A foodie's quest to turn up the heat through strength and conditioning with whole food and a hungry mind.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

"Squash" Your Fear of Cooking

Squash, both winter and summer varieties, offer tasty nutrition no matter how it's prepared.  Many people feel that preparing and cooking squash is a daunting task that deters them from even trying.  Enter the blender, standing or immersion.  Preparing meals with a blender is simple and easy, and squash offers a nutritious base to a creamy and tasty hot/cold soup.

Summer squash is good in its raw form to eat with dips, shredded on salads, or sliced with salt and pepper on top. But cooked and pureed with other ingredients makes for an easy dish that's takes a small amount of time, but offers big flavor.  The most common summer squash varieties are zucchini and yellow squash; they are great sources of manganese, vitamins A and C, magnesium, potassium, copper, vitamin K, phosphorus, as well as B vitamins, calcium, iron and zinc.  Just don't toss the soft skin (wash it well though) because most of the nutrients are contained there. 

Although it offers a lot, winter squash provides more nutrition as it contains less water than its cousin, summer squash.  Several types of winter squash are Acorn, Banana, Buttercup, Butternut, Delicata, Hubbard, Spaghetti, Turban, and Pumpkin.  Winter squash contains a great amount of beta-carotene, vitamin C, potassium, manganese, dietary fiber, vitamins B1, B3, B5 and B6, folate, copper, tryptophan, and omega-3-fatty acids.

To begin your journey on cooking squash soup, lets start with the cooking directions first.  Then, add or remove ingredients as you see fit to create your own unique variations. You can use these instructions as a basic outline to follow when creating your easy squash soup.

  • Over medium-high heat saute any aromatics (onion, garlic, ginger, shallots, etc.) you are using in cooking spray or olive oil for about 4 minutes or until brown.  This will add depths of flavor to your soup and stimulate the senses.
  • Toss in the squash of your choice, add broth, bring to a boil and cover.  Lower heat to a simmer once covered and cook for 10 - 20 minutes, or until squash can be easily pierced with a fork.
  • Remove from heat once squash is tender and allow to cool-down for 10 minutes before blending.  Blenders + Hot Food = Big Mess!
  • Blend in the pot if you have an immersion blender, or add to your standing blender and blend.  If using a stand blender, only fill halfway so the contents don't overflow.
  • Serve hot, cold, or at room temperature....it's good any way you have it!

Summer Squash Soup Ingredient Idea

- Cooking spray, olive oil, or nothing if using a non-stick pan
- Medium yellow onion
- 3-4 garlic cloves; more if you love garlic like me; they can stay whole or chopped since you'll blend everything anyway
- 1tsp Cumin
- 1 tsp Cayenne
- Parsley or Chives to sprinkle on top as desired
- About 8 medium-sized zucchini, yellow squash, or a mix
- 3 to 4 cups of broth

Winter Squash Soup Ingredient Idea

- Cooking spray, olive oil, or nothing if using a non-stick pan
- Medium yellow onion
- 3-4 garlic cloves
- 1 tsp grated, fresh ginger or ginger powder
- 1 tsp cumin
- 1/4 tsp cayenne
- 1 pound of butternut squash or pumpkin, peeled and cubed; you can buy these already pureed in cans to make cooking easier
- 1 Poblano or Jalapeno pepper (optional)
- 3 to 4 cups broth
- fresh or dry parsley, basil, or oregano to garnish

*Sometimes, I will toss in some sweet potato in with the winter squash, or lentils to either type for more protein and a thicker soup.  Also, nothing has to be perfectly chopped since it will all be blended anyway, but make sure everything is the same size for even cooking. 
**Try mixing greek yogurt in when you blend or just on top as garnish for extra protein.  Make your dish a full meal by adding lean chicken sausage or ground beef with a side of crusty whole grain bread.

For more info on squash varieties and cooking methods, visit http://whatscookingamerica.net/squash.htm.

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