Winter cooking centers around a few notable and versatile ingredients, not the least being New England’s winter squashes. These hard-skinned squashes are grown in autumn but store well and are readily available this time of year. Butternut squash, in one form or another, has existed for hundreds, if not thousands, of years and is distinctly of the Americas. Unlike its summer squash counterparts, such as zucchini and yellow squashes, butternut and other winter squashes develop hard outer skins and firm flesh, which allows for over-winter storage.

 

When roasted or simmered, the flesh of the butternut squash becomes creamy, with a taste like pumpkin crossed with sweet potato. But while its flavor is similar to pumpkin, it has a savory edge that lends itself to different dishes and seasonings than pumpkin does. For instance, pumpkin is rarely paired with cumin or rosemary, but butternut’s flavor shines with either.

 

When choosing a butternut squash, look for squashes that are uniformly beige, smooth, and free of blemishes. Green stripes are an indication of being under-ripe. Butternuts should be in the two to three pound range for normal recipes and will yield about three to four cups of cubed squash or purée for a recipe. Butternut also freezes well both in raw and cooked forms.

 

With its hard outer shell, cutting butternut squash can be a difficult and somewhat dangerous endeavor. The easiest way is to use a sharp, heavy knife to carefully remove the stem at the top, then cut the squash in half between the thin neck and the round bulb. Carefully cut the neck and bulb in half and remove the seeds. These can be cleaned and roasted, just like pumpkin seeds. The halves can now be roasted as-is or peeled and diced according to your preparation. The skin slips off easily after roasting, and the flesh is easiest to mash while still warm.

 

Just a bit of work pays off with enough squash to use in several dishes. A simple purée in a blender with a splash of cream and spices makes a quick soup. Toss cubed squash with olive oil and roast, then drizzle with a local maple syrup for a quick side dish. Roasted chunks are great to stir into pasta or mash instead of potatoes. Add diced, cooked, and cooled butternut to salads, omelets, or anywhere a bright taste and splash of color is called for. Roasted cubes also make an alternative base for hummus that can be prepared as usual, substituting the butternut for the garbanzo beans and lowering the amount of oil and water that may be added. It can also be used as a base for this flavorful bread that is perfect for holiday gatherings or a sweet morning treat.

November 29, 2017

Ingredients

  • 1 cup butternut squash, cooked and mashed
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon (optional)
  • 1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup light brown sugar, firmly packed
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/2 cup pecan halves or pieces (optional)
  • Extra butter, pan spray, or vegetable oil to grease loaf pan
  • Parchment paper

Preparation

Preheat over to 350°F. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and optional cinnamon.

Using a stand mixer with paddle attachment (or using a hand mixer) beat butter until creamy, then add granulated and brown sugar. Beat until fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time, and beat until smooth. Add mashed butternut and mix until smooth. Add dry ingredients to the mixer (flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt) and slowly mix until just combined, adding the optional nuts about halfway through. Be careful not to overmix.

Pour batter into a 9”x5” loaf pan that has been oiled and lined with parchment paper. Bake for about an hour or until a toothpick inserted into bread comes out clean. Allow to cool in the pan. Remove bread from loaf pan to a wire rack and continue to cool. Slice and serve warm or store, tightly wrapped, at room temperature or in refrigerator.

Ingredients

  • 1 cup butternut squash, cooked and mashed
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon (optional)
  • 1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup light brown sugar, firmly packed
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/2 cup pecan halves or pieces (optional)
  • Extra butter, pan spray, or vegetable oil to grease loaf pan
  • Parchment paper
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