Nutritious, Delicious Banana Squash for Winter Meals
A whopper of a winter squash, banana squash can grow up to 35 pounds and 2 to 3 feet long, making it a poor candidate for roasting whole in your oven. Luckily, you have lots of other options for cooking the gourd. Look for banana squash diced or cut into quarters or halves in the refrigerated produce section of your grocery, or cut up your own into more manageable sections. Use the cut squash within two to three days.
Cooked banana squash lasts three to five days in the fridge and up to 12 months in the freezer, so feel free to roast the entire portion that you buy, and add the leftovers to soups, stews and salads.
Roasted Cubes or Slices
With its golden, dense flesh and sweet flavor, banana squash tastes great simply roasted with olive oil, salt and pepper. A dab of butter added at the table wouldn't hurt either. Buy peeled pieces or peel them yourself; toss them with the seasonings, and bake them in a 400F oven for 20 to 30 minutes, stirring them halfway through cooking so all sides caramelize and turn brown. Add crushed rosemary or dried thyme if you want more depth of flavor, or drizzle on a balsamic vinegar glaze during the last 5 minutes of cooking for an exotic side dish.
Stuffed and Baked
Banana squash halves lend themselves to stuffing, giving you plenty of room to fill them with your favorite stuffing blend. Keep them vegetarian with a stuffing of rice, quinoa or bulgar, cooked and finely diced mushrooms and toasted walnuts. For a meaty stuffing, add cooked meat such as sausage, bacon bits or ground beef to the mix. Season the stuffing with salt, pepper and dried herbs such as thyme, oregano or rosemary. Or try a Middle Eastern stuffing with rice, ground lamb, pomegranate seeds and diced, dried apricots, seasoned with cardamom and cinnamon.
Bake the squash halves, cut side down, at 400F for 25 to 30 minutes. Then turn the oven up to 425F; remove the squash halves from the oven, flip them and fill them with the stuffing mix, and cook for another 10 minutes until the stuffing is piping hot. For an added layer of flavor and texture, sprinkle the stuffing mix with grated cheddar or jack cheese before returning the halves to the oven.
Prep Work for a Whole Squash
Luckily, banana squash have smooth skins, similar to butternut squash, making them somewhat easy to peel while they are whole. If you have a large cleaver, cut the squash in half crosswise to make handling easier. Position your cleaver across the squash, leaving about 3 inches on the far side so you can cut with a rocking motion. If your microwave is large enough for the whole squash, soften it for cutting by cooking it for 4 to 5 minutes before cutting. Scoop out the seeds and loose pulp with a metal spoon, and proceed with cutting and cooking.