NUTS ABOUT BUTTERNUT SQUASH
The moonlight poured into our glass-enclosed sun porch and blanketed its milky pearl sphere like a tablecloth across the table where we so often dine when it is just the two of us. From there we sipped velvety-smooth butternut squash soup from my great grandmother’s oval kitchen soup spoons. My bright white bowls were brimming the color of pumpkin, each garnished with slivers of emerald-colored green onions offsetting the soup’s beautiful shade. The starter to our evening meal, the soup glided down our throats like golden honey or a smooth single malt scotch -- the perfect remedy on a brisk autumn night. Candlelight flickered, casting polka-dot shadows on the room’s white bricks and tiled ceiling. “Delicious,” my husband said, “simply delicious.”
When the season for butternut squash rounds the corner, this soup is always on my list of must-haves. But I don’t limit the use of butternut squash simply to soup. Once cooked, it has a smooth and creamy texture. It can be added to so many different types of dishes, from bread dough to muffin and pancake batter, to smoothies and mashed root vegetables, like potatoes, sweet potatoes, parsnips and carrots — the flavor is so mellow it blends beautifully with many others!
I love to top warm, mashed butternut squash with a little brown butter and cover it with a grilled pork chop and some cinnamon drenched sautéed apples. Writing this makes me wish this aroma was wafting from the kitchen right now!
GALEN SAMPSON OF FARMSTEAD GRILL shares my appreciation for butternut’s versatility. He says, “When you get your hands on the first local ones you know that autumn has arrived.” I asked him what he likes to do with this mellow tasting, fiber-rich fall vegetable. These are some of his preferred approaches:
Once he has prepared the squash for cooking, he likes to roast them with aromatic autumn spices until they are tender. He adds rich vegetable stock and apple cider to make soup. Each serving is garnished with apple and sage relish. Making hand-made pasta and filling raviolis with the roasted squash is another of Galen’s favorites. He serves this treat with a browned butter maple sauce – one bite and it feels like autumn immediately. I need to make reservations at Farmstead Grill now!
TIPS FOR PREPARING AND COOKING BUTTERNUT SQUASH
CUTTING: Butternut squash is thick skinned and a bit difficult to prepare for cooking. Anchor the wider end in the drain of your kitchen sink. With a cleaver or sharp knife, carefully cut down the length of the squash. You will probably have to use your hand or a wooden mallet to knock the blade down the length of the squash until it is cut in half lengthways. With a metal spoon, scoop out the seeds and fibrous strings.
COOKING: There are two methods for cooking butternut squash, baking or boiling. To bake, preheat oven to 350°F. Prepare as mentioned above. Place halves (skin side up) in a rimmed baking dish. Cover the bottom of the dish with water (about 1-inch or more), and bake for about 1 hour or until fork-tender. To boil, fill a large pot with water and bring the water to a boil. While you’re waiting for the water to boil, peel the squash and remove the seeds. Cut the squash into cubes and transfer to the boiling water and cook until fork-tender.
BUTTERNUT SQUASH SOUP
Serve as a first course or as a luncheon or light supper entrée with slices of good quality bread and a hearty tossed salad using autumns harvest greens. This soup is best prepared in advance to allow the flavors to mellow. It is a good keeper, but will thicken over time, add more chicken broth or water to thin it to the desired consistency.
- 4 tablespoons butter
- 3 leeks, white part only, thinly sliced
- 2 large onions, diced
- 2 teaspoons curry powder
- 5 cans (14.25 ounces each) chicken broth
- 4 large Idaho baking potatoes, peeled and cubed
- 2 medium butternut squash, peeled, seeded and diced
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Green onions, thinly sliced (garnish)
- In a very large pot, melt butter over medium heat and sauté leeks and onion until glossy. Add curry and sauté until fragrant, a minute or so. Add the chicken broth, potatoes and butternut squash. Bring mixture to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for 1 hour or until vegetables are fork-tender.
- Allow the soup to cool slightly before transferring to a food processor or blender. Puree mixture in batches until smooth. When all the mixture has been pureed, transfer back to the original pot and simmer until heated through. Serve immediately. Garnish bowls with thinly sliced green onion.
12 to 15 servings