Move over pumpkin spice. There’s a new squash in town and it’s name is butternut.
The juggernaut of ‘pumpkin spice everything’ has commandeered autumn for years now but it is doing the pumpkin no favors. In fact, it is a perfect example of the dilemma facing the poor misunderstood pumpkin.
Think “pumpkin” and what do you think of? Chances are it’s either pumpkin pie or pumpkin spice something or other. And it doesn’t really matter what you think about those fall staples. Love them or hate them, that’s what pumpkin brings to mind for most people.
Sure, you can use pumpkin for savory dishes, but that’s a pretty well-kept secret and hardly anyone ever does it.
Butternut squash offers us a winter squash without the baggage of pumpkin. And yes, pumpkin is a type of squash, so all pumpkins are squash but all squash are not pumpkins.
And butternut squash comes with fewer pre-conceived ideas about its function. You can bake it into a pie, and you should. You can make butternut squash bread, too. And you should try that as well. But you can also find a lot of places for butternut squash that aren’t on a dessert table. Like in pasta or chili or in a tasty side dish. Even in soup.
In fact, any recipe that starts like this — “Preheat oven to 400°F. Spread a peeled and cubed butternut squash in a single layer on a large baking sheet. Toss with about 2 tablespoons olive oil until evenly coated. Season with salt and pepper. Bake until tender, about 25 to 30 minutes — that’s probably a good recipe.
In fact, once you’ve gotten that roasting done, you could just chow in. Or toss some on a salad, put it in some pasta or chili as recommended in the recipes below, mix it with another vegetable, sprinkle some cooked bacon on top and make yourself a burrito, the possibilities are endless.
And there’s no set “butternut spice.” If you want to sprinkle some cumin over it before baking it for your chili, go right ahead. And if you think sage or oregano is a good idea, go for it. There is no wrong spice. Not even cinnamon and nutmeg.
But the main reason butternut squash is better than pumpkin is their single meal size. One butternut squash is just the right amount to jazz up a meal, unlike a pumpkin which can be enormous. Butchering and cooking a pumpkin can require an enormous output of time and effort. And then you have all that pumpkin. And what to do with it before it spoils? It’s a lot of pressure.
Butternut or bust. You’ll be glad you did.
Bacon Butternut Squash Fettuccini
1 butternut squash, peeled, seeded and cubed
extra-virgin olive oil
1 lb. fettuccine
4 slices bacon, chopped into 1” pieces
6 sage leaves
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup chicken broth
1 cup heavy cream
1/3 cup grated Parmesan, plus more for serving
9 oz. fontina, shredded
If you can’t find fontina at your grocery store, another mild, semi-soft cheese will do. Havarti, for instance, works nicely in a pinch.
Preheat oven to 400°F. Spread butternut squash in a single layer on a large baking sheet. Toss with about 2 tablespoons olive oil until evenly coated. Season with salt and pepper. Bake until tender, about 25 to 30 minutes. In a large pot of salted boiling water, cook fettuccine according to al dente package directions. Drain and reserve 1/2 cup pasta water.
Meanwhile, fry bacon in a large skillet over medium heat until crispy. Remove bacon from the pan and put on a plate. Add sage to the pan and fry until crispy, about 1 minute per side. Depending on how you feel about bacon grease, you can either drain the bacon fat, wipe the skillet clean and add some olive oil and continue or you can keep going using the rendered bacon fat. Stir in garlic and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Pour in chicken broth and heavy cream and bring to simmer. Stir in Parmesan, then cooked fettuccine. Add fontina and toss until cheese is melted and sauce coats the pasta. Stir in pasta water to loosen sauce if needed. Add butternut squash and bacon and toss to combine. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Top each serving with a piece of sage and more parmesan (if desired).
Black Bean Chili with Butternut Squash
3 1/2 tbsp. olive oil
2 onions, chopped
8 garlic cloves, chopped
2 1/2 tbsp. chili powder
1 tbsp. ground coriander
1 tsp. cumin
2-14.5-ounce cans fire-roasted tomatoes
1 pound dried black beans, rinsed and soaked
2 chipotle chiles from canned chipotle chiles in adobo, minced
2 tsp. dried oregano
Coarse kosher salt
1 – 2 1/4 lb. butternut squash, peeled, seeded, cut into 1/2-inch cubes (about 3 cups)
1/2 cup quinoa
Sour cream, coarsely grated hot pepper, Monterey jack cheese, diced red onion, fresh cilantro and pickled jalapeño rings (for garnish)
Preheat oven to 400°F. Spread butternut squash in a single layer on a large baking sheet. Toss with about 2 tablespoons olive oil until evenly coated. Season with salt, pepper and 1 tablespoon of chili powder. Bake until tender, about 25 to 30 minutes.
Heat oil in heavy large pot over medium-high heat. Add onions and cook until soft and beginning to brown, stirring often, about 8 minutes. Add garlic; stir 1 minute. Sprinkle remaining chili powder, coriander and cumin over top; stir 1 minute. Stir in tomatoes with juice, beans, chipotles, and oregano. Add bottle of beer, chicken stock and 6 1/2 cups of water. Bring to boil, reduce heat to low, cover with lid slightly ajar, and simmer until beans are tender, stirring occasionally, about 2 hours (time will vary depending on freshness of beans). Season to taste with coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper. (Chili can be made up to 2 days ahead. Cool slightly. Refrigerate uncovered until cold, then cover and keep chilled. Rewarm chili before continuing.)
Stir quinoa into chili. Simmer uncovered over medium-low heat until squash and quinoa is cooked, about 30 minutes. Add roasted squash. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Divide chili among bowls. Serve with sour cream, cheese, red onion, cilantro, and pickled jalapeño rings.
Roasted Brussels Sprouts and Butternut Squash
This is a wonderful Thanksgiving side dish. If you are prepping ahead to bring to a friend’s house, the vegetables can be roasted ahead of time (you can blast them in a 350°F. oven for 10-15 minutes just before serving) and wait to toss them with the dressing just before serving.
1 lb. butternut squash, peeled and cut into 3/4-inch chunks
1 lb. Brussels Sprouts, stems trimmed and sliced lengthwise in half
2 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil + 1 tsp.
1/2 tsp. kosher salt
1/4 cup dried unsweetened (or sweetened) cranberries
2 tsp. Dijon mustard
1 tbsp. rice wine vinegar (or rice vinegar)
2 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
two pinches of kosher salt
Preheat the oven to 450°F. Place the butternut squash chunks and halved Brussels sprouts on a large baking sheet. Drizzle them with the 2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil, and toss them with your hands to distribute the oil evenly. Sprinkle the vegetables evenly with kosher salt and pepper, and toss them again with your hands. Spread the vegetables out evenly onto the baking sheet (tip: flip the Brussels sprouts so they are cut side down, they will caramelize much more evenly this way). Roast the vegetables at 450°F. for 20 to 30 minutes (this will vary depending on the size of your Brussels sprouts and butternut squash chunks), tossing them gently 1 to 2 times during the roasting time to ensure that they caramelize evenly on all sides. Scatter the dried cranberries onto baking sheet in the last five minutes of roasting time. Place the baking pan on a rack, toss the vegetables with the remaining teaspoon of olive oil, and allow them to cool slightly while you prepare the Dijon vinaigrette.
In a small bowl, whisk together the Dijon mustard and rice wine vinegar. Slowly pour in the olive oil, whisking continuously with your other hand, until the ingredients are emulsified. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
Gently place the roasted vegetables in a large serving bowl or platter. Pour on the Dijon vinaigrette and toss the vegetables gently until they are lightly dressed. Serve warm, lukewarm, or cold.
(This recipe makes just enough dressing for the entire dish, so if you decide to double or triple the roasted vegetable amount, be sure to double or triple the dressing as well.)
Butternut Squash with Balsamic and Chile Panko Crumbs
1 large butternut squash (about 2 ½ pounds)
2 tbsp. balsamic vinegar
5 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
Kosher salt and black pepper
1 cup panko bread crumbs
1 ½ tsp. fresh thyme leaves
½ tsp. crushed red chile flakes
¼ cup Parmesan cheese
Bring a large stockpot of water to a boil. Add the whole squash and cook, partially covered, until tender, about 45 minutes. (A knife will pierce the flesh very easily.) Drain, cool slightly, then remove and discard the stem and peel. Reserve the seeds, removing and discarding the strings. Transfer the flesh to a large serving dish and mash with a fork into an even layer. Drizzle the vinegar and 2 tablespoons of the oil over the squash, and season with salt and pepper.
Heat 3 tablespoons of the squash seeds in a large skillet over medium-low heat until dry. Add 1 tablespoon of the oil and a pinch of salt and toast, tossing occasionally. When the seeds begin to pop, partially cover the pan. Continue toasting until golden brown, about 3 minutes, then transfer to a plate. In the same skillet, heat the remaining 2 tablespoons oil over medium heat, then toss in the crumbs. When well coated, stir in the thyme, chile, and ¼ teaspoon salt. Toast, tossing occasionally, until golden brown and fragrant, about 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and stir in the cheese and toasted seeds. Spread the crumb mixture over the squash in an even layer and serve immediately.
Creamy Butternut Squash Soup with Sherry
2 tbsp. unsalted butter
1 large leek, white and light green part only, chopped (about 1 cup)
1 3-to-4 lb. butternut squash, peeled and cubed
1/4 tsp. nutmeg
1/2 tsp. black pepper
Salt to taste
3 tbsp. dry sherry, plus more to finish
2 to 3 cups chicken stock
1 cup milk
2 tbsp. heavy cream, plus more for serving
Melt the butter in a large stockpot over medium-low heat. Add the leek and cook, stirring with a wooden spoon, until softened—this should take about 5 minutes (if leek starts to brown, add a tablespoon or so of water). Add the squash, nutmeg, pepper and 1/2 teaspoon salt and continue to cook for another 5 minutes, stirring frequently. Add the sherry and cook for a couple of minutes to reduce, then add enough chicken stock just to cover the squash (if you have added all of the stock and still need more liquid, add some water). Increase the heat to high and bring the soup to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer, partially covered, for about 20 minutes, or until the squash is tender. Using a blender or a food processor, blend the soup with the milk in several batches, adding more liquid if necessary. Return to the pot and heat until just simmering. Taste and add more salt and pepper if necessary. Stir in another splash of sherry and the cream just before serving, adding a drizzle of cream to garnish each bowl if you like.
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Reach Bill Colvard at 336-415-4699.