Food in Season: Five Ways with Butternut Squash

{by Rebecca Florio}

One of my favorite things about living in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania is the abundance of farm stands that dot the windy roads through miles of cornfields and silos. I look for the appearance of asparagus in early spring like some wait for the newest movie to come into the theater. I literally squeal with delight when the first watermelons fill roadside carts. I am seriously contemplating creating a bumper sticker that reads “I Brake for Produce.”

 Eating locally and in season is one of the best ways to support farms in your community in producing safe and healthy foods. Filling your fridge with produce straight from the farm rather than fruits and vegetables that have endured the long factory processes of packing, shipping and sitting on the shelf means you will enjoy the freshest and most nutritious tastes.
Here we are, entering October, and transitioning into my favorite season of all — autumn. With the crisp air, woolly sweaters, and bonfires, also come the lima beans, the brussel sprouts, the winter squash, and the pumpkin (Aside: I LOVE PUMPKIN! Seriously, it’s my favorite flavor/smell/color ever. Just had to say that).
A few weeks ago, my mom came home with a beautiful butternut squash and we both gushed over the first find of the season. Two days later, she came home with three more. Now I know my mom and I know when she likes a thing, she really likes it and if she had an affinity for butternut squash, someone better start cooking with it.
So cook I did. And still am. The season is just beginning and the squashes keep on coming. If you are wise, you’ll take advantage of it, brake for the nearest produce stands and try one of these five delicious healthy ways with butternut squash.

1. Roasted with apples and candied walnuts. Butternut squash has a natural sweetness and rich taste that is wonderfully enhanced by baking it with fruit. Cube the squash and apples, coat with a maple syrup-balsamic vinegar mixture, sprinkle with some cinnamon and bake at 400 degrees for about 40 minutes or until tender. Toss in walnuts pre-toasted in cinnamon sugar and serve warm. (Look for full recipe on my blog later this week)

2. Home Fry Style. This dish was one of those clean-out-the-veggie-drawer kind of lunches. I sauteed onions and peppers in a little bit of Earth Balance (or butter) and then threw in chopped butternut squash (think home-fry size) asparagus, garlic, and oregano. Delicious! 

3. Stuffed. If you cut butternut squash lengthwise (use a sharp knife!) and scoop out the seeds, you have a lovely hole to be filled with whatever stuffing you like. Try this one: Soften bread crumbs in vegetable broth, and mix with chopped nuts, raisins, onion, and rosemary. Pack into the hole and bake away in a 375 oven until the squash is soft.

4. Smoothie. Yes, that’s right, butternut squash makes an excellent smoothie ingredient. This is a great way to use up extra cooked squash. (and a great way to use up extra cooked squash!) Puree some squash in a blender and to 1 c. puree add ¾ c. milk, cinnamon, ginger, vanilla extract, spoonful of honey, and a handful of ice. Instant yum.

5. Soup. I’ll give you the full recipe for this one. It’s incredible — autumn in a bowl. You must make it immediately!

Butternut, Carrot, and Nut Butter Soup

– 1 large butternut squash

– 4 large carrots, chopped

– 1 packet vegetable buillon

– 2 T. butter or Earth Balance

– ¼ c. unsweetened nut butter (I used sunflower seed butter which was amazing, but almond butter or peanut butter would work just as well).

– 3 c. vegetable broth

– 1 t. nutmeg

– 1 T. honey

– 1 t. salt

– ½ t. pepper

1) Preheat oven to 350F. Cut squash in quarters, scoop out and discard seeds. Place squash pieces flesh-side down on baking pans and roast for 1 hour or until soft. Remove and let cool.

2) Meanwhile, cover carrots and vegetable buillon with cold water  and boil until carrots are tender. Drain, but do not discard cooking water! Let carrots cool slightly and then puree in a food processor or blender.

3) When squash has cooled, scoop out flesh from skins and puree with ½ c. vegetable broth.

4) Melt butter in a large saucepan. Add pureed squash, carrots, and nut butter and stir to combine. Add vegetable broth, leftover carrot water, nutmeg, honey, salt and pepper. Simmer gently for about 20 minutes. If soup is too thick, thin with more broth.

photography credit: Rebecca Florio