~ How to: Oven-Roast Butternut Squash (Halves) ~
I love butternut squash and every Fall Joe's garden gifts us with a few beauties. Some are big and some are small, some are short and some are tall -- I love them all. Butternut squash, how do I love thee, let me count the ways: 1) Sliced raw and baked into main or side-dish casseroles. 2) Peeled, cubed, seasoned and roasted, or, sliced into halves, roasted and mashed as tasty side-dishes. 3) Steamed to make purée for appetizers, soups and desserts.
A bit about butternut squash: Butternut squash is one of our healthy super-foods. That’s great but I'd eat it even if it weren't, and, when it comes to savory applications, I prefer its subtly-sweet taste it to the noticeably blander pumpkin. For the most part, all Winter squash are pretty quick and easy to prepare. My favorite methods for rendering them tender and edible are roasting and steaming, as boiling, in my opinion, leaches out whatever flavor they have to offer. Like pumpkin, butternut squash falls into the category of Winter squash -- which differs from Summer squash (like zucchini and yellow crookneck) in that their skin is hard and inedible. They're allowed to fully-mature on the vine and once harvested in the Fall, if kept in a cool, dry place, they can be stored for several months.
Winter squash was one of the three main crops planted by the Native Americans. Known as the "three sisters" (corn, beans and squash) they were highly-prized for their extra-long shelf life.
When it some to roasting butternut squash halves, size matters. Common sense says: a larger squash will take longer to roast than a small one, and, when oven-roasting multiple squash, 2-4-6 at the same time, it's important to choose those as close in size and shape as you can. Today, for demonstration purposes, I'm using:
2, 2-2 1/4-pound butternut squash, unpeeled and sliced in half lengthwise and seeded
2 tablespoons vegetable oil, for brushing on squash
~ Step 1. Prep the squash as directed (and pictured) above, and, using a pastry brush, paint the yellow interior surface of each half with the oil. Place the squash halves, side-by-side, oiled-sides-down, on a 17 1/2" x 12 1/2" baking pan that has been lined with parchment paper.
~ Step 2. Roast on center rack of 350° oven, until skins are browning and blistering and a knife can be easily inserted into the skin and through to the baking pan, about 45-50 minutes. Remove from oven and cool in the pan until squash can be easily handled with the hands, 15-20 minutes.
Note: Right now, you have a wonderful side-dish for four people. Serve with butter pats, salt and pepper (plus a drizzle of honey or maple syrup), just as you would a baked potato or sweet potato. Or:
~ Step 3. Using an ordinary tablespoon, scoop the soft, tender, pretty-orange centers from the tough skin and use as directed in whatever recipe you are following.
Two 2-21/4-pound squash (halved) = 3-3 1/2 cups cooked squash.
Special Equipment List: cutting board; chef's knife; tablespoon; pastry brush; 17 1/2" x 12 1/2" baking pan; parchment paper
Cook's Note: If you enjoy snacking on roasted pumpkin seeds as much as I do, you'll be thrilled to find out that squash seeds, which are about the same size and texture, are just as good, if not better. To see how I do it, click into Category 2, 15 or 18 and learn ~ How to: Clean & Roast Pumpkin (or Squash) Seeds ~.
"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti
(Recipe, Commentary and Photos Courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2016)