Cooks Corner

In pumpkin shortage, turn to other squash varieties

For a new take on butternut squash, forget making soup and roast it instead.
For a new take on butternut squash, forget making soup and roast it instead. The Federal Food, Drink & Provisions

Have you started hoarding pumpkin yet? I found myself checking the pantry to be sure I had a couple of cans on hand for pies and muffins when I read the supply probably will run out right before the end of the year.

A spokesman for Libby’s, the largest producer of canned pumpkin, told NPR we’ll make it through Thanksgiving, but after that we may find the shelves bare of cans.

The culprit? Demand has increased by 30 percent — blame all the pumpkin spice trends — but the real problem is weather, with too much rain in the Midwest and the drought in California adding up to half the crop produced in 2014.

The good news is that you can substitute other winter squashes pretty much one for one in recipes that call for pumpkin, though you may have to do a little adjusting in mixing up baked goods if the squash you’re using seems a bit watery after mashing.

What squash to use? While I love acorn squash and calabaza, they can be tough to slice. Butternut seems a lot friendlier, and it has an inherent sweetness that makes it work just as well in desserts as in savory dishes. So I went looking for some interesting ways to use it besides the standards — mashed with butter or pureed into soup.

Some intriguing ideas? Try stuffing the squash with spinach and feta cheese; cheddar and bacon; cooked ground turkey and dried cranberries; black beans, green onion and cilantro; or couscous with Moroccan seasonings and dried apricots.

My go-to, always, is simply roasting cubed squash with a toss of olive oil and maple syrup and a sprinkling of coarse salt. If you’ve got a great way with squash, send me a recipe to share.

In Miami, chef-owner Cesar Zapata of The Federal Food, Drink and Provisions (5132 Biscayne Blvd.) is introducing roasted butternut squash with a nutty-fruity granola on a winter menu that debuts next week. He happily agreed to share the recipe for this great vegetarian entrée (substitute margarine and it goes vegan). I’ll make this again and again.

Squash tart

I found the savory butternut squash tart in a wonderful cookbook, the 25th anniversary edition of the Lancaster (Pennsylvania) Central Market Cookbook by Phyllis Good (Skyhorse, $20).

I grew up wandering this farmers market in the heart of Pennsylvania Dutch country (the oldest in the United States), so I love the emphasis on home-cooked food with simple but fresh and delicious ingredients.

Good, who sold her Mennonite specialties at a stand in the market, gathered the recipes back then from the other farmers, bakers, butchers, cheesemakers and gardeners sharing the space.

Tip: A lot of recipes call for baking butternut squash for nearly an hour. I like to cut that time considerably by simply putting a clean, whole 1- to 2-pound squash in a large, shallow, microwaveable dish and poking it with a skewer about eight times to allow steam to escape (forget this step and it is likely to explode).

Microwave on high for five minutes so it gets soft enough to slice in half easily. Scoop out the seeds (a grapefruit spoon works wonderfully; and you can save the seeds to roast later, if you like).

To use cubed in recipes, cut up the flesh and roast 20 minutes in a 350-degree oven. To use mashed, return to the dish with the cut side down and microwave five more minutes. Let stand five minutes then check to see if it is soft all the way through. With larger squash you may need five more minutes.

Reader request

Q. I’ve lost the recipe you gave out once for spiced nuts. I believe it was your mom’s recipe. I always make it for snacking before feasting at Thanksgiving — and to take on long car rides home — and somehow misplaced the clipping. Can you help?

Steven A., Miami Beach

A. This was, indeed, a recipe my mother made, and it is both easy and addicting! I love the idea of making it for those who are traveling after the feast and plan on adding it to my tradition as well.

Adult Halloween

Trick or treat? I love some of the candy promotions this year aimed at adults who love Halloween.

HobNob Wines not only outfitted a limited-edition bottle with a sugar skull but went so far as to suggest candy and scary-movie pairings for its wines.

For Wicked Red Blend, it’s classic M&Ms and 1978’s Halloween, since the blend mimics Michael Myer’s many wicked ways, and the “hazelnut and mocha notes” of the wine pair well with the candy. For the chardonnay, it’s candy corn and 1996’s Scream, because villain Billy Loomis, like the wine, is “known to be fresh, relaxed and a bit complex.” For the pinot noir, it’s Snickers and American Psycho (2000), since the “peanuts and chocolate meld well” and the saltiness of the nuts “bring out the rich flavors,” and the movie’s protagonist, like the wine, is “elegant and smooth.”

Speaking of Snickers, the popular advertising campaign “You’re not you when you’re hungry” (my favorite is the Brady Bunch spin) has morphed onto packaging for a limited time. There are 20 different symptoms printed on the wrapper — from cranky to snippy to confused — which you can hand out to your favorite ghoul.

Linda Cicero:, @TasteMemories. Write to Cook’s Corner at Food, Miami Herald, 3511 NW 91st Ave., Doral, FL 33172.

Roasted Butternut Squash with Pumpkin Seed Granola

From chef Cesar Zapata of The Federal in Miami. Zapata prefers Hey Shuga cane syrup, which is unrefined and organic and is available at Whole Foods. You can use any dried fruits, but they should measure a total of 2 3/4 cups.


3 cups old-fashioned rolled oats

1 cup sweetened flaked coconut

1/4 cup vegetable oil

1/3 cup sliced almonds

1/2 cup chopped walnuts or pecans

1/3 cup raw pumpkin seeds

1/3 cup packed dark brown sugar

1/2 cup cane syrup

Pinch cinnamon

Pinch sea salt

1 cup dried cherries

1/2 cup dried cranberries

1/2 cup finely diced dried apricots (1/4 inch dice)

1/3 cup golden raisins


2 butternut squash, peeled and cut in half

1 cup butter, cut in cubes

1/2 cup cane syrup

4 sage leaves

4 cloves

Salt and pepper to taste

To make the granola: Heat oven to 300 degrees. Stir together all ingredients except the fruit in a large bowl until combined. Spread mixture evenly on a large shallow baking pan lined with parchment paper and bake until golden brown, 20 to 25 minutes, but check and stir every five minutes after the five-minute mark. Transfer granola, in pan, to rack to cool, stirring occasionally. Stir in dried fruit.

Prepare the squash: Create a pouch with aluminum foil for each squash and place halved butternut squash in the middle. Place in each half a fourth of the butter, one sage leaf, one clove and two tablespoons of cane syrup. Add salt and pepper to each.

Enclose the filled squash halves in the foil pouches so no air escapes. Place in a preheated 350-degree oven and roast until squash is tender, 30 to 40 minutes.

Remove from oven and aluminum foil pouch. Discard cloves. Place on a plate, garnish granola and serve.

Per serving: 1539 calories (50 percent from fat), 89 g fat (38.7 g saturated, 21.9 g monounsaturated), 123 mg cholesterol, 22.3 g protein, 177 g carbohydrates, 17 g fiber, 436 mg sodium

Yield: 4 servings

Savory Butternut Squash Tart

From “Lancaster Central Market Cookbook” (Skyhorse, $20).

2 (9-inch) unbaked pie crusts

1 medium butternut squash, seeded, roasted and cubed in 1/2-inch pieces

1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved

8 large eggs, beaten

2 tablespoons nutritional yeast or parmesan cheese

Salt and pepper to taste

Fresh oregano sprigs for garnish

Bake pie crusts at 350 degrees for 10 minutes. Remove crusts from oven. Distribute vegetables and eggs between the two pie shells. Sprinkle with yeast or cheese and salt and pepper. Bake until filling is firm, about 30 minutes. Garnish with oregano.

Per serving: 455 calories (54 percent from fat), 27 g fat (7.3 g saturated, 11.6 g monounsaturated), 248 mg cholesterol, 14 g protein, 39 g carbohydrates, 2.5 g fiber, 423 mg sodium

Yield: 6 servings

Roasted Sweet Spiced Nuts

From Cook’s Corner archives.

1 egg white

1 teaspoon water

3/4 cup sugar

1 teaspoon salt

1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon ground cloves

1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg

2 cups pecan or walnut halves

Beat egg white with water until stiff. Combine sugar and spices in a second bowl. Pour nuts into egg white, toss to coat, then pour into spice mixture and toss again. Spread on greased cookie sheet, separating pieces as much as possible. Bake in a 275-degree oven for 30 minutes. Cool, breaking up any large clusters. Store in an airtight container.

Per tablespoon: 63 calories, 1 g protein, 6 g carbohydrate, 5 g fat, 0.4 g fiber, 0 mg cholesterol, 69 mg sodium

Yield: 2 cups