Fall has arrived in Michigan in a big way! The trees are showing their colors, the apple orchards are alive in all their glory, and the beautiful fall squash have arrived. I’m sure you all have indulged in something pumpkin and spiced since this beautiful season started, but was that treat made with Michigan’s glorious selection of fall squash or a posing substitute?
Michigan grows more than one hundred million pounds of winter squash ever year… one hundred million pounds! That means, there is absolutely no shortage of this glorious food grown in our fine state. So, while your lattes, muffins, and other treats are great for getting you in the fall mood, why not try roasting up some of Michigan’s finest squash in your own home?
You’ll find Michigan grown squash at farmers markets and road side stands throughout the state, as well as in grocery stores that feature locally grown produce (unfortunately, the big chain stores don’t normally source squash locally). Thankfully, a good squash (free of nicks in the skin, bruising, etc.) will keep in a cool dry place for at least 3 months. So you can take one trip to the market and stock up for the winter.
While I’m a pretty big fan of all types of squash, their flavors and textures do vary greatly. Check out this handy visual guide to commonly available types of squash to learn the differences. My absolute favorite squash, which is really tricky to find, is the aptly named fairy squash – they have the most magically sweet and smooth flesh of any squash. If you happen upon one, promise me you’ll make puree and bake it into something sweet!
Homemade Pumpkin Puree
I know that canned pumpkin can be easy and convenient to use, but I challenge you to make your own pumpkin puree this fall. Not only is freshly made pumpkin puree absolutely delicious, but it’s also a great way to more easily connect with your food as it is found on the farm. All you’ll need is a pie pumpkin or two, your trusty oven, and a blender – the pumpkin below is what’s commonly referred to as a “pie” or “sugar” pumpkin. They’re a small variety of pumpkins with a particularly sweet and smooth flesh. While these may be the classic pie pumpkin (hence the name!), no one will know if you use butternut or another sweet and smooth squash instead. You’re secret is safe with us!
1 pie pumpkin per 2 cups puree needed
Simply cut your pumpkin in half with a sharp knife and scrape out the seeds using a large soon. Place cut side down on a baking sheet (covered with parchment for easy clean up). Bake at 350 degrees for about 1 hour, or until the flesh is very soft and separating from the skin.
Let the pumpkin cool until it is easy to handle then scoop the flesh out of the skin, placing it in a blender. Blend on high until a smooth puree is formed. Use promptly or freeze for use later.
Apple Sausage Stuffed Squash
There aren’t many dinners more perfect for fall than my apple and sausage stuffed squash. Turn on the oven, then cozy up on the couch under a blanket until your house smells amazingly delicious – it’s that easy! You can substitute a lot of meat options for the sausage: ground beef, turkey or lamb make great options, as does some finely chopped bacon. If you’d rather something vegetarian, crumble in some tempeh or seitan. This recipe serves two, but can easily be doubled for more.
1 small roundish squash (I used a red kabocha squash, which has a perfect shape for this project, but acorn and carnival squash are also great choices)
1 apple, cut to a small dice
1/4 pound ground sausage, or other meat
1/2 cup chopped cabbage
1 clove garlic, minced
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 tsp dry sage
1 tsp caraway seeds (optional)
salt & pepper to taste
Cut squash in half, trying to do so in a way that will make both halves sit upright easily. If they won’t sit upright, cut a thin slice off of the bottom to create a flat surface. Scoop seeds from center, then place cut side down on a baking sheet (covered with parchment to ease your cleanup). Bake at 350 for about 30 minutes.
While the squash is baking, combine the remaining ingredients in a medium bowl and toss to evenly mix and coat with oil. Once squash has been baking for 30 minutes, remove from oven. Use a spatula to flip the squash over so the openings are facing up. Fill each squash with half of the filling mixture, carefully piling the filling up over the top of the hole.
Return to oven and bake for about 30 more minutes, until the meat is fully cooked and the apples are softened.
This super easy side dish is also a fall favorite in my house. The thin slices cook fast (for squash at least!) and can be spiced with anything you like.
1 delicata squash
1 Tbsp olive oil
Salt & Pepper
Slice squash in half lengthwise and scrape out seeds. Place each half cut side down on your cutting board and slice into 1/8 inch thin half-circles. The most important piece of this recipe is cutting even slices of squash (even if they aren’t exactly 1/8 inch). This will prevent you from a pan that is half burned and half not-yet browned! In a medium bowl, toss squash pieces with oil, salt and pepper.
Spread squash into an even layer on a baking sheet, without piling them on top of one another. Bake at 400 degrees for about 25 minutes, flipping the slices halfway through the baking time. They’ll be soft on the inside and browned on the outside when finished.
What other delicious and fantastic ways are you using squash this fall in Michigan?