Botanically speaking, squash, pumpkins, and gourds are all fruits because they contain seeds, however in culinary environments they are often served as a vegetable. In short, all three belong to the Cucurbitaceae family. There are over 50 varieties of squash, with each being commonly identified as either a winter or summer squash.
Winter squash, which are hard-shelled, have a longer growing and maturity season than summer squash. A few common winter squash (most recognized in layman’s terms) are: spaghetti, acorn, pumpkin, hubbard, buttercup, butternut, and kabocha. Summer squash, which are soft-shelled and have a short growth period are: zucchini, crookneck (or yellow), and pattypan (small green scalloped disc-shaped). In North America, the two most popular summer squash, crookneck (yellow) and zucchini, are often used interchangeably.
Same Squash – Different Country
Although the term “spaghetti” squash makes one think “Italian”, this versatile squash can be used in many different types of meals. For instance, if preparing for an Indian cuisine, the squash can be cooked with cardamon, turmeric, and coconut milk. For a Mediterranean meal, consider adding fresh tomatoes, eggplant, oregano, basil, or sage.
One of the cool benefits of winter squash is that it’s shell can be utilized as a serving vessel. For instance, the inner flesh of a pumpkin can be scraped out and combined with other foods and seasoning, then returned to the pumpkin shell for serving!
Squash is naturally low-fat, as well as gluten and cholesterol-free. One cup of squash provides ample doses of both Omega 3 and 6, as well as a mega dose of vitamins A and C. The content of vitamin A relative to daily values is over 450%! Vitamin A enhances antioxidant levels, and provides skin and vision support. Vitamin C comes in second with squash containing approximately 80% of the daily value. Squash is also high in those minerals we take for granted such as folate, magnesium, potassium, and phosphorous.
This recipe offers additional vitamin and minerals through the inclusion of red bell peppers, carrots, bean sprouts, water chestnuts, and beef. Water chestnuts provide flavanoid antioxidants, as well as about 10% of the daily values of copper, manganese, riboflavin, and vitamin B6. Bean sprouts are naturally high in fiber, low-fat, cholesterol and gluten-free, and provide an ample amount of vitamin C. Red bell peppers provide a large amount of vitamin C, and carrots provide cartenoids and beta-carotene. Lastly, beef provides Omega 6, protein, potassium, and calcium.
Spaghetti Squash Stir Fry (serves 2-4)
1 spaghetti squash
1 red bell pepper (chopped)
2 carrots (chopped)
½ lbs. flank steak
1 can water chestnuts (drained)
1 can bean sprouts (drained)
1 Tbsp toasted sesame oil
1/2 cup red wine vinegar
Gluten free Tamari sauce (to taste) or soy sauce (which contains gluten) to taste
- Pre-heat oven to 350° F .
- Blanch squash: Place entire squash in dutch oven and add water (almost covering the squash). Bring to medium-high heat. Turn squash occasionally with tongs to ensure entire squash is submerged in hot water). Using tongs, remove squash when outer shell is semi-soft (soft enough to slice with a sharp knife).
- Once squash has cooled somewhat, slice lengthwise. Scrape out seeds. In a 9 x 13 baking dish, place both squash halves flat side down. Add 1 cup of water to pan. Place in oven uncovered for 30 – 45 minutes or until squash is tender.
- Marinade flank steak in red wine vinegar for 30 minutes; covered in refrigerator
- Meanwhile, drain bean sprouts and water chestnuts, chop vegetables. Put aside.
- Heat sesame oil in cast iron pan or wok to medium heat.
- Remove beef from refrigerator and slice into one-inch cubes.
- Add beef, carrots, and red bell pepper
- When meat is thoroughly cooked add water chestnuts and bean sprouts to beef mixture.
- Continue to cook until water chestnuts and bean sprouts are tender, but not soggy–about 5 minutes.
- Using a fork or spoon, scrape the inside flesh of the semi-cooled squash.
- Plate and place beef mixture atop squash “strings”.
- Season to taste with Tamari or soy sauce.
- Garnish with scallions.
- For a vegetarian version, tofu may substituted for beef, or eliminated all together
- Chicken or pork may substitute for beef
- Additional vegetables that go well are: snow peas, mushrooms, onion, broccoli, green bell pepper, or fresh spinach (added at the end)
- No salt is recommended in this recipe due to the sodium already included in the Tamari/soy sauce
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