sheet with parchment or aluminum foil. Set the squash on the pan, flesh side down, and bake until tender. The baking time will vary between 30 minutes and an hour depending on the variety of squash. Let it cool and scoop out the flesh. Puree in a food processor or blender. Use the puree immediately or freeze for later.

If your little eaters are resistant to the idea of taking even one bite of squash, Graham suggests involving kids in the shopping process. “It is so much easier to tempt your family to try new fruits and vegetables when they get to choose them,” she says.

Delicata Squash Gnocchi with Sage Butter Sauce

6 Servings

1 delicata squash, roasted until tender 1 cup ricotta cheese 3 tablespoons parmesan cheese 1 large egg 1 cup all-purpose flour 1 teaspoon kosher salt 1½ stick unsalted butter 2 large cloves garlic, thinly sliced 2 tablespoons sage leaves ½ cup Parmesan cheese ½ teaspoon coarse sea salt freshly ground pepper 1 tablespoon chopped fresh sage

The delicata squash, also known as the sweet potato squash, is relatively small, about 6 to 8 inches in length. The flesh is yellowish and drier than pumpkin or butternut squash, which makes it ideal for gnocchi.

-Mash the squash in a medium bowl. Mix in the ricotta, parmesan, egg, flour and salt and stir until combined. If the mixture is very wet, add more flour a little at a time.

-Lightly knead the dough on a floured board. It will be moist. Return to a clean, oiled bowl. Cover with a clean dish towel and refrigerate for an hour.

-Roll chunks of the dough with your hands on a floured board into ropes 1-inch thick. Cut into 1-inch pieces and set on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet.

-Heat the butter over low heat in a small skillet. Add the garlic and sage and cook slowly until the butter is browned and smells nutty.

-Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Salt the water. Drop the gnocchi into the boiling water and cook until they rise to the top. Remove with a slotted spoon to a large skillet. Strain the butter over the top and cook over medium heat for 2 minutes.

-Sprinkle parmesan cheese and coarse sea salt over the gnocchi and divide evenly into six bowls. Sprinkle chopped sage on top. Serve immediately.

Recipe courtesy of Melissa Graham

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