Fall Is Perfect for Butternut Squash
Everywhere you turn in the fall someone is sharing a new way to use the savory butternut squash. You can also find great sales on the “queen of fall produce”, and especially fresh at your local Farmer’s Market. I find a great sale on butternut squash. Whether I’m at the farmer’s market or at the grocery store, this is the time of year the butternut squash reigns supreme.
Butternut squash is very nutritious. The flesh is full of vitamins A and C, and it has a naturally sweet flavor that really emerges when roasted. The seeds are packed with protein and heart-healthy fats. It’s a delicious seasonal squash that can be cooked in a variety of ways– baked or roasted, in a puree, in soups or stews, and as a sweet addition to other hearty winter dishes. You cannot beat butternut squash as a low far replacement in many types of recipes.
Some of you find cooking and preparing butternut squash intimidating, but surely it does not have to be. Here are some easy directions;
Begin by slicing off the stem and bottom ends of the squash, so that both ends are flat. (If your hands are not very strong, or you don’t have a sharp paring knife or serrated peeler, you can microwave the squash before you begin peeling to make the process easier. Pierce the squash a few times with a fork, then microwave for 2 minutes. This will soften the skin connection and make the peeling go faster.)
Slice the squash in half, just where the thinner end begins to widen around the middle. Turn each half so that a flat end rests against the cutting board. Use a sharp serrated peeler or paring knife to peel off the skin in downward strokes. You will notice light green lines emerging beneath the skin as you peel. You want to make sure to peel all of those green lines away from the squash—they can be tough and fibrous. The squash isn’t completely peeled till all of those green lines have disappeared and the orange flesh remains.
Once both halves of the squash are peeled, slice the fatter half lengthwise. Scoop out the seeds with a metal spoon. Reserve those seeds… they are absolutely delicious when roasted! Now you will have three sections of peeled squash, which you can slice or dice depending on your recipe. Some recipes do actually call for baking the squash before peeling by cutting in half lengthwise. Super Easy!
Roasting Butternut Squash Seeds
Preheat the oven to about 325 degrees.
Place seeds and pulp into a bowl and cover with water, using your fingers separate the seeds from the pulp. Drain the seeds in a colander and be sure that all of the pulp has been removed.
Add about 2 cups of seeds to a quart of water and boil for about ten minutes. Drain the seeds and pat dry.
Toss the seeds with a little olive oil or butter (you may also add a variety of seasonings at this time, like cinnamon-sugar, nutmeg, chili powder, cayenne or even ranch will all work well. Salt may still be your seasoning of choice.
Spread the seeds out in a single layer onto a baking sheet. Toast the seeds in the oven for about 20 minutes, watching carefully to make sure they don’t burn. They won’t change color much, if they turn too brown they’ll be over-done. The seeds should be crispy and have a similar taste to popcorn.
Roasted Butternut Squash and Bacon Pasta
3/4 teaspoon salt, divided
1/2 teaspoon dried rosemary
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
3 cups (1-inch) cubed peeled butternut squash
6 sweet hickory-smoked bacon slices (raw) (may substitute bacon slices with turkey bacon)
1 cup thinly sliced shallots
8 ounces uncooked mini penne (tube-shaped pasta, use whole grain or wheat whenever possible)
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
2 cups 2% reduced-fat milk
3/4 cup (3 ounces) shredded sharp provolone cheese
1/3 cup (1 1/2 ounces) grated fresh Parmesan cheese
Preheat oven to 425°.
Combine 1/4 teaspoon salt, rosemary, and pepper. Place squash on a foil-lined baking sheet coated with cooking spray; sprinkle with salt mixture. Bake at 425° for 45 minutes or until tender and lightly browned. Increase oven temperature to 450°.
Cook the bacon in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat until crisp. Remove bacon from pan, reserving 1 1/2 teaspoons drippings in pan; crumble bacon. Increase heat to medium-high. Add shallots to pan; sauté 8 minutes or until tender.
Combine squash mixture, bacon, and shallots; set aside.
Cook pasta according to the package directions, omitting salt and fat. Drain well.
Combine flour and 1/2 teaspoon salt in a Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Gradually add milk, stirring constantly with a whisk; bring to a boil. Cook 1 minute or until slightly thick, stirring constantly. Remove from heat. Add provolone, stirring until cheese melts. Add pasta to cheese mixture, tossing well to combine. Spoon pasta mixture into an 11 x 7-inch baking dish lightly coated with cooking spray; top with squash mixture. Sprinkle evenly with Parmesan cheese. Bake at 450° for 10 minutes or until cheese melts and begins to brown.
Butternut Squash Gratin with Sage and Blue Cheese
5 cups (3/4-inch) cubed peeled butternut squash (about 2 pounds)
1 (1 1/2-ounce) slice white bread
4 teaspoons olive oil, divided
2 cups thinly sliced onion
1 tablespoon chopped fresh sage
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup (2 ounces) crumbled blue cheese
Preheat oven to 400°.
Steam butternut squash, covered, 10 minutes or until tender.
Place bread in a food processor, and pulse 12 times or until coarse crumbs measure 1/2 cup. Transfer to a small bowl; add 2 teaspoons oil, and toss with a fork to combine.
Heat remaining 2 teaspoons oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add sliced onion to pan; sauté 5 minutes or until tender, stirring occasionally. Transfer the onion mixture to a large bowl. Add butternut squash, chopped sage, salt, and black pepper to bowl, and toss gently to combine. Spoon squash mixture into an 11 x 7–inch baking dish coated with cooking spray. Bake at 400° for 20 minutes. Sprinkle crumbled blue cheese evenly over squash mixture, and sprinkle evenly with breadcrumb mixture. Bake an additional 10 minutes or until the cheese is melted and crumbs are golden brown.