My gardening brings me great joy and Mother Nature can gift me with a plethora of good food for my efforts. Last season produced many pounds of squash for my husband to endure—and for me to play with. While my favorite variety to grow happens to be zucchini rampicante, the following ideas can be easily carried out using butternut or other winter squashes.
The main reason I love rampicante is that it’s great when used green in the summertime as you would a zucchini (though I prefer it to this cousin for density and buttery flavor). Let it mature and cure and it transforms into something closer to another cousin—the butternut (though with an often curled shape and sometimes a lot more meat).
Luckily, these vitamin holders store well because, as I said, they were prolific last year. I garnered over a hundred pounds of this veggie (see samples of my harvest below). I gifted many to friends and neighbors while still storing more than enough for my husband and myself in our basement.
The following is more of a guideline—or basketful of ideas—than a normal recipe because it’s meant to show some of the versatility of this wonderful vegetable. I am also a great believer in catering to personal tastes and going with the flow while staying with my style of cooking. I like to refer to this style as garden-pantry fusion—cooking in the moment with what’s on hand.
The Instant Pot is a wonderful tool for shortening the amount of time for cooking if you find yourself at the end of a harried day and simply want to get food onto a plate and into waiting tummies. Cooking squash in it takes just 4 minutes on high. Depending on how much you cook and what you pair it with, you’ll have a side dish or a main course in about 30 minutes.
On the other hand, if you have time to prepare, you can achieve the same yummy food with 6 hours in the slow cooker. I like my slow cooker so that’s what I use. However, you could simply use your Instant Pot on the slow cooker setting. The choice is yours. I suggest experimenting with both methods and a variety of ingredients (why not get the family involved?). Squash is a relatively inexpensive commodity so it lends itself to explorative play.
The last photo, just before the recipe, shows a curried version of this recipe topped with avocado and toasted almonds over a bed of wild and brown rices alongside another option with herbs de Provence (one of my current favorite rediscoveries). The curried version was cooked in the slow cooker, the other in the Instant Pot. You can see the texture is quite similar in both versions. I can attest to the moisture and tastes being equally sumptuous as well.
The prep work for both methods is the same. Wash, peel, and chop the vegetables. Sauté the onion and garlic (if you’re using them), then either add them along with rest of the ingredients to the crockpot or keep them in the Instant Pot and add the rest of the goodies. Not to worry, I’ll get a little more specific shortly.
Another fantastic thing about this way of cooking is the ability to cater to personal tastes of the moment and to flexibly alter it throughout the seasons with seasoning. If you have a hankering for something ethnic, add the usual seasonings from the part of the world you’re yearning for along with a couple of extras and you might hit the spot. If it’s a little off with this batch, simply alter the recipe a little and try again later.
Yummy Squash Recipe
Both versions easily serve 2-4 (depending on whether for a main or side dish):
• 4-6 cups peeled and cubed squash
• 1 cup peeled and sliced carrot
• garlic with a little oil for cooking (to taste)
• onion (to taste)
• 1 cup of liquid (water or broth work well; I’ve even used 1/2 water, half mead)
• Up to 1 whole apple, cored, peeled, and chopped
• 1-2 chopped celery stalks
• 1/4 cup of raisins
• Up to 1 Tablespoon of seasoning (this can be a combination, depending on tastes)
Toppings (toasted almonds add a fun crunch and flavor)
For the Slow Cooker:
1. Sauté the onion, garlic, and (if desired) celery. Add to the slow cooker along with the rest of the ingredients (except toppings).
2. Stir briefly, cover, and turn on low. Cook for 6 hours if you want it mashable as is shown.
3. Cook for a shorter time (test at 4 hours) if you prefer your squash more intact and less squashed.
4.When cooked, mash as desired and add toppings. Serve over rice or noodles as a main dish or plate as a side to pork or poultry.
For the Instant Pot:
1. Turn the Pot to sauté and cook the garlic, onion, and celery in the olive oil for a couple of minutes. Turn off.
2. Add the rest of the ingredients (except toppings) and stir.
3. Close the Pot and seal. Process on high pressure for 4 minutes (3 for less mashable) and quick release the steam when complete. Mash and serve as desired.
Curry recommendations include adding the apple and raisins mentioned above along with at least 1 teaspoon of curry powder and 1/4 teaspoon of powdered ginger. I planned ahead once and created a sourdough boule with the inclusion of turmeric, ginger, raisins, and almond to accompany the meal.
I know topping with avocado isn’t a normal addition but I had a ripe one that needed to be used and didn’t want to make a salad. That’s what garden-pantry fusion is all about! It’s seat-of-your-pants, anything plus the kitchen sink, go-with-the-flow in the moment living. Try it, you just might like the freedom!
Blythe Pelham is an artist that aims to enable others to find their grounding through energy work. She is in the midst of writing a cookbook and will occasionally share bits in her blogging here. She writes, gardens and cooks in Ohio. Find her online at Humings and Being Blythe, and read all of her MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts here.
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