Use acorn, butternut, Kabocha or Hubbard in this Winter Squash Salad. The key to cutting up one of these hard squashes more easily is to microwave it for a few minutes first. Partially cooked gives you at least partial insurance from a knife wound.
How to Nuke Winter Squash
Once again the microwave tops the cooking method list for yet another vegetable. It’s just easier. Simply stab the squash a few times and stick it in the microwave whole. Nuke it 3 to 5 minutes to slightly soften, if you’re going to cook it further another way like roasting or grilling. Now the squash is soft enough to easily cut through the tough exterior and to peel the skin. Finish cooking it according to your recipe. Nuke it additional minutes until it completely collapses if you want to use the flesh in a softer, fully-cooked state like in pie, soup, casserole or sauces. Allow it to cool slightly for easier handling. Cut open the squash, scoop out the seeds. Scoop the flesh from the skin.
Beyond acorn and butternut, Hubbard and Kabocha squashes are worth trying if you haven’t. Kabocha is the dark green, round knobby looking one also known as Japanese pumpkin. Hubbard is the lighter blue-green one that’s round and knobby looking. Both can get quite large. Yes, you can use them in your pumpkin pie recipe and yes you can roast the seeds. Both have rich orange flesh that tastes nutty, dense and extra creamy.
How to Roast Winter Squash
Nuke it whole for a few minutes. Now cut it in half and scrape out the seeds. Cut the squash into large chunks and peel off the hard skin with a sharp paring knife. Cut the peeled chunks into whatever size pieces you want to roast. Toss the squash with vegetable or olive oil in a roasting pan. Sprinkle with salt. Roast until tender and lightly charred in a 450-degree oven. Smaller pieces will take about 20 to 30 minutes.
Roasted squash chunks are ready to eat or to add to your recipes–even this wonderfully unusual salad. The creamy, rich character of these squashes means they can handle and pull together opposing ingredients like onion, spicy jalapeno, musty cilantro, and sweet-tart dried cranberries. You can go with a sweet vinaigrette or more tangy savory one. Both work equally well, but be liberal with the dressing. The squash can handle it.
- 4 cups bite-size pieces winter squash, roasted and cooled
- 1/2 cup green onion slices
- 1/2 cup dried cranberries
- 1/2 cup toasted walnut pieces
- 1/2 cup cilantro leaves
- 2 medium fresh jalapeno peppers, sliced
- 4 to 6 handfuls of fresh baby spinach or other baby greens
- Your favorite tangy vinaigrette or sweet vinaigrette dressing
Combine the squash, onion, cranberries, walnuts, and cilantro in a medium bowl.
Toss with your favorite dressing.
Arrange the greens on a shallow platter.
Pile the squash mixture over the greens.
Garnish with the jalapeno slices. Makes 8 servings.