Squash Recipes

Picking out a squash at the farmers' market or grocery store can feel overwhelming. There are hundreds of varieties out there and they all differ in shape, size and color. It's a little easier to choose once you know that squash are divided into two subgroups: tender summer squash and hearty winter squash. Summer squash include easy-to-chop options like zucchini and pattypan. Winter squash, on the other hand, require a bit more elbow grease to prepare. They usually have a thicker skin—think pumpkins, spaghetti squash and butternut squash—that can be removed with a sharp vegetable peeler or a chef's knife. Gourds generally have a skin similar to winter squash and though they're often ornamental, some varieties are edible. F&W's guide to squash and gourds gives you the best chef-inspired recipes, offers tips for decorating your holiday table with gourds, and suggests unexpected ways to use both these members of the Cucurbitaceae family.

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Summer Squash with Poblano, Queso Fresco, and Epazote

Epazote is a leafy herb with a pungent, bright flavor, with notes of citrus, mint, and oregano. It lends a savory depth to the summer squash, and pairs particularly well with dairy. Leaving the queso fresco in larger chunks allows it to soften slightly, but not completely melt into the dish.

Roasted Squash Wedges with Collard-Peanut Pesto

Blanching and shocking the collards preserves their vibrant color in the pesto and removes the greens’ slight bitter edge. Use best-quality peanuts; their toasty, nutty flavor is the foundation of the creamy pesto.

Roasted Butternut Squash with Curry Leaves

The first time I hosted Thanksgiving was during college. My roommate and I were both from different countries—me from India and him from Italy. We had a vague idea of what a Thanksgiving meal might entail. (Basically, turkey and pies.) Nevertheless, animated by an intense desire to impress my guests, we decided to rely on our dorm’s oven to cook a whole turkey. Our youthful inexperience and the oven’s capricious behavior resulted in a bird that was dry and slightly charred in some spots. It wasn’t perfect, but at least it was edible. With that task finished, I had just enough time to whip up a butternut squash side dish. I melted coconut oil and cooked the squash in a pan over a hot stove, seasoning it at various stages with a mixture of spices and herbs. In contrast to the turkey, it was quick, simple, and nearly effortless. Our guests arrived and I uncomfortably placed the turkey on the table with the hope that people would ignore it. But of course, they walked right up and served themselves while I nervously apologized. From the turkey they made their way to the sides, and eventually sat down to eat. Like a hawk, I watched their reactions to every bite. Everybody doused the turkey with a lot of gravy to make up for its dryness, but it was the squash that piqued their curiosity. The unexpected tropical notes of coconut from the oil and the aromatic curry leaves filled the room. My turkey might have been a disaster, but this simple squash side dish helped save the day. I’ve moved on from that turkey, but the squash continues to be one of my favorite autumn sides, with its wonderful aromas and strong punch of flavor. A sprinkling of marash chile flakes and curry leaves with coconut oil add a bit of heat and an intoxicating fragrance, while the black mustard seeds add a hint of nuttiness.

Grilled Summer Squash Casserole

Traditionally called malaiwala, “the one with cream,” this casserole is a Punjabi twist on a ratatouille-style summer side. Make this a main dish by adding cubed paneer, a firm Indian cheese.

More Squash + Gourds

Herbed Summer Squash with Goat Cheese Cream

Both crunchy raw squash and tender grilled squash feature in this summer salad. With plenty of fresh herbs, tangy goat cheese melted into rich heavy cream, and nutty toasted seeds to balance the bright lemon juice on the squash, it’s a complex-tasting but easy-to-prepare dish.

Summer Squash Carpaccio

Is it horribly annoying to tell you that the best version of this dish can only be achieved if the squash comes straight from your garden? Because it’s true. The next best thing is to go to the farmers market. “Cook only with ingredients that are in season,” “Stick to local,”—we’ve been hearing these things for years, mostly in an attempt to save our suffering planet. But flavor. FLAVOR. We’ve lost it. In an attempt to have access to everything year-round, produce has lost its magic. Supermarket cherry tomatoes do serve a purpose, but the flavor is vastly different than those from your own garden. Same for broccoli and snap peas. My kids won’t eat them unless they come from our vegetable patch; it’s annoying, but I’m proud of them! The reason vegetables aren’t popular with kids and many adults is because they’re missing a lot of the sweetness and texture provided by Mother Nature—their flavor is diluted by our mass-market food production process. Dishes like this summer squash carpaccio really stand out when you have access to gorgeous fresh vegetables from the farmers market or, God willing, your own garden. Should that stop you from preparing this with supermarket summer squash? Never! But I want to inspire you to look for local, seasonal, and sustainable food sources. It’s good for the planet, and great for your palate. When summer squash is freshly picked, all it needs is a little olive oil, salt, pepper, and maybe a hit of lemon juice. Here, I’ve taken it to next-level magic by adding sweet dates, fresh mint, and toasted pepitas spiced with Tajín seasoning to the thinly sliced summer squash. For a gathering with friends in the garden or a light lunch, this has become a favorite of mine. I hope you enjoy it as much as we do. Besos familia!

Winter Galette

Top Chef judge Gail Simmons was married on a beautiful August day in 2008. Star chef Daniel Boulud, her former boss, cooked the feast, which included seven different vegetable dishes, all served family-style. Her favorite was his modern take on ratatouille, the traditional Provençal stew flavored with herbes de Provence. Taken with the dish’s simplicity, Simmons first came up with a rustic tart using similar flavors, then varied it with the seasons. In colder months, she prepares it with root vegetables, layering paper-thin slices of whatever’s on hand, from potatoes to carrots or celery root. The versatile dough is easy to prepare and shape into a free-form crust, and fresh ricotta, infused with herbs and lemon zest, forms a creamy and aromatic base for the seasonal vegetables that roast on top. Slideshow: More Acorn Squash Recipes