Thursday, December 29, 2011

Butternut Squash Puree


If left to my own devices, I would probably eat butternut squash at every meal.  I like it in soup (such a lovely color), I adore it baked, and, though I am the lone member of my household that feels this way, I think it is smashing when it is roasted in thin slices and laid atop a white pizza.  And, oh, have you ever had butternut squash ravioli covered in a cream sauce?

Good night.  So good, it's kind of ridiculous.

For unknown reasons, my fickle family is on an anti-butternut-squash bender right now, which attitude vexes me in myriad ways, but also allows for there to be more butternut squash for me.

I didn't want to share it anyway.

It wasn't always this way.  There was a time when we would get it from our CSA, and when the CSA season was over, from our local market.  At the time, The Boy Wonder would devour great heaping servings of it, straight from the oven, drizzled with a little olive oil and a tiny bit of salt.  I thought that (1) I must be a great parent since my child was so open to trying new things, and (2) that my child must be that special sort who would always eat his vegetables.

Methinks I might have been wrong on both accounts.  The new phase in the life of these heathen children is apparently one in which they will fight me tooth and nail on every single item I place on the kitchen table.  But I will not concede this point easily.  This fight is nowhere near over.

For now though, I alone eat butternut squash.  And I'm okay with that, as long as everyone tries a bite of everything.  Every night.  All weeping aside.

Last night, with leftover frittata to serve for dinner, I searched the fridge and freezer looking for a vegetable to serve alongside.  The only thing I could find was a tupperware full of cubed butternut squash in the freezer, and I came thisclose to calling The Carnivore and requesting a broccoli run on his way home from work, because honestly, pre-cubed and defrosted butternut squash does not lend well to many of the recipes I was running through in my mind.

Lately, given our current budgetary constraints, I have spent at least one week a month attempting to feed us from what we have on hand.  This small challenge has done well for us financially, allowing that particular week to be one in which I stop at the store only for milk and coffee (and sometimes - cough, cough - for tortilla chips).  This is one of those weeks, of course, and so far, so good, really.

We had Mozzarella-Stuffed Arancini tonight.  Tomorrow, we shall have Chilaquiles, and, as I mentioned, we enjoyed a frittata for two nights - once with roasted potatoes on the side, and once with the butternut squash puree pictured above.


Before giving in to the temptation of falling on the grocery store as backup yesterday, I did what I usually do in a time of menu ennui.  I reached for The Art of Simple Food, that fabulous Alice Waters book that would probably be my first recommendation to anyone wondering how to get started in the kitchen.  As is often the case, I found just what I needed last night: a suggestion for a winter squash puree.  There wasn't much to the little blurb in the book regarding this treatment.  Just an idea for baking the squash, pureeing it, and then serving it with butter or oil, and a little salt.  Simple, see.  The whole luscious cookbook is like that.  It is truly an essential part of my kitchen.  Also, it is beautiful, which never hurts.

Since I was starting with frozen cubed squash, baking it seemed a messy, time-consuming idea, so I poured the cubes into a metal colander, set it over a pan with an inch of water, turned it to boil, covered the whole thing with a lid, and steamed it for about 15 minutes, until the squash was so tender it nearly fell apart when I poked it with a fork.  

I dumped the whole lot of it into a food processor, added a couple pats of butter, a few pinches of salt and a couple grinds of black pepper, and then ran the processor until the squash was whipped and airy.  And it was divine.  Slightly vegetal in flavor, mellowed out and made a richer with butter, it was like mashed potatoes served in Wonderland.  Creamy, without the starchiness of potatoes, beautiful in color, and so very flavorful.  

Honestly, even the skeptical Carnivore ate more than I felt like sharing.  It was truly a thing of beauty.  I liked it just fine on its own, as an accompaniment to the frittata, and I may or may not have eaten two giant bowls full of it, but I have big plans for this recipe now.  

Remember that butternut squash ravioli I mentioned above?  My, my, my.  It would only take a few more minutes to roll out a few sheets of pasta dough, and to cut it into squares and put tiny spoonfuls of this filling in the middle, to lay another square on top, and to press them together into luscious little pillows.  Yes, I am certain that will be coming soon.

*****

BUTTERNUT SQUASH PUREE (adapted from The Art of Simple Food), serves 4 as a side dish
  • 1 large or 2 small-ish butternut squash
  • Butter, approximately 2 Tbs
  • Salt & pepper, to taste
  1. Peel the squash, cut it in half, and scoop out and discard the seeds and stringy bits.  Cut into cubes, and steam, covered, for about 20 minutes, until very tender.  
  2. Or, alternately, leave on the peel, cut the squash in half, scoop out and discard the seeds and stringy bits.  Place cut side down on an oiled baking sheet, and bake at 350 degrees for 30 to 45 minutes, or until very tender.  Cool slightly, and then scoop the flesh from the peel.
  3. Put steamed cubes (or baked flesh) into the bowl of a food processor, add a pinch or two of salt and a few grinds of black pepper, along with one tablespoon of unsalted butter, and puree until whipped and airy.
  4. Taste, and add more butter and salt as needed.
  5. Serve hot, or use as filling in ravioli.

3 comments:

Lisa said...

Oh how I do love butternut squash...... Thank you for the reminder. Now I have a sneaking suspicion what we'll be having for dinner tomorrow night.

Your comment on cleaning fairies had me giggling out loud. :)

3 posts in less than a week makes this reader so very happy! I am so dreading the coming tax season that will leave my google reader "Sarah-less". Your posts are the bright spot in my day. :)

Sarah Beam said...

Gah. Stupid tax season.

How about we just ignore it this year? There are so many better ways for us to spend our time. Like writing poetry about squash, for instance.

Jess said...

Sadly, I can count on - um - a finger how many times I've had butternut squash. I know, I know. I'll do better, and this sounds like the place to start.

You know, I make cauliflower exactly this way. I'm convinced something of magic happens at the molecular level...so good.

And down with taxes.......