Lucy Waverman: 10 fall recipes starring squash, the season’s staple ingredient

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Todd Korol/The Globe and Mail

As fall arrives so does one of my favourite vegetables, squash. There are so many varieties and choices of squash, and they vary in taste and texture, which means buying the right kind for a recipe will make for a tastier result.

Squash can be baked whole, halved or in wedges, and can be steamed, boiled and even grilled. When split, its shape makes a natural receptacle for stuffing. Because it has a sweet flavour, it has an affinity for sweet spices such as cinnamon, nutmeg and allspice.

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Types of squash

  • Acorn is a dark green or orange colour, and is perfect for splitting and baking. Its flavour is a little underwhelming, so it needs some added spices to improve it. Look for dull green coloured ones for best flavour.
  • Buttercup has a meaty, dry texture and enough sweet flavour that it needs little enhancement. A touch of salt, pepper and butter is perfect. Use for ravioli fillings, risotto, casseroles and baking.
  • Butternut is the most popular squash today and often comes precut and packaged for easier selling. It looks like a yellow, pear-shaped club. Its flavour can be a bit bland, but its smooth texture makes it the perfect squash for puréed soups. There is a new version that is smaller and, cut in half, bakes beautifully.
  • Hubbard squash is large, lumpy and hard to peel. Best to bake and then scrape out the flesh.
  • Kabocha is one of the gourmet squashes. Green or blue-grey on the outside and deep orange inside, it has a superb, rich flavour and is drier, making it a star in roasting and in saucy dishes.
  • Spaghetti squash is oval and yellow-coloured. When baked, the pale-yellow flesh separates into strands giving it a spaghetti-like look but it does not have much flavour and is a bit watery.
  • Sweet Dumpling is a small squash with a green and yellow striped outer shell. It is very sweet and is perfect baked whole with very little enhancement. It is also good stuffed. It does not need to be peeled.
  • Delicata or sweet potato squash is thinner-skinned so you can skip the peeling. Cut in half and roast. It has a sweet taste and a creamy texture, making it an ideal side dish on its own. It is also good stuffed.
  • Japanese Kuri squash has a bright red colour and a chestnut-like flavour. It is the new trendy squash. It is on the dry side, so it works well in braises because it does not fall apart.

Tips and techniques

Look for hard, strongly coloured squashes that feel heavy for their size. Don’t buy any that have bruised or scarred skin because they are subject to decay. Squash can be stored in a cool, dark place for up to three months before cooking.

To split a squash, take the blunt end of a chef’s knife and give a hard tap on the stem to break it off. Once the stem is removed, use a large knife to cut in half. You only need to peel squash before cooking if you are making soups, stews or curries. To peel, slice the bottom off so the squash can stand. Using a chef’s knife, peel down in strips like peeling a pineapple.

Squash Crisp

Serves 4 to 6

This is very easy to make and has loads of flavour if you use one of the drier varieties, like buttercup.

  • 2 pounds squash, buttercup or Kaboka, peeled and diced
  • 2 cups chicken stock or water
  • 1 teaspoon nutmeg
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 cup whipping cream or sour cream


  • 1/4 cup bread crumbs
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 2 tablespoons butter, melted

Preheat oven to 375 F.

Place squash and stock in pot. Bring to boil over medium heat. Cover and cook until tender, about 10 to 15 minutes.

Drain well and mash with a potato masher or fork. Mix in nutmeg, salt, pepper, egg and cream.

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Place squash in a greased baking dish. Combine topping ingredients. Sprinkle over squash. Bake for 20 minutes or until heated through.

Spiced Squash Salad

Serves 4

Use up to four different squashes for a texture and taste extravaganza, or just use your favourite. The combination of the slight bitterness of the radicchio and the sweetness of the squash is a real flavour gold mine. Some squashes do not need to be peeled but make sure you give the skin a good rinse before baking. I like to leave the skin on butternut, acorn and delicata squash, but peel kabocha and buttercup. I like this served at room temperature; this is also a good side dish with chicken or fish.


  • ½ cup olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon honey
  • ½ teaspoon ground cumin
  • ½ teaspoon ground ginger
  • ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • Pinch chili arbol or cayenne


  • 1 delicata squash,
  • 1 acorn squash, about 1 pound
  • 1/2 butternut squash or 1 small one
  • 1/2 kabocha squash, about 1 pound
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper
  • Radicchio 1 small head of radicchio 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons green onion, finely chopped

Whisk together oil, lemon juice, honey, cumin, ginger and cinnamon. Add a pinch of chili arbol or cayenne. Reserve.

Preheat oven to 400 F.

Peel squash if you want to or leave skin on. Remove and discard seeds. Cut into 1-inch pieces. Toss with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, stirring the squash around occasionally to ensure it cooks evenly. The squash should be tinged with gold. Remove from baking sheet to a plate and season again if needed. Squash should all be combined.

Cut each radicchio leaf in half through the centre stem. Heat a skillet, preferably non-stick, over high heat and add olive oil. Stir in radicchio leaves and toss until hot but still crisp. Place a large spoonful of mixed squash on a plate and garnish with radicchio leaves, drizzle over dressing and scatter with green onions.

Japanese Squash Curry

Serves 4

You can use any drier variety of squash here. I used the Japanese Kuri squash, which is a fiery red colour and roasts well. The recipe for Japanese curry powder follows, but you can also buy it in Asian grocery stores.

  • 1 Japanese Kuri, about 3 to 4 lbs, peeled and cut into 1-inch cubes
  • 6 tablespoons vegetable oil, plus more if needed
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 2 tablespoons Japanese curry powder (recipe follows)
  • 1 cup diced onion
  • 1 cup unpeeled coarsely grated apple
  • 1 tablespoon chopped ginger
  • 1 tablespoon chopped garlic
  • 2 cups chicken or vegetable stock
  • 4 cups chopped kale or baby spinach
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped cilantro

Preheat oven to 450 F.

Toss cubed squash with 4 tablespoons oil. Season with salt, pepper and 1 tablespoon Japanese curry powder. Place on oiled baking sheet and roast for 15 to 18 minutes, turning once, or until squash is fork tender and tinged with gold.

Heat remaining 2 tablespoons oil over medium heat. Add onions to skillet and sauté for 2 minutes or until softened. Add half the grated apple, remaining curry powder, ginger and garlic and sauté for 3 minutes or until fragrant. If mixture is too dry, add 1 to 2 tablespoons more oil.

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Stir in stock a little at a time until well combined. Bring to boil, stirring. Reduce heat and simmer for 2 minutes to thicken. Add remaining apple and cook 1 minute more. Taste and adjust seasoning.

Add squash to skillet and cook in sauce for 5 minutes or until squash has absorbed flavour. Stir in kale and cook for 1 minute or until wilted. Garnish with cilantro just before serving. Serve with rice.

Japanese Curry Powder

Makes about 1/4 cup

This curry powder gets its traditional deep yellow colour from the turmeric, which is touted as an excellent anti-inflammatory. It is not a hot curry; it is more textured, with layered flavour. Extra curry powder keeps well in a sealed container.

  • 2 tablespoons turmeric
  • 1 tablespoon ground coriander
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • ½ teaspoon ground cardamom
  • ½ teaspoon cinnamon
  • ½ teaspoon ground ginger
  • ½ teaspoon freshly ground pepper
  • ¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • ¼ teaspoon ground cloves
  • ¼ teaspoon ground fennel

Combine all spices in a small bowl and stir until uniform.

Chicken and Squash Tagine

Serves 4 to 6

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Use kabocha or another drier squash like buttercup for this recipe. Make it in an ovenproof dish; transfer it to a tagine if you have one for an authentic look.

  • 8 chicken thighs with skin and bones, about 2 pounds
  • ¼ cup olive oil, plus more for brushing
  • 1 small kabocha squash, about 1 ½ pounds peeled and diced
  • 1 fennel bulb, cut into ½-inch wedges with core intact
  • 2 small red onions, cut ½ inch wedges with core intact
  • 1 lemon, thinly sliced
  • 6 small cloves garlic, peeled
  • 4 black kale leaves, thick stem removed
  • 2 cups chicken stock

Spice mixture

  • 1 tablespoon ground ginger
  • 1 tablespoon ground cumin
  • 1 tablespoon Spanish paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes (or to taste)
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper

Preheat oven to 425 F.

Combine spice mixture in a small bowl. Toss chicken thighs with 1 tablespoon oil and sprinkle with 1 tablespoon spice mixture. Reserve.

Toss squash, fennel, onion, lemon and garlic with remaining oil and remaining spice mixture. Scatter over a rimmed baking sheet. Bake for 15 minutes.

Place chicken thighs on top and bake for 30 minutes or until thighs are golden and juices run clear. Brush kale leaves lightly with oil. Stir vegetables and lay kale leaves over top of vegetables and chicken. Bake another 5 to 8 minutes or until kale leaves are crisp.

Place chicken and vegetables in a tagine or on a serving platter, leaving juices on the baking sheet and reserving kale leaves separately. Place baking sheet over high heat and pour in stock. Bring to boil, stirring to scrape up brown bits. Boil until sauce is thickened and flavourful, about 3 minutes, then pour over chicken and vegetables. Break kale leaves over top for garnish.

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Delicata Squash Filled with Picadillo

Serves 4 as an appetizer or 2 as a main

Picadillo is a Cuban dish of meat, spices, raisins and olives. Often served with plantains, it makes a superb filling for squash. Serve one half as an appetizer or both halves for a main course. Reserve the squash seeds and roast them for a good snack. Cilantro oil will keep for 2 months in the refrigerator. Acorn squash works as a substitute in this recipe. Serve with rice and beans.

Cilantro oil

  • 1 bunch cilantro, leaves and stems intact
  • 1 cup olive oil
  • ¼ teaspoon chili flakes
  • Salt

Spice mixture

  • 1 tablespoon ground cumin
  • 1 tablespoon dried oregano
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon chili flakes


  • 2 delicata squashes, halved lengthwise
  • Olive oil for brushing
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper


  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 medium onion chopped, about 1 cup
  • 1 tablespoon chopped garlic
  • 1 pound ground beef
  • 1 chorizo sausage, diced
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 2 bay leaves
  • ½ cup white wine
  • 1 cup chopped canned tomatoes
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
  • ½ cup raisins
  • ¼ cup chopped pimento-stuffed green olives
  • 2 tablespoons capers
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 2 tablespoons chopped cilantro

Bring a pot of water to boil. Add cilantro for 10 seconds. Drain immediately and refresh with cold water until cold. Wrap in paper towel and pat dry. Add to blender along with oil, chili flakes and pinch of salt. Puree until smooth. Reserve.

Combine ingredients for spice mixture. Reserve.

Scoop seeds out of squash, using a melon baller to scoop out as much of the inside as you can to make a cavity for the picadillo. Reserve squash shells and scooped squash flesh separately.

Preheat oven to 400 F.

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Brush shells lightly with oil and season lightly with salt and pepper. Sprinkle inside of shells with 2 teaspoons of spice mixture. Place on a baking sheet and bake for 30 minutes or until softened. Reserve.

Heat oil in a large sauté pan over medium heat. Add the onion and sauté for 2 minutes. Add the garlic and continue to cook until onions are very soft, about 2 more minutes. Add the ground beef and chorizo and season with salt, pepper and remaining spice mixture. Cook until meat is no longer pink, about 3 minutes. Stir in reserved squash flesh and bay leaves.

Add white wine, bring to a boil and cook for 2 minutes, then add tomatoes, tomato paste and vinegar. Cover, reduce heat to low and simmer for 15 minutes or until sauce is thick and meat is cooked. Stir in raisins, olives and capers and simmer another 10 minutes or until flavours are combined. Season well with salt and pepper and remove bay leaves. Stir in cilantro then pile into squash shells. If desired, reheat in oven for 10 minutes. Drizzle cilantro oil around plate before serving.

Squash Couscous

Serves 4

Serve as a side dish with pork, lamb or poultry. Alternatively serve as a vegetarian main course with a cucumber, red onion and chickpea salad.

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 cup diced butternut, acorn, pepper or dumpling squash
  • 1 cup diced red pepper
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • ½ teaspoon paprika
  • 1 cup green peas
  • 2 cups couscous
  • 2 cups chicken stock or water
  • 3 green onions, chopped
  • 1/2 cup toasted pine nuts
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

Heat olive oil in skillet on medium heat. Add squash and peppers. Sauté for 2 to 3 minutes or until softened. Stir in cumin and paprika, reduce heat to medium low and continue to cook for a further 5 minutes or until vegetables are tender and peppers are slightly blackened. Stir in peas. Reserve.

Place couscous in a large bowl. Bring stock to boil in a pot. Pour over couscous, stir together and cover. Let stand 5 minutes. Stir in vegetables, green onions and pine nuts. Cover and let stand 2 more minutes. Season with salt and pepper.

Lemongrass Squash Soup with Toasted Coconut

Serves 6

The mixtures of fragrant flavours in this soup make it an outstanding first course.

  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 2 cups chopped onions
  • 2 tablespoons chopped lemongrass
  • 1 tablespoon grated lime rind
  • 5 cups peeled butternut squash, cut in 1-inch cubes
  • 5 cups chicken stock
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper
  • ½ cup whipping cream


Heat oil in soup pot on medium heat. Add onions, lemongrass and lime rind. Sauté for 2 minutes or until onions begin to soften. Add squash and sauté another 2 minutes. Pour in chicken stock and bring to boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer 20 minutes or until squash is cooked.

Place in blender or food processor and blend until smooth. Season well with salt and pepper, return to pot and add cream. Bring to boil and simmer 2 minutes to amalgamate the flavours.

Preheat oven to 350 F. Place coconut on baking sheet and toast for 10 minutes or until golden. Garnish top of each soup serving with coconut.

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Squash Chili

Serves 4

Vegetarian chili is a healthy, enjoyable way to eat meatless meals. Add other vegetables, if desired. Serve with warm tortillas, chopped green onions and sour cream.

  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • Red pepper, diced
  • Jalapeno pepper, seeded and diced, optional
  • Onion, chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 2 tablespoons chili powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon chili flakes
  • 2 cups butternut squash, cut in 1-inch dice
  • 28 oz can tomatoes, drained
  • Medium zucchini, cut in 1-inch dice
  • 1 can black beans or kidney beans, drained
  • 1/4 cup chopped parsley

Heat oil in large pot on medium heat and add peppers, onion and garlic. Cook until softened, about 5 minutes. Add cumin, oregano, chili powder and chili flakes and sauté for 1 minute.

Add squash and sauté until coated in spices. Meanwhile, drain tomatoes, reserving the juice. Chop tomatoes and add to pot. Bring to boil. Turn heat to medium low and simmer for 10 minutes.

Add zucchini, beans and parsley and simmer 10 minutes longer or until zucchini and squash are cooked through. If sauce is too thick add tomato liquid.

Spiced Squash and Leek Gratin

Serves 6

Using Mediterranean spicing for this squash dish gives it a whole new look. Make up to two days ahead of time but only bake when needed.

  • Butternut squash, halved
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • Leeks, dark green leaves removed, washed and thinly sliced
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • Pinch cayenne
  • 1/4 cup chicken stock, homemade or canned low-salt
  • 1/4 cup whipping cream
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh coriander
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper

Preheat oven to 350 F. Place squash on baking sheet cut side down and bake for 30 to 45 minutes or until soft. Cool and scrape squash off skin. Mash and reserve.

Heat butter in skillet and add leeks. Sauté until leeks are softened, about 5 minutes. Add spices and cook together for 1 minute.

Stir in squash and combine everything together. Stir in broth and cream. Taste for seasoning, adding salt and pepper as needed.

Bake at 350 F for 15 minutes. Garnish with coriander.

Pasta with Roasted Vegetables

Serves 8

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I love the cheesiness and rich taste of this dish – it’s basically mac and cheese with vegetables. Vary the cheeses to your own taste or what you have in the refrigerator.

  • 2 medium red onions
  • 4½ cups small butternut squash, peeled and cut into 1-inch chunks
  • 2 red peppers, cut into 1-inch chunks
  • 2 zucchini, cut into 1-inch chunks
  • 1 eggplant, cut into 1-inch chunks
  • 4 plum tomatoes, quartered and seeded
  • 1 banana pepper, sliced on diagonal into thin strips
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme or 1 teaspoon dried
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh rosemary or 2 teaspoons dried
  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar or lemon juice
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 1 pound (500 grams) penne
  • ¼ cup butter
  • ¼ cup flour
  • 2 cups milk
  • ½ cup whipping cream
  • 1 cup grated Fontina
  • 1 8-ounce (250-gram) ball fresh mozzarella, grated
  • 1 cup grated Parmesan

Preheat oven to 450 F.

Cut onions in half and cut each half into 4 wedges. Remove root end and separate onion pieces. Combine onion, butternut squash, red peppers, zucchini, eggplant, tomatoes and banana pepper in a large bowl.

Combine thyme, rosemary, olive oil and vinegar and season with salt and pepper. Toss with vegetables until well coated. Divide all vegetables between 2 large, rimmed baking sheets and roast for 40 minutes, stirring every 10 minutes and switching tray positions in oven halfway through, until vegetables are cooked through and browned. Remove from oven and reduce heat to 350 F.

Cook pasta in boiling salted water according to package directions less 3 minutes. It should be undercooked. Drain. Return to pot.

Heat butter in another pot over medium-high heat. Add flour and stir together until smooth. Combine milk and cream and slowly add to pot, whisking constantly, until combined. Bring to a boil, remove from heat and add Fontina, mozzarella and ½ cup Parmesan. Season with salt and pepper.

Add sauce to pasta and toss to combine. Stir in vegetables. Transfer to an oiled 9×13-inch baking dish and bake for 30 minutes or until sauce bubbles and mixture is hot. Sprinkle with remaining ½ cup Parmesan and lots of black pepper.

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