Thursday, November 18, 2010

Bountiful Butternuts!

At the risk of appearing to be an "all squash, all the time" blog....

Well, after all, it is Fall, and squash are in season!  Part of the idea behind "slow" food is eating locally and seasonally when possible.  That's not always an easy task in some climates, like here in Wisconsin, but even in this chilly weather we do have a few really delicious foods, such as today's feature, the butternut squash.

To check out my simple, quick, and practical way to prepare butternut squash, click "read more"!

Basic Butternut Squash Prep:

Step 1:  Preheat your oven to 350 F.  Prepare a shallow baking pan (like a jelly roll pan, a baking sheet with raised edges, or even a 13x9 cake pan) by putting in a Silpat baking mat, parchment paper, or foil, and giving it a light coat of cooking spray.

Step 2:  Cut your squash in half at its equator.  This was a big revelation for me.  All my life growing up, my mom cut it around from stem to blossom to make boat kinda things.  I learned the hard way how dangerous that can be.  Unlike a hollow pumpkin, these are mostly solid, and very hard.  Add to that their awkward shape and it's just a disaster waiting to happen.  Maybe I'm just really clumsy, but I won't be doing that again until I pick up a kitchen safety glove for my non-knife hand.

Anyway, once you've cut through the equator, also cut off the stem and the blossom to make flat surfaces on top and bottom.

Step 3:  Using a vegetable peeler, peel off the skin.  I don't know why, but for many years it never occurred to me to use a peeler.  I used to think butternut squash were a huge hassle until I started peeling them this way and cutting them as described in Step 2 above.  With the vegetable peeler, it's a breeze!

Step 4:  Cut the bottom part (the part with the seed cavity) in half and scoop out the seeds and strings using a spoon or ice cream scoop.  Don't forget that you can roast these seeds just like pumpkin seeds!

Step 5:  Cut each half of the bottom into slices around 1 inch thick, then cut the slices into cubes, about 1" x 1".  You don't need to be super precise as long as you make the cubes roughly all the same size so they cook evenly. 

Step 6:  Cut the top part of the squash into slices around 1 inch thick, then cut the slices into cubes, about 1" x 1". 

Step 7:  Spread your squash cubes evenly in your prepared baking pan, and give the squash a coating of cooking spray.

It's not dirty, just baked on oil, I promise! ;-)

Step 8:  Put the pan of squash into your preheated oven and roast until tender, probably around 40 minutes, but check it starting around 30 minutes by pricking a cube with a fork to see if it's the way you like it.
When they're done, they'll have slight browning, and be a deeper orange color than before, like in this pic.

Now you have a fantastic fall side dish that's incredibly healthy, with virtually no fat, lots of Vitamin A and Potassium, and a delicious taste that's almost as sweet as candy!

And remember, butternut squash can be used in many other ways, so improvise!  Some of my favorites are to make mashed butternut squash or to put the cubes into a soup just as you would do with potato cubes.


Just a couple of product notes...I swear by the Oxo swivel peeler, and Silpat mats are great because nothing can stick to them!


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