It's Better With Butternut

(This post was published in the December 2 Tasty Tuesday section of The News Review.)

With one feast behind us and more holiday treats ahead, I thought I'd offer a few recipes packed with nutrition to balance the candy, fudge, cookies, and other goodies we'll likely indulge in this month. I've recently become quite fond of butternut squash. It's inexpensive, locally grown, and easy to prepare. It's also low in calories, high in fiber and vitamins A and C, and a good source of magnesium and potassium. You can store whole butternut squashes in your garage all winter long, so why not head out to your local farmers market or fruit stand and stock up?

From soup to pie to a raw squash salad, you won't get bored with this versatile vegetable. Drizzled with olive oil and sprinkled with sea salt, roasted butternut squash is delicious straight from the oven. I recently made lunch for two dozen people and received as many compliments on the roasted squash side dish as I did on the double chocolate raspberry brownies I served for dessert. Roasting squash is a simple procedure and it's the first step in several of the recipes that follow.

My dear friend and baking buddy, Laura Smith, has generously shared her recipe for Butternut Squash Pie. Pumpkin pie devotees are often skeptical, so Laura doesn't let on that it's not pumpkin until they have tasted it and begin to rave. She's won many converts over the years, including my son.

Raw squash salad is a delight. I'd never thought about eating butternut squash raw until I saw a recipe in Clean Eating magazine. I use the same dressing I make for a carrot salad, but I now prefer it made with squash.

The soup is my version of a classic. The sweetness of the vegetables is intensified by roasting the squash and the onions until they begin to caramelize before pureeing with the broth. It's perfect as a first course for dinner or a light lunch.

Tools of the Trade
(Hint: these make great gifts!)

I'm not a big fan of kitchen gadgets, but I'll mention two tools that I don't use often, but love having on hand when I need them. The first is a Microplane zester/grater. It's razor-sharp and looks like a wood rasp. It's perfect for zesting citrus fruits or grating fresh nutmeg. (Once you try fresh nutmeg, you'll be hooked. The most economical way to buy fresh nutmeg is from the spice section in the bulk foods aisle. A few whole nutmegs will last all year and cost less than a dollar.) The Microplane also works on Parmesan cheese. It's so much fun to use that I've been known to wander around the kitchen just looking for new things to grate.

The second tool I'm crazy about is my Titan julienne cutter. I would never have bought it on it's own; it came in a set with a vegetable peeler I wanted for shaving hard cheeses and chocolate.

Now I can make lovely julienne strips of carrot, zucchini, and butternut squash quickly and easily to use in salads and side dishes or to add a professional-looking garnish.

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