Friday, October 30, 2009

Mashed Butternut Squash Goodness

A short ode to butternut squash:

Formidable opponent-
You scare me not

Thick rind I battle
with grace

For yet I know
when knives are lain

Sweet deliciousness
I shall taste

So, clearly there is good reason that I am not a poet. However, there is just something about butternut squash that inspires me to lyric.

There are many reasons this specific squash has captured my heart (the least of which being that my favorite color is orange!) The top two:
-Taste: While similar to that of a sweet potato, I find butternut squash to be even more versatile. It pairs exceptionally well with both savory and sweet condiments, making it possible to fit my discerning taste buds. I know that simply by having a butternut squash on hand (and with a pretty good shelf life this is easy to do) I can whip up a fulfilling meal in no time.
-Nutrition: Foods with vibrant colors are most likely to be nutrient packed... and butternut squash is no exception! Each bite of the sweet squash is loaded with fiber, vitamins, potassium, and anti-oxidants. What's more, each cup of diced squash comes in at 0 grams of fat and only 63 calories! Compare that to sweet potatoes' 114 calories and significantly larger carbohydrate and sugar count!

Unfortunately, as was alluded to in my amateur poem, there is one slight downside to butternut squash: It can be a little tricky to prepare. But, no fear! With a few simple tricks, anyone can tackle the daunting rind and discover the joy that lies within!
-If you are really intimidated by hacking into the squash, you can start by nuking it for a minute or two, just to soften it up.
-The best way to tackle the squash is by chopping off the top and bottom, so that it can stand up vertically.

-With a sharp, thick knife, slowly work down the middle of the squash, dividing it in two. Good news! The hard part is done!
-Now, simply use a spoon to scoop out the seeds.
-Depending on how the squash is to be prepared it can be chopped into hunks or left in full halves. See, not so bad, and definitely worth it!

I have been absolutely obsessed with finding new ways to prepare butternut squash this season. As mentioned, it works extremely well with both sweet (brown sugar and butter) or savory (roasted red peppers, garlic, etc) accompaniments. Plus, the options in preparing the squash are nearly endless. It makes a great soup, simple oven-fires, roasted side-dish...

However, I kept finding myself coming back to one recipe: Roasted butternut squash with pears, onions, dried cranberries, and blue cheese. The first time I made this dish, I think I ate the whole entire squash by myself! Not to say it wasn't entirely filling, but I just couldn't help but go back for seconds, thirds, fourths, etc! It is truly my ideal comfort food, combining the warm, sweet, richness of the squash with the bite of mustard, and the tang of dried cranberries.

I would seriously make the dish every night. However, with two roommates, oven space is often at a premium, and sometimes I have to adapt. That is where my recipe creation comes in. First of all, while I love cutting into the individual bites of the roasted squash, when I am really craving comfort food, there is nothing better than mash
ed goodness. I decided to see how this dish would lend itself to mashed form... and the results certainly did not disappoint!

Savory Mashed Butternut Squash...
what dreams are made of

  • 1 medium butternut squash
  • 1/2 of one yellow onion, thinly sliced
  • 1/4 cup dried cranberries
  • 1 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 milk
  • 2 tbsp. Dijon mustard
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Butter is optional (I found it was fine without)
  • Cut squash in half and scoop out seeds (see directions above)
  • Place squash halves in microwave and cover with wax paper. Heat on high for 8 minutes. Allow to cool for 2-3 minutes, then heat on high for another 9 minutes, or until tender. Allow to cool enough to handle.
  • In the meantime, heat the oil in a small skillet. Caramelize the onions until translucent. Season with salt and pepper.
  • When squash is done cooking, scoop out the inside and place in a medium-sized mixing bowl. Mash with a fork. Add mustard, milk, and optional butter and continue mashing until desired consistency. Add onions and dried cranberries, mixing together. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
My final advice: sit down with a bowl (preferably large!) of mashed squash by a toasty fire and reflect on everything good in life... Sometimes something as simple as food can make everything better.

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