As we get deeper into the autumn and winter months, one food and flavor continues to invade the baked goods section of the grocery store, the front pages of cooking and baking magazines, the seasonal menu of your favorite coffee shop or café, and practically everything in between. That perpetrator is pumpkin. Personally, I’m a pumpkin supporter. I think that the day Dunkin’ Donuts makes its pumpkin coffee available to the public for the season should be a national holiday in and of itself, and I think pumpkin overload in lattes, cookies, scones, bread, and everything in between is one of the best and most delicious things about autumn and winter.
However, there are plenty of members of pumpkin’s squash family that can be painfully overshadowed at this time of year. Butternut squash, acorn squash, carnival squash, and spaghetti squash, amongst others, are more than just funny-shaped gourds in a bin in the produce section of your local grocery store. Winter squash in its many other varieties is just as much a staple of the fall and winter as pumpkin is, perhaps even more so. Versatile, delicious, and luckily not being ignored by plenty of pro-squash Boulderites, squash is being used in both traditional comfort food recipes as well as in some unique variations all around Boulder.
With the farm-to-table mentality of many of Boulder’s local restaurants and the overall emphasis on freshness of ingredients, fall and winter bring about a wave of seasonal squash items on many local menus. Traditional and popular squash items, such as Roasted Butternut Squash Soup, can be found on the menu at Oak at Fourteenth, while Butternut Squash Ravioli is on the special Thanksgiving menu at The Boulder Cork. In addition, The Boulder Cork provides the recipe for this “Best Butternut Squash Ravioli” for the adventurous home chef on the “UnCorked Blog.” Zeal, a venue on Pearl Street, features a rotation of winter squash soups, salads, and specials throughout the season, while Frasca Food and Wine, an Italian restaurant who likewise works to source local seasonal ingredients whenever possible, currently features dishes that incorporate squash and other fall and winter ingredients. For other unique takes on squash, you could visit Volta Mediterranean Restaurant in Boulder and try the Vegetarian Moussaka, a dish that includes both a spicy pumpkin puree and butternut squash. Likewise, the Leaf Vegetarian Restaurant on 16th Street features a Spaghetti Squash Pad Thai entrée, another twist on this fall staple.
Enjoying a delicious squash dish doesn’t have to just be limited to eating out at a restaurant. Because of squash varieties’ sometimes funny shapes and thick skin, though, it can be a little bit intimidating to know where to start when making squash at home. Sur la Table on 29th Street in Boulder offers a variety of cooking classes throughout November and December that include unique and gourmet squash items on the class menus that can remedy any hesitancy. In the “Vegetarian Holiday Dishes” class, participants learn how to make a Cumin Roasted Butternut Squash with Chickpeas dish. In “Great Fall Stews,” students utilize another variety of winter squash, the kabocha squash, to make Kabocha Squash and Lentil Stew, while in the “Fresh Ravioli Workshop,” participants learn to make Butternut Squash Ravioli with Lemon-Caper Cream Sauce.
On a particularly snowy or cold winter day, when going out to eat is trumped by the urge to stay on the couch in your favorite sweatpants, and the motivation to cook is likewise nonexistent, there are still delicious squash options that you can pick up at the grocery store that are ready to eat as soon as you get home. Boulder Soup Works, a Boulder-based soup company that focuses on organic and gluten-free soup recipes, offers an organic, vegetarian, and gluten-free Butternut Squash with Sage soup that is freshly made, wholesome, and available in stores such as King Soopers, Door to Door Organics, Costco, City Market, The Green Polka Dot Box, Mile High Organics, Alfalfa’s, Lucky’s, Natural Grocers, and Whole Foods. With this soup you can achieve that savory, warm-your-soul autumn flavor while simultaneously being confident that you’re eating clean.
Whether it is an ingredient used in a gourmet dish at one of Boulder’s staple restaurants or as part of an at-home recipe, squash in all its winter varieties is savory, versatile, and a fresh seasonal ingredient that is the true flavor of fall and winter. Get squashed, Boulder.