Butternut Squash on Your Thanksgiving Table
Butternut Squash Soupby Lori Grossman
A large part of what we love about Thanksgiving is that it's a traditional meal we share with family and friends. I bet you have a favorite dish that you look forward to, whether it's a green bean casserole, or your mom's special coconut layer cake. Mine is the cornbread dressing, whether it's homemade or bought at one of my favorite cafeterias. But if you're bringing a side dish to a family gathering, or if you're hosting and looking for something a bit different, do I have a squash for you!
Most of us are familiar with summer squash, like yellow crookneck or zucchini. If you're not very adventurous food-wise, however, you may not have tried any winter squash except for pumpkin. Some of the most common varieties are Hubbard, butternut, acorn, spaghetti and buttercup. The term "winter squash" includes any squash with a thick, tough skin. This is the best time to find winter squash in the produce section of your grocery store.
Butternut squash is my favorite. It has a light tan-colored skin and bright orange flesh inside, which is dense and sweet. Unlike some of the other varieties, it's easy to peel so you can use chunks of squash in recipes. You can find them in different sizes, but I find the smaller ones are easier to cut lengthwise, take less time to cook, and have a sweeter taste. There's another reason why I like them. I have a weakness for baby-sized vegetables. I suppose that's a holdover from my childhood. I loved anything miniature, especially my tiny set of china cups and saucers.
Besides being versatile, butternut squash is really delicious. Here are three ways you can serve it. Choose any one; it's sure to surprise and please the guests at your Thanksgiving table.
How to Bake Fresh Butternut SquashTo cook unpeeled fresh butternut squash, cut the squash in half lengthwise and remove the seeds with a fork. Preheat oven to 350°F. Place squash, cut side down, on a baking sheet lined with foil. Bake 45 minutes, or until squash is tender when pierced with a fork. Allow squash to cool, or using oven mitts, scrape the squash from the rind. If you are baking unpeeled butternut squash, increase the oven temperature to 400°F, and bake 10 to 15 minutes longer, or until squash is tender when pierced with a fork.
Butternut Squash as a First CourseIf you're counting calories, which is tough enough on a regular basis, this soup is a wonderful way to start off your Thanksgiving feast. It looks and tastes like it's calorie rich, but each serving is a modest 140 calories.
Butternut Squash and Apple SoupIf any of your guests aren't fond of sweet potatoes or whatever side dishes you're planning, offer them this dish instead. The spices make it a great accompaniment to either turkey or ham. When the others get a taste, they may prefer it, too, especially when they find out its low-calorie content. Makes it a lot easier to enjoy dessert later with no pangs of conscience.
Place pans on two oven racks. Roast 1 hour or until very tender and golden, rotating pans between upper and lower racks halfway through roasting time. Cool slightly. With a spoon, scoop out the flesh from squash halves and transfer to a medium-size bowl. Discard any dark, tough bottom layers from onion quarters. Cut onion and apples into large chunks.
In a blender at low speed, blend one-third of the roasted vegetable mixture with 1 can broth until puréed. Pour puréed mixture into a 4-quart saucepan. Repeat two more times with the remaining vegetable mixture and broth. Add 2 cups water to puréed mixture and heat to boiling over high heat. Reduce heat to low. Cover and simmer 5 minutes to blend flavors.
To serve the soup, ladle into individual soup bowls and swirl some yogurt into each serving, if desired. Garnish with chives and sprinkle with pepper. Makes about 12 cups or 12 first-course servings.
Note: If not serving the soup right away, pour into a large bowl, cover and refrigerate up to 2 days. Or ladle soup into freezer-safe containers and freeze up to 1 month. Thaw in refrigerator overnight. To serve, reheat over medium heat.
Butternut Squash as a Side Dish
Spiced Butternut Squash
Add the squash and 1/2 cup water. Cook, covered, for 15 minutes, or until squash is tender, gently stirring occasionally. (To keep squash from breaking up while you're stirring, use a rubber spatula.)
Stir in the brown sugar, butter and cilantro until squash is well coated. Makes about 8 cups or 12 accompaniment servings.
Pumpkin pie is the classic Thanksgiving dessert. I sure do look forward to it all year, but try this pie, too. And if you want to have some fun, don't tell anyone that it's not pumpkin or sweet potato. Let everyone take a taste, then ask them to guess what kind of pie it is. Do you think anyone will guess that it's butternut squash?
Butternut Square as a Dessert Course
Butternut Squash Pie
Flaky Pastry Crust
Remove the dough from the refrigerator and roll out the pastry on a floured work surface. Roll pastry into an 11-inch circle. Line a 9-inch pie pan with the pastry, trim and crimp the edges, and set aside.
With an electric mixer, beat the puréed squash, sugar, flour, salt, and spices in a large mixing bowl until well combined. Beat in the egg, milk, and melted butter. Continue beating until smooth. Spoon the filling into the unbaked pie shell.
Place the pie on a baking sheet and bake in a 450°F preheated oven for 15 minutes. Then reduce the oven temperature to 325°F and bake until the filling is firm and a cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean, about 40 minutes more. Makes 8 servings.
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