Both winter and summer squashes are members of the gourd family and are native to the Americas.Compared to summer squashes, winter squashes have a strong taste and dense texture (with the exception of the long strands of the spaghetti squash).
They may be baked whole or in halves, slices or cubes; or they may be cubed or sliced, then steamed or simmered and pureed if you like. Small winter squashes, such as acorns and golden nuggets, are the perfect size for halving, stuffing and baking. Large squashes, such as butternuts, may be sliced and baked, or cut into pieces, then cooked and pureed. Sliced or cubed squash is also good in soups and stews or glazed and baked.
Some winter squash varieties are available year-round, but the widest selection is found during fall and winter. Squashes should be firm and unblemished and feel heavy for their size. To stuff and bake winter squash, choose a small squash, such as an acorn, that will yield two servings. For pureeing and cubing, choose a larger squash with more meat, such as the butternut.
Cut winter squashes may be kept in the refrigerator for up to 1 week; whole winter squashes may be kept for months in a cool, dark place.
Using a chefs knife, cut winter squashes into halves or wedges. Using a large metal spoon, spoon out the seeds and strings, then peel the squash.
Adapted from Williams-Sonoma Kitchen Companion: The A to Z Guide to Everyday Cooking, Equipment and Ingredients (Time-Life Books, 2000)