Saturday, September 15, 2007

Squash?

This evening, I cooked squash for the very first time. They look enticing at the local farmers' market, and one of my friends had told me they're easy to cook and very yummy, so I took the plunge. Local food and all that.

I started with a butternut squash, washed it, cut it in half (without self-injury, shockingly enough!), cleaned out the seed stuff, and put it in a 400 degree (F) oven in a baking pan with some water, cut side down. Half an hour later, I turned the sides over and put the whole thing back in the oven. Half an hour later, I took it out of the oven and checked it for overall softness. The innards were soft.

My friend had told me to put butter and brown sugar on it, so that's what I did.

I have to admit, I have doubts about the health benefits of eating something primarily so it can be a substrate for butter and brown sugar. Why not jump directly to a brown sugar sandwich?

I had to call another friend to ask about storing and reheating, and he suggested that I put the inner stuff (not the rind) through a strainer, and then tomorrow try it with cream and some thyme or something, or more butter and brown sugar.

It was during the strainer phase that I realized that the squash reminded me of things better forgotten from my Peace Corps days, and suddenly it seemed less appetizing, even as a substrate for butter and brown sugar.

Suggestions? (Remember, these need to be easy suggestions! I'm a cook that had to get directions for baking a squash!)

14 comments:

  1. I LOVE butternut squash! I roasted one today. Split it in half, placed it cut side down on a cookie sheet lined with aluminum foil that was smeared with butter, and roasted at 350 for about an hour/until soft. Super super yummy! The butter carmelizes around the squash.

    For something even sweeter, but more work-intensive: Roast the squash just like before, but take out of the oven when it is firmer. Peel and cut into chunks and refrigerate (overnight or through the day). Later, place in a lightly greased baking pan. Dot it with butter and brown sugar, and then pour cream over it (about 1/2 cup or so). Bake at 350 until the liquid has cooked down and the squash is nicely carmelized. This is what my family has at Thanksgiving instead of marshmallow encrusted sweet potatoes. It is really sinful.

    ReplyDelete
  2. My mom would brown spicy sausage and then put it inside a spaghetti squash.

    It isn't healthy, but it is good and not too sweet.

    ReplyDelete
  3. You can roast the squash plain, then afterwards (or with leftovers like you had) cook it in a stock pot with some chicken or veggie stock (or water), thyme, and ginger, and make squash-ginger soup (a recipe at http://www.pvga.net/recipes/butternutsquashsoup.html , or with carrots at http://allrecipes.com/Recipe/Carrot-and-Ginger-Soup/ Detail.aspx ). Good with some toasted nuts or sesame seeds sprinkled on top.

    ReplyDelete
  4. I would never have thought of making something sweet with squash. Very weird :) (But now I'll have to try it!)

    Favourite easy ways to cook squash:

    Soup: boil chunks of butternut (and optionally sweet potato) in just enough water to cover them (in chicken stock instead if non-vego). When very soft, mash it all together, or put it through a blender (water too). Can add garlic, onion, ginger etc, but no real need to. A tsp of curry powder is very nice. Before serving, add a dollop of sour cream and sprinkle with coriander or fresh basil.

    Roasted: When roasting a chicken or other meat, add some chunks of butternut squash in the roasting pan about 30 minutes before the end. It will caramelise a bit in the meat juices.

    Dip: Cook until soft: either by roasting, or in the microwave. Add some sour cream and/or ricotta (experiment with quantities until it's how you like it. I use about half as much of the dairy as of the squash). Add some cumin and a little chili powder or fresh chili. And any other herbs you like. Blend. Eat as a spread on bread or a dip for corn chips.

    Stuffed: Cut a butternut squash in half. Scoop out the seeds. Bake until soft. Scoop out some more flesh, leaving a centimeter or two still in the shell. Add cooked (preferably brown) rice or lentils to the squash you scooped out, also diced tomatoes, some corn or diced mushrooms if you like, fresh herbs of whatever sort you feel like, garlic and onion (cooked or raw). Mix it all together into a sort of mush. Stick it back in the hollowed out squash halves, sprinkle with a little cheese and some paprika, and put them back in the oven for 10 or 15 minutes until warm through and the cheese has melted.

    ReplyDelete
  5. My fave way too cook butternut squash is this:

    Peel and cut the squash into chunks. Finely slice a good-sized onion. Peel the cloves of a head of garlic. Slice a bunch of mushrooms. Put it all in a lidded casserole dish with dried thyme, salt and pepper. Cover. Cook for half an hour at about 400 degrees. Voila! A delicious mess!!

    ReplyDelete
  6. My personal fave - Butternut Squash Risotto

    Here's a recipe from America's Test Kitchens

    Butternut Squash Risotto
    from the Episode: Cooking with Squash
    from the Companion Book: Cooking at Home

    Infusing the chicken broth with the squash's seeds and fibers helps to reinforce the earthy squash flavor. We found that a 2-pound squash consistently yields a cup or so more than the 3 1/2 cups in step 1; this can be added to the skillet along with the squash scrapings in step 2. To make this dish vegetarian, vegetable broth can be used instead of chicken broth, but the resulting risotto will have more pronounced sweetness.

    Serves 4 as a main course or 6 as a first course 2 tablespoons olive oil
    1 butternut squash (medium, about 2 pounds), peeled, seeded (fibers and seeds reserved), and cut into 1/2-inch cubes (about 3 1/2 cups)
    3/4 teaspoon table salt
    3/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
    4 cups low-sodium chicken broth
    1 cup water
    4 tablespoons unsalted butter
    2 small onions , chopped very fine (about 1 1/2 cups)
    2 medium cloves garlic , minced or pressed through a garlic press (about 2 teaspoons)
    2 cups Arborio rice
    1 1/2 cups dry white wine
    1 1/2 ounces grated Parmesan cheese (about 3/4 cup)
    2 tablespoons minced fresh sage leaves
    1/4 teaspoon fresh grated nutmeg

    1. Heat oil in 12-inch nonstick skillet over medium-high heat until shimmering but not smoking. Add about 3 1/2 cups squash in even layer and cook without stirring until golden brown, 4 to 5 minutes; stir in 1/4 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Continue to cook, stirring occasionally, until squash is tender and browned, about 5 minutes longer. Transfer squash to bowl and set aside.

    2. Return skillet to medium heat; add reserved squash fibers and seeds and any leftover diced squash. Cook, stirring frequently to break up fibers, until lightly browned, about 4 minutes. Transfer to large saucepan and add chicken broth and water; cover saucepan and bring mixture to simmer over high heat, then reduce heat to medium-low to maintain bare simmer.

    3. Melt 3 tablespoons butter in now-empty skillet over medium heat; when foaming subsides, add onions, garlic, remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt, and remaining 1/2 teaspoon pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until onions are softened, 4 to 5 minutes. Add rice to skillet and cook, stirring frequently, until grains are translucent around edges, about 3 minutes. Add wine and cook, stirring frequently, until fully absorbed, 4 to 5 minutes.

    4. Meanwhile, strain hot broth through fine-mesh strainer into medium bowl, pressing on solids to extract as much liquid as possible. Return strained broth to saucepan and discard solids in strainer; cover saucepan and set over low heat to keep broth hot.

    5. When wine is fully absorbed, add 3 cups hot broth and half of reserved squash to rice. Simmer, stirring every 3 to 4 minutes, until liquid is absorbed and bottom of pan is almost dry, about 12 minutes.

    6. Stir in about 1/2 cup hot broth and cook, stirring constantly, until absorbed, about 3 minutes; repeat with additional broth 2 or 3 more times, until rice is al dente. Off heat, stir in remaining 1 tablespoon butter, Parmesan, sage, and nutmeg; gently fold in remaining cooked squash. If desired, add up to 1/4 cup additional hot broth to loosen texture of risotto. Serve immediately.

    ReplyDelete
  7. Mmmm! We love butternut squash in our household! I second the risotto recipe, and soups! Curried butternut squash soup is great, if you like curry. I haven't made this particular one, but it's very similar to the recipe in my head.

    ReplyDelete
  8. you can also do squash, butternut or acorn, baked with orange and parsely. Cut the squash in half and then cut thin slices (about 1/2 inch thick). Put some oil in a baking dish then lay in the slices of squash. Add thin slices of orange on top and sprinkle with italian parsely. If you like orange flavor a lot, you can also drizzle on a couple tablespoons of orange juice. Cook in a hot oven until soft, about half an hour, I think.

    i also second the soup ideas

    and, you can roast chunks of butternut squash with other winter vegetables ... you can google "orphans of winter" for a tasty basic recipe (i'm not sure the recipe calls for squash, but it can easily be added)

    ReplyDelete
  9. I mash up the squash, add onions, veggies, and something like cayenne to make it hot, and call it squash soup.

    ReplyDelete
  10. Anonymous6:52 PM

    For an easy idea you can add whipping cream (1/3 cup), butter (1/4 cup), a l/2 tsp. of thyme, dash of white peeper put it through the blender or food processor and then heat. The proportions of whipping cream and butter should be reduced if there isn't that much left. You will have to experiment. Try it with half first you can always add to the blender.

    Good luck.

    ReplyDelete
  11. Mmm I love butternut squash! It is often flavored with sage.

    You can bake it up in chunks like above only put a thick breadcrumb topping on it and make it a gratin type thing... or a soup with sage and potato and leek and you puree the whole thing together (I found recipies for this on the web).

    And I've had it in raviolis (so good) but I don't know how to make them.

    ReplyDelete
  12. I struggle with squash. So many preparations taste too sweet to me. I may try the squash-sage-potato-leek soup thing though.

    ReplyDelete
  13. here's a second on the butternut squash risotto, and on the pairing with sage. We do a Butternut squash, sage and goat cheese pizza: basically peel slice the squash thin and roast it in a little olive oil, salt and pepper for about 8-12 minutes (depending on thickness), and then use it to top a pizza crust brushed in Olive oil, and topped with crumbled chevre and shredded fresh sage. Wheat crust works better.

    We also do a squash, banana, and chickpea curry which is yum.

    And virtually any pumpkin recipe can be subbed with b-nut squash.

    But really, just do any epicurious search on B-nut squash...I can think of a dozen great recipes...

    ReplyDelete
  14. Anonymous3:50 PM

    i like to cut my butternut squash up into chunks, lightly toss with a little olive oil and salt, and roast on a cookie sheet at 400 degrees F for around 20-30 mins. Kind of reminiscent of sweet potato fries! I like to put them in a salad with chevre or serve them as a side dish. YUM!

    ReplyDelete