One of easiest and most versatile foods to hoard for the chillier months is winter squash (thus, the name). It comes in many sizes and types, from tiny sweet dumplings to giant calabazas, and from well-known acorns to out of the ordinary Turk's Turbans, Pink Bananas and Green-Striped Cushaws.
Harvested in early fall, winter squashes can be held for two to four months in storage. Look for hard, unblemished, organically grown squash with intact stems and keep them in a cool, dry location--an insulated attic, for instance. Use up yellow-fleshed varieties like Delicata and acorn squash before moving on to the hardier, darker fleshed types such as Hubbard and butternut, whose taste actually improves after they’ve cured for several weeks.
Another way to store squash is to bake them then puree and freeze the flesh. This method will work for most varieties: Rinse them off, pierce them in several places with a sharp knife or meat fork and bake at 350 degrees until fully tender (1-2 hours). Split them open to let them cool a bit, then remove (and reserve) the seeds. Spoon out and use a food processor or stick blender to puree the flesh, then freeze the puree in airtight containers. With a supply of mashed squash on hand there’s no need to settle for canned pumpkin on Thanksgiving nor to scramble for weekday meal ideas. The puree can be used in pies, soups and risotto, and in an ever-changing repertoire of side dishes.
As for the seeds, rinse off the fibers, let the seeds dry and then toss with a drizzle of olive oil to light coat them. Spread them out on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and roast them until crunchy. You can shake on sea salt while they're baking or when they come out of the oven. Don’t plan to store these, however; serve them as an autumn snack and watch how fast they go.
By Food Editor Terese Allen