Wednesday, November 24, 2010
Baked Winter Squash
First of all, I have to note that today, November 24th, is not only the 54th anniversary of my partner's parents, Jim and Mary Lou (who remain adorably and inspiringly in love), but the 6th anniversary of our beloved doggie, Lucy, coming to join our family. All in all, an auspicious date, and one with an important connection to today's post, since my middle son - one of Lucy's first and very best friends - loves winter squash. Acorn, pumpkin, butternut...rather like myself with bread stuffing, give him a bowlful, and he's happy to make a meal of it. In fact, there's a family story about him being at my parents' house, aged about six; upon seeing some leftover squash in the refrigerator, he asked if he could have a bowl for an after-school snack. My mom noticed that he was eating it very slowly, and asked if he'd prefer something else, to which he replied, "Oh, no, it's so good; I'm just savoring it!" At various times, I experiment with different preparations - for example, the great recipe for "Hungarian Squash" in the original Laurel's Kitchen, and winter squash in any coconut curry is a match made in heaven - but at the holidays, baked and mashed with the simplest of seasonings is the way to go for us; as the saying goes, "if it ain't broke, don't fix it." (As per usual, this makes enough for a family meal, so go ahead and halve it if you like; then again, who ever complained about leftovers? NB that you could also apply the same treatment to pumpkins, or to any other winter squash; we just happen to like butternut!)
Baked Butternut (or other winter) Squash
~ 2 large butternut squashes, halved and seeded
~ 1/4 cup olive oil
~ 1/4 cup maple syrup
~ Salt and pepper to taste
~ Pinch of nutmeg
~ Earth Balance or other vegan margarine
~ Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
~ In a bowl or beaker, combine the olive oil, maple syrup, salt, pepper, and nutmeg.
~ Split the squash in half lengthwise, and remove the seeds. Score the flesh of the squash, making 1/2-inch deep cuts through it one way and then the other (in a sort of checker-board pattern).
~ Rub the skin side of the squash halves with a little extra olive oil, then rub the insides with the oil/syrup/seasoning mixture.
~ Arrange cut side up on a cookie sheet, then cover with foil, and bake at 400 degrees for about 20 minutes.
~ Remove the foil, and bake another 20-25 minutes, until the flesh is tender when pierced with a fork.
~ When the squash is cool enough to handle, use a spoon to gently scoop the flesh from the shells into a large bowl.
~ With a potato masher, mash to a pulp - isn't this fun?! - then add the amount of margarine you see fit. (I know I usually tell people how much of stuff to use, but like mashed potatoes, I see this as a matter of individual taste. We like our squash pretty "buttery" - say 3-4 tbsps. - but you may feel differently. De gustibus non est disputandum, eh?)
~ Taste for seasoning, and serve hot - remembering to savor it!