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Martha Stewart: Tips for peeling squash

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Cut winter squashes  before starting to peel them.

Cut winter squashes before starting to peel them.

Minh + Wass

Question:Do you have any tips on peeling squash?

Answer: Winter squashes such as acorn, buttercup, butternut, spaghetti and turban yield a variety of satisfying dishes throughout the fall and winter months. All have a tough outer skin. You can remove it either by peeling the vegetable raw or by first roasting, then peeling.

If the recipe you have calls for cutting the squash into pieces of specific sizes or shapes, such as cubes or slices, you'll need to peel it raw. In this case, it's best to skip the vegetable peeler and use a large, heavy, very sharp chef's knife.

First cut off both ends of the squash to create flat surfaces that will stabilize it on your cutting board. If it is a bulbous variety (such as butternut squash), separate the rounded part from the narrow section and peel the two pieces separately; they will both be easier to handle.

Next, stand a piece of squash on the cutting board, and hold it firmly at the top. Place your knife along the side of the squash and cut downward, away from your hand, leaving as much of the squash flesh intact as possible. Then invert the squash on your cutting board to remove any remaining skin at the other end.

Squash that will be pureed or mashed can first be roasted to make removal of the skin virtually effortless. Slice the squash lengthwise down the middle and scoop out the seeds. Then roast the squash halves in a 350-degree Fahrenheit oven, cut sides up, on an uncovered, greased baking sheet, until they are tender when pierced with a knife. Baking times vary greatly — it may take anywhere from 30 to 90 minutes, depending on the variety and size of the squash.

When the squash has cooled enough to be handled, scoop the flesh out of the skin, and proceed with your recipe.

Question:What is the difference between heavy and whipping creams?

Answer: The distinction between heavy cream and whipping cream is the amount of fat in each. Whipping cream contains 30 percent to 36 percent fat, while heavy cream, sometimes called heavy whipping cream, has 36 percent to 40 percent fat.

Heavy cream is often the richest cream commercially available — good for making desserts. Whipping cream, which is lighter, is commonly incorporated into sauces and soups and used as a garnish for desserts. It's best to use whipping cream when you want a soft dollop — on top of a slice of pumpkin pie, for instance.

When whipped, heavy cream mounds into stiff peaks better than whipping cream does. For the best results when whipping either type of cream, chill the bowl and beaters for 10 minutes in the freezer. Be sure that the cream is cold, too. If you're using a food processor, use the steel blade for just a few seconds. Stop beating when the cream stiffens; overbeating can cause butter to form.

If you're concerned about fat content for health reasons, use evaporated milk in place of heavy cream, but only in recipes that ask for it to be stirred in, since it's impossible to whip evaporated milk.

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Distributed by New York Times Special Features