Tongs are the most useful tool in the kitchen.
Having a good pair of tongs is like having a heatproof robotic arm in the kitchen. Consider a partial list of things you can do with a pair of tongs: stir something in a sizzling pan; flip something in a sizzling pan; move something around in a sizzling pan; spear something in a sizzling pan; push something in a sizzling pan to check for doneness; hold something above a sizzling pan to taste it; take something out of a sizzling pan. And that's just around a sizzling pan. Standing around a grill or reaching inside an oven, tongs are critical.
You can spend a small fortune on specialty tongs, but you don't have to. OXO's Good Grips stainless steel tongs are inexpensive and probably as special as you’ll ever need.
So here's our public service announcement - buy tongs now.
what you should know
You've got your tender summer squashes -- zucchini and yellow squash among them -- which are eaten skin-and-all well before they're fully grown.
And then you've got your doorstop winter squashes -- most notably the pear-shaped butternut -- which are fully matured and have a hard, thick (and, as far as we're concerned, inedible) shell.
squash picking Look for a butternut that is heavy for its size and free of any cuts or scars. The skin coloring should be similarly pale all over.
wolverines! In many places, butternut squash is now available year-round. But if you suddenly find yourself a guerrilla fighter in the Colorado mountains who has to scrounge for and ration food, you can store one in a cool, dry place for weeks.
butternut cracked There's no easy way to prep a butternut squash. You just have to get in there and hack away at it. When prepping one, we find it helpful to think of it as two separate objects, the narrow neck and the bulbous, seedy end.
oh gourd part III Squashes date back thousands of years. Along with beans and corn, the squash is one of the "Three Sisters," the cornerstones of Native American cuisine.
what you need
Earlier this spring, Claire investigated the pros and cons of Y and straight peelers, which some find helpful in dealing with butternuts.
We usually find a large paring knife to be the most effective way to remove the tough skin of a butternut (even if it means losing a little of the squash's flesh).
With Amy Goldman's The Compleat Squash in hand, there is nothing about butternut squash that you will not know. (No joke.)
For the (really, really good) butternut-banana puree below, try using Jameson or Tullamore Dew.
what you do
Make this butternut squash and sausage casserole with sage for breakfast, then have the leftovers with dinner.
If you like sweet potato fries, you'll love butternut squash tempura with soy-lime dipping sauce
Everyone who starts a food blog has to take a blood oath to post, at some point, on butternut squash risotto.
For a peppery take on a tired old stand-by, try this curried butternut squash soup.
Dessert or Thanksgiving side: butternut squash and banana puree with whiskey and pecans.
Unlike their summer squash cousins, which are harvested when thin-skinned and immature, winter squash are left to mature late into the growing season (pumpkins are picked after the first frost).
With fully developed seeds (that must be scraped out before cooking) and tough, rind-like yet edible skin, winter squash can last for months if kept cool and dry.
Some winter squash varieties to look for are butternut, buttercup, delicata, spaghetti squash and pumpkin.