Kitchen Wit & Wisdom: A brief history of squash

Squash casseroles and squash soups are just two of the delicious ways of preparing the vegetable that's really a fruit

Squash is plentiful in the garden at this time of year — Cathi Litzenberger offers up some tasty ways of preparing it.

Squash is plentiful in the garden at this time of year — Cathi Litzenberger offers up some tasty ways of preparing it.

With fall comes the harvesting of dozens of different types of squash which are now very plentiful here in the Okanagan.

Most squashes are considered a culinary vegetable but squash isn’t really a vegetable at all. Both winter and summer squash are ovaries containing seeds and, therefore, are botanical fruits — berries, in fact. Other false berries are banana, watermelon, blueberry and cranberry.

Some summer and winter squash are categorized by species, but there is crossover. The distinguishing characteristic is maturity at consumption. Summer squash are eaten young, while they’re still quite perishable and their skins and seeds are soft. Winter squash are enjoyed at full maturity and have hardened shells that contribute to their long storage life.

For all of you who grew squash this season, or who will be given squash from the bounty of others, I have two recipes today. The first is for anyone new to cooking this vegetable because it is so easy to make and you just can’t go wrong. This is a recipe most of the family will like.

Unbelievable Squash Casserole

2 teaspoons vegetable oil

3 crookneck yellow squash, diced

1/2 sweet yellow onion, diced

2 tablespoons water, or as needed

1 (10.75 ounce) can condensed cream of chicken soup

1 (8 ounce) container sour cream

1/2 cup shredded Cheddar cheese

2 (6 ounce) boxes dry bread stuffing mix

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a baking dish.

Heat oil in a skillet over medium heat; cook and stir squash and onion until tender, 8 to 10 minutes. Add water and simmer to soften squash, 2 to 4 minutes. Stir cream of chicken soup, sour cream, and Cheddar cheese into squash mixture; mix well. Transfer squash mixture to the prepared baking dish; top with stuffing mix. Bake in the preheated oven until cheese is bubbling and stuffing is browned, about 30 minutes.

Note: This recipe can be made ahead and refrigerated; add stuffing mix just before baking.

Roasted Three-Squash Soup

1 butternut squash, halved and seeded

1 acorn squash, halved and seeded

1/2 spaghetti squash, seeded

1 medium head garlic

3 tablespoons butter

1 large onion, chopped

1 teaspoon minced fresh ginger root

1 teaspoon curry powder

2 Granny Smith apples — cored, peeled and chopped

2/3 cup dry sherry

3 (14.5 ounce) cans vegetable broth (I prefer chicken broth)

1 small red bell pepper, minced

1 sprig fresh rosemary, chopped

2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley

4 leaves fresh basil, chopped

1 teaspoon dried thyme

Cracked black pepper to taste

Salt to taste

Cayenne pepper to taste

2 zucchini, chopped

3 green onions, chopped

1 cup hot water

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

Place the butternut, acorn and spaghetti squashes cut side down on a roasting pan.

Wrap garlic in foil, or place in a garlic roaster. Roast squash and garlic in preheated oven for 50 to 60 minutes.

Melt butter in a large pot or Dutch oven over medium heat. Sauté the onion for 5 minutes, stirring frequently. Stir in ginger and curry powder; cook three more minutes. Stir in apples and sherry; reduce heat to medium-low and simmer for 15 minutes. Transfer mixture to a blender and set aside.

When the squash and garlic are done, squeeze half the garlic into the apple mixture. Process mixture for 1 minute until blended, but still slightly chunky. Return mixture to pot over medium-low heat.

In the blender, purée small batches of squash flesh and vegetable broth. Transfer each batch to the pot with the apple mixture.

Stir in red bell pepper, rosemary, parsley, basil, thyme, black pepper, salt and cayenne. Cover and simmer over low heat for 1 to 3 hours, stirring occasionally.

About 30 minutes before serving add zucchini, green onions and hot water.

Cathi Litzenberger is The Morning Star’s longtime food columnist, appearing every other Wednesday and one Sunday per month.