CARTHAGE, Mo. —
Cooler weather brings us the beginning of the winter squash harvest. In my opinion, butternut squash is the star of the show.
It’s round on the bottom, smaller at the top, with skin a uniform beige color. That could double as a description of myself. Maybe that’s why I have taken such a liking to it. No, the real reason I love butternut squash is for its versatility. I love produce that can steal the show as a sweet dish, while moonlighting as savory.
One can treat this beautifully proportioned piece of produce kind of like a sweet potato. Although its bright orange flesh is the same hue, its texture is what makes it able to be used in an array of dishes. I love it roasted and pureed with fresh ginger in soup. Sweeten roasted butternut squash with brown sugar and cinnamon like you would a sweet potato dish. Or, live on the edge and sprinkle it with curry and a dash of salt for a savory side dish.
Preparing a butternut squash can be daunting because of its seemingly rock hard shell. It’s actually fairly thin and can be peeled with a good, sturdy vegetable peeler. Cut off the top and bottom and steady the squash on your cutting board. Make sure to peel away the skin until you see orange flesh. I only go through the trouble of peeling butternut squash if I want to cube it for roasting and tossing on a salad. Usually I just slice it in half lengthwise, remove the seeds and place it cut side down on a pan. Roast at 375 degrees for about 45 minutes. Let it cool enough to hold it and scoop the flesh out with a spoon. The shell goes in the compost. Although this is the easiest way to obtain the sweet orange flesh, you’re left with a bowl of mush. That’s OK with me, because I like to mix the mush into soups, breads and everything else for a vitamin packed punch. But if you desire firm little squash cubes, then peel away. Toss the cubes with salt and olive oil and roast at 400 degrees for about 30 minutes.
Butternut squash soup
1 large butternut squash cut in half lengthwise and seeded
1 sweet onion, chopped
3 tablespoon minced fresh ginger
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 cinnamon stick
1 tablespoon brown sugar
4 cups chicken or vegetable broth
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
Chopped fresh parsley
Bake squash cut sides down on an oiled baking sheet at 375 degrees for about 45 minutes. Let cool, scoop flesh into a bowl and set aside. Discard shell. Heat oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add onion, ginger, garlic, cinnamon and brown sugar. Cook for about 10 minutes, or until onion is soft. Add the broth and squash and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for another 10 minutes. Discard cinnamon. Puree the soup in batches in a blender, or use a hand blender and puree soup right in the pot. Ladle into bowls and serve sprinkled with fresh parsley. I originally saw this recipe on epicurious.com, but it has been severely adapted.
Bacon and butternut pasta
5 cups (1/2-inch) cubed peeled butternut squash
1 tablespoon olive oil
12 ounces whole wheat rotini or penne pasta
4 cups chopped kale
2 bacon slices
2 cups vertically sliced onion
1 teaspoon salt, divided
5 garlic cloves, minced
2 cups chicken or vegetable broth
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
1 cup plain Greek yogurt
1/3 cup shredded cheddar cheese
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Combine squash and oil in a large bowl; toss well. Arrange squash mixture in a single layer on a baking sheet coated with cooking spray. Bake at 400 degrees for 30 minutes or until squash is tender.
Cook pasta 7 minutes or until almost al dente. Add kale to pan during last 2 minutes of cooking. Drain pasta mixture.
Cook bacon in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat until crisp. Remove bacon from pan; crumble. Add onion to drippings in pan; cook 6 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add 1/2 teaspoon salt and garlic; cook 1 minute, stirring occasionally.
Bring 13/4 cups broth to a boil in a small saucepan. Combine remaining 1/4 cup broth and flour in a small bowl, stirring with a whisk. Add flour mixture, remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt, and pepper to broth. Cook 2 minutes or until slightly thickened. Remove from heat; stir in yogurt.
Combine squash, pasta mixture, bacon, onion mixture, and sauce in a large bowl; toss gently. Place pasta mixture in a 13-by-9-inch glass or ceramic baking dish coated with cooking spray; sprinkle evenly with cheese. Bake at 400 degrees for 25 minutes or until bubbly and slightly browned.
This recipe has also been adapted, but the original can be found in Cooking Light.
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