The universe seems to have some sort of rule that I am not allowed to be productive for two days in a row. Yesterday was fabulous! I was completely focused and plowed through my work, which never happens on a Monday. Today…oi! It’s nearing lunch time and I have yet to accomplish anything beyond standing up to stretch every 5 minutes and then sitting down in front of my computer and finding myself checking the weather online for the 976th time (it’s cold and sunny, by the way). Somehow I think it may not have been in my best interest to decide to work from a café instead of my office today (Beyonce serenading me is somehow not helping with the process of curriculum editing, who’d’ve known?!). So, in the hope of doing something at least very slightly productive, I have decided to stop trying altogether and instead think about butternut squash.
Why butternut squash? Well, a) because I’ve been cooking a lot of it and b) because it is such a low maintenance vegetable I feel like I might be able to muster enough concentration to deal with the thought of one right now. Butternut is one of those great vegetables to stock up on because if you keep them somewhere cool and dry, they’ll keep for a good long time without any extra attention and you can pull one out whenever you’re looking for something to cook. My friends Griff and Liz bought a bunch of squash in bulk last year in the fall and stashed them all over their apartment – we kept discovering them peeking out from under the couches, behind the doors, on bookshelves (everywhere except the pantry!). The squash lasted them right through until early summer, not once complaining of neglect.
Butternut squash can also be fantastically low maintenance to cook. Taking it to the most extreme lazy version, you can stick a whole squash in the oven at about 400F and let it roast until it’s soft and the skin is easily pierced with a fork (a bit over an hour, I’d say). Then you can remove it from the oven, really easily cut it open, remove the seeds, and then scoop out the rest of the orange flesh. Butternut is naturally very sweet (sort of in the same family of flavors as sweet potato). To sweeten it up even more, it’s really delicious mashed with a bit of butter and maple syrup or brown sugar, but at that point it’s practically a dessert. Instead you might try adding olive oil or butter and a pinch of thyme, sage, rosemary or ginger. It’s also yummy to contrast that sweetness by adding some sharp cheese, such as blue, chevre, or parmesan, and some sautéed onions, and using the whole melange as a filling for a tart, ravioli (use store bought wonton wrappers), pizza, or a quesadilla, or as a layer in lasagne.
If you want squash chunks instead of mashed squash, you can use a vegetable peeler to peel the squash. Next cut it in half and scoop out the seeds, and then cut the rest into ½-inch chunks. Toss the chunks with olive oil and salt spread them on a baking sheet and roast them at 425F until soft, stirring a couple of times (about 20-30 minutes). These chunks can then be used in all sorts of dishes. For example, tossed with pasta, parmesan, and thyme (and pieces of bacon or Italian sausage, for the carnivores among us, yum!), or added along with some raisins to couscous or quinoa that has been flavored with Middle Eastern spices like lemon (zest or juice), cinnamon, cumin, ginger, and some salt. Or it can just be served as a side dish, like this one that I am planning on reheating to have for lunch:
Roasted Butternut Squash and Apples
- 1 medium butternut squash
- 2 medium apples
- 1-2 Tbs. olive oil
- 1 Tbs. balsamic vinegar
- Heat the oven to 425?F . Peel the squash, remove the seeds and cut into ½ -inch chunks. Cut open the apples and cut out the cores, but the leave the skin on. Cut the apples into similar sized pieces to the squash and toss them together with olive oil vinegar and a tsp. or so of salt. Spread the squash and apples out onto a baking or roasting pan and roast in the oven and roast until soft, around 30 minutes. If desired, grate a little fresh parmesan or sharp cheddar on top before serving to contrast with the sweet squash and apples.