In the introduction to her 2004 book, “The Compleat Squash,” gardener Amy Goldman writes that she’d like to coin a new term: cucurbitacean. The definition? “A person who regards pumpkins or squashes with deep, often rapturous love.”
Guilty. As much as I love tomatoes in the middle of summer, nothing quite matches the thrill I get when market stands are stacked with winter squashes in all the colors of the season and in various shapes and sizes: some smooth, some heavily ridged, some the size of softballs, others the size of, well, jack-o’-lanterns, because that’s what they’ll become.
I don’t remember ever tiring of them, which is a good thing, because when they’re stored correctly, they’ll be around for much of the following few months — even when the list of other vegetables available from local farmers dwindles to little more than turnips, potatoes and spinach.
Winter squashes are a lot more versatile than they get credit for. I saute them for pasta dishes, cook them in soups, and, most frequently, roast them, usually whole or simply cut in half and topped with olive oil and salt. I’m always looking for fresh takes that feature them, which is one of the reasons I was excited to see Todd Porter’s and Diane Cu’s beautiful new book, “Bountiful: Recipes Inspired by Our Garden” (Stewart, Tabori & Chang, 2013). Especially once I realized that the couple, who write the White on Rice blog, include a whole section of squash recipes.
My favorite is their Roasted and Stuffed Squash Rings. They call for delicata, that beautiful variety with soft, moist, sweet flesh, but I used what I could find: orange, yellow and green-speckled carnival squash. As with delicata, carnival’s skin becomes tender enough to eat when it’s roasted.
But the true brilliance of their approach is this: It gives you another way to stuff squash, one that involves quicker cooking because of the slicing. Once the rings are tender, you stack them on a serving plate, spoon stuffing into the center and call it a meal.
The authors suggest several options for filling, including habanero chicken, almond-basil chicken or roasted corn tabbouleh. I went with a simplified version of their basil pesto farro salad.
The result — a taste of summer and fall together — is good enough to turn anyone into a cucurbitacean.