Last weekend we helped host a monthly get together called Dinner’s For 12. This is a supper club of sorts, and we’ll be traveling each month to a new home and having a new theme. Melisa and I do the entree, and everyone brings a side dish to go along with the theme.
Our first theme was “Fall Harvest”. Melisa made a delicious stuffed pork loin and a sweet potato casserole. I wanted to do a salad that proclaimed “Autumn”.
I found one in my Cuisine at Home magazine. I will be posting that recipe soon. But first, I had to roast butternut squash.
Butternut squash is one of the more intimidating foods to prepare simply because of its size, shape and peel. Removing the peel the traditional way is ..shall we say, a pain in the patootie?
Enter the intimidation factor.
The butternut squash.
This is a large, dense squash whose flavor closely resembles a sweet potato or yam. But holy cow, both of those are way easier to peel.
*Sidenote, if you are making soup or something that doesn’t require small chunks, cut the squash in half lengthwise, put it cut-side-down on a lined cookie sheet that’s been drizzled with olive oil and roast for around 30 minutes. Check for doneness and roast longer if needed. Scoop out the insides and you’re done. NO need to peel at all.
Cubes of roasted butternut squash? That’s another story entirely…it’s a dilemna to some. A vegetable peeler is difficult on this veggie’s skin.
The solution? Follow along with me. With a steady hand, you can do this easily and with minimal waste.
Do you have a knife sharpener? Do you ever use it? I remember early on in life, my dad would come to my house and say, “you need to sharpen your knives”. I would say “uh-huh” absent mindedly and go on my way. Then one day I did this.
And the skies split wide open and the angels in heaven composed a new chorus. I was liberated and my veggies just seemed to slice themselves with ease.
Buy a knife sharpener for under $10. See how much easier your life becomes.
Cut the squash in half -not lengthwise but the other way. What is the opposite of lengthwise? Shortwise?
Cut off the bottom of the bottom piece and the top of the top piece.
Always remember, flat surfaces are our friends when cutting with sharp knives. Round surfaces lead to Band-Aids.
Now take your top piece. It already has a flat surface at the bottom. The top shouldn’t have any seeds so you can start getting the peel off. Take one of your pieces and stand it upright. Using a sharp knife, begin to slice off the peel from top to bottom getting as little squash as you can and staying close to the peel.
Continue slicing until the peel is off the entire piece. Repeat with the other half. This half is the easy part. It’s fairly straight up and down and cooperates nicely.
The bottom piece is a different story. It has a funky shape and is harder to manipulate. Take it and slice it in half from top to bottom again. This half is the half with the seeds.
Take a large spoon and scrape all the seeds out.
I sliced off the peel first and got my hands all slimy scraping out the seeds. Do this first to avoid hand-slime please.
It is very reminiscent of scraping out a pumpkin, except for the part of having your arms up to your elbows inside the pumpkin. It smelled and felt very similar though.
Now, you may need to switch to a smaller more pliable knife at this point, but I was in a hurry and just used my larger one. Do the same technique for this piece, but it will take a bit more creativity to get close to the peel.
Okay, we are ready to chop, not roll, as we have flat surfaces, remember? Place one of your peeled quarters with the large flat side down on your cutting board.
Slice it into long strips.
Okay, if I didn’t know better, I’d swear that was Velveeta Cheese.
You may need to slice these again in half, due to the thickness of the squash.
Once you have long strips, rotate them 90º and cut them into cubes.
Line a baking sheet with foil or parchment paper, and drizzle it with about 1/4 cup of olive oil.
Sprinkle on some kosher salt and crack on some black pepper.
Toss your butternut squash cubes into this mixture with your hands. Just roll up your sleeves and dig right in. It’s okay for all you left-brain people. It washes off really nicely with soap and water. C’mon try it -it’s therapy.
And for something really special? Drizzle on about 2 tablespoons of pure maple syrup.
Okay, for of you accusatory people out there, I already washed my hands once, I’m not doin’ it again! One therapy session a day is enough.
The combination of sweetness mixed with the salt and pepper are delicious!
Put your pan into 375º oven for about 30 minutes. Your cubes will begin to carmelize and turn a little brown at the edges.
Doesn’t the word “carmelize” just send shivers up and down your spine?
Or is that just me and my weirdness?
You could put these in a bowl and have a fantastic sidedish.
Or you could make my salad.
For a suave soup, try my Roasted Butternut Squash Soup with Sage Cream. It’s easier than it sounds and ohhhh so good.
!How are you planning on using your butternut squash for your meal? Pureed in a soup? Just like I did in a bowl? In a salad? Stuffed inside of a cut of meat?
Please leave it here. I love to hear from my readers
Cooking with Love,