All in the Family: The many shades of winter squash

story and photos by Marisa McClellan

A few years ago, at the end of the summer’s growing season, I decided to challenge myself to try a new kind of squash each week. I discovered that I loved the flavor and ease of roasted delicata. I spent a full week cooking through a giant neck pumpkin (they look like overgrown butternut squash). And I discovered that the more warts and bumps a pumpkin has, the sweeter it will be. I made soups, quick breads, casseroles, stews and purées. I swapped out my family’s traditional Thanksgiving sweet potato casserole for one made with Kabocha squash and pumpkin. I created a salad that included cubes of roasted cheese pumpkin in place of croutons, and I ate dish after dish of roasted acorn squash puréed with grated ginger and a little cream. It was a delicious season and one that has continued to influence my winter kitchen.

Marisa McClellan is a food writer, canning teacher and dedicated farmers market shopper who lives in Center City. Find more of her food (all cooked in her 80-square-foot kitchen) at her blog,

Acorn Squash and Ginger Purée

3 pounds acorn squash
1/3 cup cream
1/4 cup brown sugar (optional)
1 1/2 tsp freshly grated ginger
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
  • Preheat oven to 400°F.
  • Wash squashes to remove any dirt and cut them in half. Scrape out stringy seeds and arrange the halves, cut side up, on a rimmed cookie sheet. Pour 1/2 cup of water in the pan to add moisture during cooking and place in the oven. Roast until squashes are fork tender, approximately 30 to 35 minutes.
  • When squash is tender, remove from the oven and let cool for a few minutes. Using a soup spoon, scrape the flesh from the peel and heap into the bowl of a food processor. Add cream, brown sugar (if using), ginger, salt and pepper, and purée.
  • Taste and adjust seasoning. Serve immediately.
Cheese Pumpkin, Caramelized Red Onion and Arugula Salad

2 pounds cheese pumpkin
2 red onions
8 cups baby arugula, washed and dried 
3 ounces pecorino romano cheese
1/2 cup olive oil, divided 
2 Tbsp butter
2 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
Salt and pepper
  • Preheat oven to 400°F.
  • Peel cheese pumpkin and discard the seedy, stringy interior. Chop flesh into small cubes. Place pumpkin on a rimmed baking sheet. Drizzle with 2 tablespoons olive oil. Add salt and pepper. Toss to coat and roast for 15 to 20 minutes, until pumpkin is tender and the edges browned. 
  • While the squash cooks, slice red onions into thin half-moons. Heat a l arge, heavy-bottomed skillet over medium heat. Add 2 tablespoons olive oil and 2 tablespoons butter. Add sliced onion to skillet and slowly cook for 35 to 40 minutes, stirring regularly, until the volume is greatly reduced and the onions are deep, dark brown. 
  • Heap arugula in a large salad bowl. Top with the warm pumpkin cubes and the caramelized onions. Using a vegetable peeler, add thin bits of pecorino romano into the bowl. Drizzle with the balsamic vinegar and remaining olive oil. Season with salt and pepper. Toss to combine and serve.
Kabocha Squash and Potato Casserole

2 pounds Kabocha squash, peeled and cubed
2 pounds of Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and cubes
1 1/2 cups shredded Gruyere
1/2 cup shredded Parmesan
4 Tbsp butter
3 eggs, beaten
3-4 minced sage leaves
2 tsp kosher salt
1/2 tsp ground black pepper
1/2 tsp grated nutmeg
  • Heat a large pot of water. When boiling, salt generously and cook the potatoes and squash until soft. While cooking, grate cheeses and toss to combine. Set aside a 1/2 cup to spread over the top of the casserole.
  • Drain the cooked squash and potatoes, reserving one cup of the cooking water. Return potatoes and squash to pot and mash. If too dry, gradually add some of the reserved cooking water. Add butter and blended cheeses, and stir to combine.
  • Add minced sage, salt, pepper and nutmeg. Taste and adjust, if necessary. Stir in the beaten egg and scrape into a baking dish. Top with the remaining cheese.
  • Bake at 350 degrees until the top is browned and bubbling. Serve immediately.