On a crisp, sunny afternoon, happy voices filled the hay-bale maze at Sugartown Strawberries in Malvern. Three school buses parked nearby as children enjoyed a fall field trip. Meanwhile in the country shop, a woman filled bags with candy corn. For sale outside: pumpkins and several kinds of squash.

“You name it,” said Lisa Leigh Bennett, marketing and public relations. “We grow acorn, delicata, carnival, spaghetti, butternut and kabocha squash, which people think is a pumpkin, and they buy it for decoration. I tell them, ‘When you’re done, you can cook it with it.’”

Squash recipes abound in the farm’s own cookbook filled with family favorites.

“A lot of people are very intimidated by squash, but it’s so easy to do,” she stressed.

Try spaghetti squash Alfredo or baked acorn squash with Italian sausage and rigatoni.

“It’s just comfort food,” Bennett described. “The summer squash is great because it’s fresh and light, but when the temperatures get cooler, you want something more substantial.”

“It’s the taste of fall,” agreed Dan Heckler of Jack’s Farm in Pottstown. “It’s good for you. It fills you up. It looks good sitting on your counter.”

He grows five varieties “because each one is distinctive, different in texture and flavor,” ranging from kabocha with its “super squash flavor” to “mild” delicata.

“I actually like the delicatas,” Heckler revealed. “My wife will cut them in half and she’ll stuff them with whatever’s in the fridge at the time.”

He loves leftovers too.“We eat them cold like sandwiches,” Heckler said. “I’ll eat them for breakfast.”

Another delicata fan: Larry Tse of Longview Farm in Collegeville.

“It’s super easy,” he explained. “It has really sweet flavor too.”

Delicatas “seem to be becoming a lot more popular,” added the farm manager, who shared a recipe for Northern Spy kale salad with delicata squash from his restaurant days in New York City.

“The lemon juice in the vinaigrette breaks down the kale and makes it really tender,” Tse noted. “It’s one of these kale salads that converts you if you don’t like kale salad… Trust me on that one.”

One last thing when talking squash this time of year: Ever notice some people say, “winter squash” and some call them “fall”?

“A squash by any other name is still the same, right?” Heckler said with a laugh.

Spaghetti Squash AlfredoIngredients

½ medium spaghetti squash4 tablespoons unsalted butter

1 cup heavy cream1 clove garlic, crushed

1½ cups freshly grated Parmesan

¼ cup chopped fresh parsley leaves

Fresh basil leavesGrape or cherry tomatoes, sliced in half

InstructionsSlice spaghetti squash in half lengthwise. Scoop out the seeds with a spoon and clean as you would a pumpkin. Completely submerge ½ at a time in a large pot of boiling water and cook for about 20 minutes until the inside is just tender to a fork and pulls apart in strands. (Cook’s note: It is better to undercook if you’re not sure.) Remove, drain and cool with cold water or ice bath to stop the cooking. Scoop out the cooked squash from its skin with a spoon. Use a fork to fluff and separate the squash into “spaghetti-like” strands. Reserve the separated cooked squash and dip with a strainer into boiling water to reheat just before serving.

Melt half the butter in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Add cream and reduce for about 2 minutes, then add garlic and cheese. Whisk quickly, heating through. Stir in the rest of the butter and parsley. Place spaghetti squash in a large serving bowl and pour Alfredo sauce over squash. Garnish with basil and tomatoes. Serves 4.

Recipe courtesy of Sugartown Strawberries

Baked Acorn SquashIngredients2 acorn squash, split in half

Water2 tablespoons light brown sugar

6 tablespoons butterSalt and pepper

InstructionsPreheat oven to 350 degrees. Place squash, flesh-side down, in a baking dish and fill with ½-inch of water. Bake for 1 hour or until tender. Scoop out squash flesh to a bowl. Mash squash with butter, sugar, salt and pepper. Serve with extra butter. Serves 4.

Recipe courtesy of Sugartown Strawberries

Baked Acorn Squash with Italian Sausage and Rigatoni

Ingredients4 medium acorn squash, halved and cleaned

Olive oilSaltFreshly ground black pepper

1 pound Italian sausage, casing removed and cut into ½-inch pieces

1 cup sliced red onion4 cups tomato sauce

½ pound rigatoni pasta, cooked until tender, tossed in olive oil and cooled

½ pound mozzarella, cut into ½-inch cubes

1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh parsley leaves

InstructionsPreheat the oven to 350 degrees. Season the squash with olive oil, salt and pepper. Place on a baking sheet, flesh-side up, and add ½ cup water to the pan. Cover with aluminum foil and bake until tender, about 1 hour. Remove from the oven and cool completely. In a large sauté pan over medium heat, brown the sausage and onions, about 6 to 8 minutes. In a large mixing bowl, toss the sausage and onions with the tomato sauce, pasta and cheese. Season with salt and pepper. Mix well. Spoon the pasta mixture into the cavity of each squash. Place the filled squashes on a baking sheet and place in the oven. Bake until the squash is heated through and the cheese melts, about 20 minutes. Place the filled squash in the center of each plate. Garnish with parsley and serve. Serves 6.

Recipe courtesy of Sugartown Strawberries

Northern Spy Kale SaladIngredients

2 delicata squashExtra-virgin olive oil

½ lemon3 sprigs thyme2 bunches kale

¼ cup crumbled aged cheddar¼ cup salted and toasted almonds, cut in half lengthwise

Pecorino cheeseInstructionsFor the dressing: Combine ¼ cup olive oil with the juice of ½ lemon in a food processor. Strip the thyme leaves and place them in processor. Puree. (You can strain the thyme leaves out for a cleaner dressing.)

For the roasted squash: Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Slice the delicata in half and scoop out the seeds. Place cut-side down on a cutting board and slice every ½-inch, creating crescent moon shapes. Place on a sheet tray and drizzle with oil. Roast for 15 minutes, toss to make sure all sides are cooking evenly, and cook for another 5 minutes or until soft and caramelized.

For the kale salad: Destem kale and slice in ½-inch ribbons. Place in large mixing bowl and drizzle dressing over kale. Roughly massage kale with dressing for 30 seconds. Add cheddar cheese and almonds; lightly massage for another 15 seconds. Taste and add salt if necessary. Add squash and toss salad. Use a fine grater to shred pecorino on top of salad prior to serving.

Recipe courtesy of Northern Spy Food Co.

Storing squash Love squash? Savor the taste for months to come.

“Winter squash stores well. Keep it in a cool, dry place,” advised Lisa Leigh Bennett of Sugartown Strawberries. “We have it throughout the winter.”

Make sure the stems are intact and check for blemishes.

“You might get 2 to 3 months storage out of the delicatas, acorns and spaghettis, whereas the butternut and the kabocha are much better storing varieties because of their dense skin,” added Dan Heckler of Jack’s Farm. “You could get 3 to 5 months out of them ‑ 5 months in perfect storing conditions.”

Another benefit of storing squash?

“After a few weeks in storage is when they’re really at full sweetness,” explained Larry Tse of Longview Farm. “That storage period converts starches to sugars.”

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