With its sweet, nutty taste and deep orange color, butternut squash is one of my favorite foods to cook and something I look forward to all year. For me, the first butternut squash of the season is the unofficial start of fall. Whether roasted, baked, braised, sautéed or pureed in a soup, butternut squash is a tasty, nutritious start to the cold weather.
Butternut squash is loaded with fiber, vitamin A, vitamin C and vitamin B6. It is also a great source of potassium, magnesium, iron, calcium, manganese and vitamin E. A cup of diced butternut squash contains about 120 calories.
Butternut squash needs to be peeled before cooking .The skin can be quite tough and I recommend a heavy-duty serrated edge peeler for the task.
When peeling make sure you peel all of the green veins away. Once peeled, the squash should be cut in half and the seeds removed. A large 3/4 inch dice is perfect for roasting with a little oil, fresh garlic, salt and pepper.
Glazing with honey, cardamom and cinnamon is another preparation I like to try at home. My favorite recipe is risotto style. I cook a mirepoix or soffritto of onions, garlic and celery in olive oil, substituting the traditional rice with small diced butternut squash and whatever leftover seasonal vegetables I have in my refrigerator. Stock is slowly added until the vegetables are tender, adding flavor and moisture. I usually serve this as a side dish with chicken or grilled pork.
Butternut Squash Risotto Style
1 butternut squash, medium size (¼ inch dice, approx four cups)
2 cups onion (¼ inch dice)
3 cloves garlic (finely chopped)
2 ribs celery or celery leaves (1/4 inch dice)
1 red chili (finely chopped, seeds removed) optional
4 tablespoons olive oil
2 cups chicken or vegetable stock
6 oz shitake mushrooms (stems removed and thinly sliced)
1 red pepper (1/4 inch diced, approximately two cups)
1 yellow squash
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
8 sage leaves (chopped)
1 tablespoon chopped chives
1. Heat oil in skillet.
2. Add onions, garlic, celery and chili if using (soffritto).
3. Cook until vegetables are soft, about five minutes.
4. Add butternut squash and red peppers, if using.
5. Stir to coat with soffritto.
6. Add chicken stock a quarter cup at a time and cook until absorbed/evaporated over high heat; keep stirring the vegetables.
7. Before you add the last quarter cup of stock, add other vegetables (mushrooms, squash and corn).
8. Cook until last of the stock has evaporated.
9. Add one tablespoon butter, sage and chives.
10. Taste, season and serve. This is a perfect dish to serve with roast chicken and grilled pork.