Fall is in the air — particularly in the morning and evenings. Over the past few weeks, I have been slowly transitioning my seasonal meals to more comforting preparations, with soups and stews, slow roasted meats and hearty dishes to warm the body.
The seasonal shift brings with it a wonderful assortment of winter squashes, with dozens of various culinary pumpkins available at our local farmers’ markets. With varying shapes, sizes and colors, each offers a slightly different texture and flavor profile. Of all the options to choose from, the one seemingly receiving the most attention is the ever-so popular butternut squash.
The sweet deep orange flesh of this amazing winter gourd possesses one of the most desired tastes and textures of its kind. As this dense, bell-shaped squash begins to slowly roast in the oven, its tough beige skin crackles, developing a slight black char on its outer surface. The texture of its flesh softens, and the flavors concentrate. The fragrance from the slow-roasting butternut squash is released in the kitchen, always keeping me in anticipation of the meal to come.
When selecting your butternut squash, the skin should have a nice beige coloring, free of any green that was present in its developmental stage. The size of your squash really doesn’t make too much of a difference when it comes to flavor, but keep in mind that a small squash will go a long way.
Unlike some of the other winter squash varieties, butternut has a very high ratio of flesh to seed and skin, so they are quite dense in comparison. They will, therefore, deliver a very hearty and satisfying finish to your meals.
Butternut squash and other hard winter squashes are among the best-keeping vegetables. Uncut squash can be kept for many months in a cool, dry place. Storage below 50°F (as in the refrigerator) will cause squash to deteriorate more quickly, but refrigerator storage is acceptable for a week or two.
In my experience, I have found that no matter what the end use for your butternut squash is — whether used to make a pie, puree, soup, or halved and topped with a little brown sugar and toasted walnuts — the best results always come from a slow roast in the oven.
Below is a recipe for a deliciously hearty butternut squash soup. If you are not in the mood for soup, simply follow the roasting instructions and stop there, as it makes an excellent side on its own.
Roasted Garlic and Ginger Infused Butternut Squash Soup
1 medium butternut squash.
Salt to taste.
Pepper to taste
2 tablespoons butter or olive oil.
1 large onion, diced.
6 cloves garlic, minced.
2 tablespoon fresh ginger, peeled and minced.
3 cups chicken broth (I used low sodium sodium.
1/2 teaspoon red chili flakes.
1 teaspoon ground cumin.
½ teaspoon smoked paprika.
½ cup chopped fresh cilantro (or parsley), finely chopped.
Cut the butternut squash in half. Remove seeds and drizzle the top with olive oil. Season liberally with salt and pepper and roast in a 400-degree oven for about an hour, or until fork tender and skin peels easily. The skin may have a slight charring and cracking around its skin. Remove flesh from skin and set aside.
In a large pot, saute onion, garlic, and ginger in butter or olive oil until tender. Add butternut squash, broth, and spices to the pot and simmer for about 15 minutes.
Add contents to a blender, or use a puree stick, and blend until smooth. Add back in the pot, if you used the blender, and slowly add sour cream and cilantro at a low heat and mix until it is worked through. But don’t bring the pot to a boil.
Taste and season with salt and pepper as desired to taste.
Yield: Serves 6.