Heirloom & specialty squash at Urban Roots: decorative & tasty

heirloom squash at Urban Roots in Buffalo NY
A sampling of the heirloom and specialty squashes available now at Urban Roots Cooperative Garden Market in Buffalo are, clockwise from top left, ‘Speckled Hound’, ‘Blue Delight’, ‘ Rouge Vif D’ Etampes’ and ‘Marina di Chiogga’. Photo by Connie Oswald Stofko
Speckled Hound squash at Urban Roots in Buffalo NY
‘Speckled Hound’ has unique coloring: light orange with splashes of green. Its light orange flesh has a sweet, nutty flavor. Use it roasted as a side dish or in soups, pies and pastas. Photo by Connie Oswald Stofko

by Connie Oswald Stofko

Instead of placing a common pumpkin outside as a decoration, you can use an eye-catching heirloom or specialty squash, said Patti Jablonski-Dopkin, general manager of Urban Roots Cooperative Garden Market, 428 Rhode Island St., Buffalo.

“The bonus with these is that they are beautiful for decorating, and then delicious to eat,” she said. “They come in great shapes and different colors. They’re great on tables.”

When she displays hers outside, she leaves them out until after Thanksgiving. But if you display them inside where it’s warm, they won’t keep as long and you’ll have to cook them sooner.

Blue Delight squash at Urban Roots in Buffalo NY
‘Blue Delight’ has a bluish rind and tasty, deep orange flesh. It’s great roasted and in stews. Photo by Connie Oswald Stofko

The heirloom and specialty squashes at Urban Roots are locally sourced, and the market brings in different varieties every year.

The different types of squash have different culinary uses. You might use them in soups, pies or even to make pasta.

“I think roasting them is always the best because it concentrates the sugars,” Jablonski-Dopkin said. “Roasting doesn’t make them sweet, but it gives them a good flavor. It’s like roasting a beet versus boiling a beet. I roast my pie pumpkins (which are a type of squash) when I use them for pies.”

Rouge Vif D' Etampes squash at Urban Roots in Buffalo NY
‘Rouge Vif D’ Etampes’ is French heirloom squash that has been available since the 1880s. The rind can be orange to deep red-orange. The flesh is tasty in pies or baked. Photo by Connie Oswald Stofko

I was surprised at how heavy these squashes are–much heavier than a jack-o’-lantern the same size.

“The heavier, the better,” Jablonski-Dopkin said. “Weight means dense flesh that will have better flavor, consistency and volume. Lightweight squashes tend to be dry with less volume.”

The size of these squashes means that, unless you’re serving a crowd, you will have leftovers. Once you cook the squash, she suggests pureeing the extras, putting the puree in a plastic bag and freezing it. You can use it throughout the winter as a side dish, in soup, in pie, in cake and in pasta. See a pasta recipe below.

The seeds of these squashes are delicious when roasted with a little salt, she added.

Urban Roots also carries pie pumpkins, jack-o’-lanterns, decorative gourds, straw bales, corn husk bundles, mums and asters.

Winter Squash Gnocchi with Sage Brown Butter

Marina di Chiogga squash at Urban Roots in Buffalo NY
‘Marina di Chiogga’ is an Italian heirloom squash. Its greenish rind is covered in bumps. The inner flesh is a vivid yellow-orange that is sweet with nutty flavors. ‘Marina di Chiogga’ can be roasted as a side dish or used in soups, pies and pastas. Photo by Connie Oswald Stofko

This recipe was adapted and refined by Jablonski-Dopkin from Bon Appetit.



1-pound dense winter squash (Butternut, ‘Long Island Cheese’, ‘Speckled Hound’ or ‘Marina Di Chiogga’)

1 tablespoon olive oil

12- to 14-ounce russet potato, peeled, quartered

¾ cup finely grated Parmesan cheese, divided

1 large egg, beaten well

½ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

1 teaspoon salt

¾ cup (or more) all-purpose flour

½ cup (1 stick) butter

2 tablespoons chopped fresh sage

Additional grated Parmesan cheese


Step 1

Preheat oven to 400° Fahrenheit. Cut long squash in half lengthwise; cut round squash in half vertically (not horizontally). Discard seeds. Place squash halves, cut side up, on baking sheet and brush with oil. Roast until squash is very tender when pierced with skewer and browned in spots, about 1½ hours. Cool slightly. Scoop flesh from squash into processor; puree until smooth. Transfer to medium saucepan; stir constantly over medium heat until juices evaporate and puree thickens, about 5 minutes. Cool. Measure 1 cup (packed) squash puree (reserve remaining squash for another use).

Step 2

Meanwhile, cook potato in medium saucepan of boiling salted water until very tender, about 20 minutes. Drain. While potato is warm, press through potato ricer onto a baking sheet. Spread out evenly and cool completely. Measure 2 cups (loosely packed) riced potato. (Reserve remaining potato for another use).

Step 3

Mix squash, potato, ½ cup Parmesan, egg, nutmeg, and salt in large bowl. Gradually add 1¾ cups flour, kneading gently into mixture in bowl until dough holds together and is almost smooth. If dough is very sticky, add more flour by tablespoonfuls. Turn dough out onto floured surface; knead gently but briefly just until smooth. Divide dough into 8 equal pieces.

Note: Work the dough as little and as gently as possible. This helps the gnocchi to be light and fluffy instead of dense and gummy.

Step 4

Line 2 large rimmed baking sheets with parchment. Sprinkle parchment lightly with flour. Working with 1 dough piece at a time, roll dough out on floured surface to about ½-inch-thick rope. Cut rope crosswise into ¾-inch pieces. Working with 1 piece at a time, roll gnocchi along back of fork tines dipped in flour, making ridges on 1 side. Transfer gnocchi to baking sheets. Repeat with remaining dough. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and chill at least 1 hour.

DO AHEAD: Can be made 6 hours ahead. Keep chilled.

Gnocchi can also be frozen on the baking sheet and then placed in freezer bags or container and kept for 3 months in freezer.

Step 5

Working in 2 batches, cook gnocchi in large pot of boiling salted water until very tender, 15 to 17 minutes. (Gnocchi will float to surface but may come to surface before being fully cooked.) Using slotted spoon, transfer gnocchi to same parchment-lined baking sheets. Cool.

DO AHEAD: Can be made 8 hours ahead. Cover loosely and chill.

Step 6

Cook butter in heavy large skillet over medium heat just until golden, stirring often, 3 to 4 minutes. Add sage; stir 1 minute. Add gnocchi; cook until heated through and coated with butter, 5 to 7 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Transfer to bowl. Sprinkle with ¼ cup Parmesan. Serve with additional Parmesan.

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