Roasted Butternut Squash

by Kay Baumhefner

To Make the Most of Harvest Gold —

I couldn’t believe it was winter squash. Neither mealy nor bland, those roasted golden cubes were both salty and sweetly caramelized around the edges. And when I bit down, the insides were not only silky smooth but also garlic-infused. Absolute heaven. And not like any winter squash I had ever tasted before. Decades ago, that potluck dish a dear friend brought to our extended family Thanksgiving forever changed my relationship with winter squash. And now that autumn has kicked in once again, I am still excited about cooking up yet more new ideas for how to use this delicious vegetable in all kinds of satisfying ways…

Butternut squash.

…More and more heirloom varieties keep showing up at our farmers’ markets, so we now have many winter squash possibilities to choose from and play with. I particularly like kabocha, buckskin, hubbard, dickinson or Muscade de Provence pumpkin. But butternut squash still remains a great choice because it is easy to find, a reasonable size for consuming, not as hard to peel, and a good overall shape for cubing. It only has a small seed cavity inside, and the bulk of solid flesh is always reliably sweet and meaty once cooked. Never stringy, watery nor tasteless. And even though they roast up tender, pieces hold their shape well when combined with other ingredients. Yes, this is a win-win situation.

Make sure to peel off all the tough skin to expose the more tender, intensely colored flesh underneath. And toss the cut pieces with enough oil and/or melted butter to coat them generously for the caramelizing process, but without creating a pool of extra oil on the bottom of your pan. You can cut the squash into any shape you want, but I’m recommending half-inch rough cubes because they’re so versatile. These little nuggets are hard to resist hot out of the oven, but are also delicious and even sweeter when cold. So eat them either way, all by themselves or in combination with all sorts of other ingredients. Please see the “Play with” suggestions below just to help get you started. Have fun!

Casual Recipes for Roasted Butternut Squash

You’ll Need …

  • butternut squash [1 lb. raw whole = about 1 cup roasted cubes]
  • olive oil and/or melted butter
  • salt & black pepper

and maybe …

  • garlic cloves
  • sweet spices [like ground allspice, nutmeg, cardamom, clove…]
  • herbs [savory, sage or thyme]

To Make …

  1. If using garlic, peel the cloves and cut in half to steep in and flavor the oil/butter while you prepare the squash. Then remove cloves to discard or use for another purpose.
  2. Peel, seed and cut the squash into 1/2″ rough cubes.
  3. Toss with the oil/butter, salt, pepper and any optional spices or herbs to evenly coat.
  4. Spread out in a single layer on a sheet pan (lined with baking parchment, if available).
  5. Roast in a hot oven (375-425 degrees F) for about 45 minutes or until tender and golden brown.

and Play with …

In a Spinach and/or Endive Salad: with roasted beets, red onions, fresh oranges, pomegranate seeds and balsamic vinaigrette.

In a Bread Salad: of toasted croutons with thinly sliced cabbage, apples, carrots, prunes, walnuts and mustardy apple cider and walnut oil dressing.

In a Whole Grain Salad: with cooked farro, fresh fennel, figs, arugula, pistachios, lemon juice and olive oil.

In a Vegetable Dish: with blanched or sauteed broccoli and roasted cauliflower.

In a Stuffing or Dressing: with cornbread, wild rice, sauteed onions and mushrooms, bacon, currants and dried cranberries.

In a Pureed Winter Squash or Pumpkin Soup: either stirred in to the finished soup or used as a garnish floating on top.

In a Brothy Winter Vegetable Soup: with aromatic vegetables, cannelini beans and chard.

In a Pizza Topping: with kale or broccolini and pancetta.

In a Potato Gratin: with onions, heavy cream and gruyere cheese.

In a Pasta Dish: with braised winter greens and sausage.

Tonight we’re having our roasted butternut squash folded into a dish of pumpkin gnocchi with caramelized onions. We’ll serve that up alongside roast chicken and butter-steamed savoy cabbage with bacon. Then fresh seckle pears and bits of crystalized ginger to follow for a simply light and digestive dessert (before the temptation of Halloween candy). Trick or Treat and

Bon Appetit!  — Kay

Butternut squash.

Post originally published October 30, 2012 on Come Home to Cooking.

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