By Russ Parsons
11:30 AM EST, January 18, 2014
Steam it, roast it, fry it, serve it whole or in a puree, there are few vegetables more adaptable than winter squash. And it’s a good thing, because at this time of year, we rely on it a lot.
There are so many different types of winter squash out there that it can get intimidating – everything from tender Delicata to pumpkins the size of a small house. This offers a lot of opportunity for exploration, but if you want to play it safe, there are two or three varieties you can almost always find that reliably have great flavor.
Butternut squash is long and somewhat dumbbell-shaped. It’s almost flesh-colored with one bulbous end where the seeds are.
Kabocha squash is a relatively recent addition to the American squash collection, imported from Japan. And it looks it – the hard green and orange shell looks like a particularly rustic form of raku pottery.
Acorn squash are the most familiar to most shoppers. It’s the slightly heart-shaped (or, more accurately, acorn-shaped) squash that can come in colors ranging from dark green to vivid orange.
The great thing about all of these squash is that they can be used more or less interchangeably. A recipe that calls for butternut can be made with acorn with only a slight variation in flavor.
How to choose: Look for squash with deep, saturated colors and no soft spots or cracks. The stem should be hard and corky too.
How to store: Keep winter squash in a cool, dark place. You don't need to refrigerate them.
How to prepare: Here's a recipe for happiness during the coming rainy season: Hack off a chunk of winter squash and remove the seeds; place it cut-side down in a pan with just a little water, and roast it at 400 degrees until the whole thing collapses into a sweet, fragrant, slightly caramelized puree.