We all know that pumpkins and smaller squash are making the seasonal appearance. From the Northern farms, these creamy, sweet vegetables are joined by the first of the fall, tart McIntosh apples – and, of course, crisp, fresh pressed apple cider. When I lived in New England I planned picnics almost every weekend at these local farms, where one could also enjoy a hayride, before heading home for pans of apple crisp and warm apple compote.
Squash, like acorn and even spaghetti squash, has become a staple at home, helping to cut down on rich sauces and starchy sides. In fact, roasted spaghetti squash, stuffed with sweet fennel sausage, sautéed spinach and basil, fresh snipped chives and Parmesan cheese takes the place of spaghetti and meatballs more often on our table. Butternut squash is also a wonderful, lighter way to prepare a gluten-free macaroni and cheese.
While I may never switch over to eating a vegetarian diet, seasonal vegetables can nutritionally boost us. The balanced experience is also extended by the bright, yet soothing, colors. Back in the day, my mother roasted acorn squash with butter and maple syrup. Today, I, too, roast the squash, but pomegranate seeds and a drizzle of balsamic reduction make for even more of a delectable experience.
As for storing acorn squash, in a somewhat cool kitchen or pantry, the vegetable will last 5-8 weeks. Butternut squash can last up to a month, or even two. Such capacity for storage not only provides home cook options, but also last minute dinner ideas. Roasting, often, produces a sweeter side; fresh pumpkins are no exception. Don’t be intimidated by the challenge of cutting through these fall vegetable favorites, the arduous task is well worth the muscle.
Did you know that in Australia butternut squash, one of the most popular of the winter squash varietals is also known as butternut pumpkin? Butternut is similar to pumpkin in its nutty taste and sweetness. Available year round, butternut squash is in full season from September through April. When completely ripe, it becomes richer and sweeter in color. Look for an orange skin, which means the pulp will be bright orange and less watery. The most popular variety is the Waltham Butternut, originated in Stow, Massachusetts. However, do not make plans to go to the original squash farm, unless you bring golf clubs. The farm is now home to the Butternut Farm Golf Course.
Butternut squash is rich in fiber, potassium, vitamin C and vitamin A. Calories appear when brown sugar and butter, a staple for classic winter squash preparations, is added. I prefer to use butternut squash in soups and risottos, often making a simple bisque when our weather in Florida gets below 80 degrees.
Baked Acorn Squash with Cranberry-Orange- Apple Compote
3 acorn squash
3 fresh sprigs thyme
3 ounces brown sugar or orange-blossom honey
5 ounces Irish butter cut into 12 pieces
1 ½ teaspoon kosher salt
Fresh ground black pepper
24 ounces cranberry-orange compote
1 cup chopped pecans
Preheat oven to 400 degrees
Quarter the squash and remove the seeds. Place the squash cut side down on a cookie sheet. Sprinkle with honey or brown sugar. Place one cube of butter on each squash piece and season with salt, pepper and fresh thyme.
Roast squash for 30 minutes covered. Remove foil and bake about 15 more minutes until tender, basting with the melted butter. Remove thyme
Top with compote and chopped pecans
For the Compote:
2 pounds fresh cranberries
12 ounces fresh squeezed orange juice
6 ounces sugar
4 ounces zest of orange
2 granny smith apples peeled, cored and chopped
Pinch of Kosher salt
Combine cranberries, orange juice, chopped apples and enough water to barely cover the cranberries in a medium saucepan.
Add the sugar and simmer over medium heat until the cranberries are soft and the liquid thickens, about 10 minutes.
Stir in orange zest and pinch of salt and pepper
Butternut Bisque with Crispy Bacon
1 large butternut squash, (about 2 pounds)
1-pound medium leeks
8 slices thick cut bacon
Kosher salt and fresh ground black pepper
3 cups chicken stock or broth
Splash light cream
Cut the squash in half across its width. Cut these pieces in half lengthwise. Place the squash, cut sides down, on a rimmed baking sheet and pour ½-cup water over the squash. Roast for 50 minutes, moving the pieces around with a spatula after 30 minutes so they do not stick. Remove the squash from the oven and set aside.
Cut the leeks into ½-inch pieces and add to a 4-quart pot. Cook over high heat, stirring constantly to release some of the fat, for about 1 minute. Add the chopped leeks to the pot with the bacon; reduce the heat to medium and cook, stirring often, until the leeks are well-softened and beginning to color, about 10 minutes.
Scoop the squash out of the flesh from the squash shells and add it to the pot with the leeks. Add 3 cups chicken stock and ½-teaspoon salt to the pot and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to a simmer, cover the pot, and cook for 20 minutes. In two batches, transfer the soup to a blender.
Process until very smooth and velvety. Add salt and freshly ground pepper to taste. Return the soup to the pot and reheat gently before serving. Gently add cream. Meanwhile, in a small skillet over medium heat, cook the remaining 2 slices of bacon until crisp. Drain and discard the fat. Pat the bacon dry with paper towels, coarsely crumble and scatter on the soup. Serve immediately.
Gluten-free Creamy Butternut Squash Macaroni and Cheese
Adapted from Cooking Light
1- 9-ounce box Banza Rotini
Butternuts squash bisque (2 cups) you may omit bacon from the recipe but for the holidays I love some crispy diced pancetta.
1 cup low-fat milk
2 TBSP. plain Greek yogurt
Fresh ground black pepper
Fresh ground sea salt or Kosher salt to taste
4 ounces grated gruyere cheese
4 ounces Pecorino-Romano
2-ounces Parmesan, grated
1 teaspoon Irish butter
1 cup gluten free bread crumbs
Boil pasta according to box. Drain
In a medium saucepan add milk, yogurt, butternut squash bisque, and gruyere. Stir on low heat. Season and add Romano and ½ of the Parmesan.
Stir cooked Chickpea pasta into mixture and pour into greased baking dish.
In a small sauté pan, melt butter and add gluten free breadcrumbs. Toss to coat with butter and toast gently until golden brown.
Place on top of mac-n-cheese and bake at 350 for 20 minutes until bubbly.
Remember you can always add more bisque to the dish if you like it even creamier!
- Add ½ cup chopped pecans to the breadcrumbs
- Add 1 Tbsp. canned chipotle for a Southwestern flare
- You can substitute regular curly pasta and panko breadcrumb if you aren’t going Gluten free but trust me- follow the recipe and children won’t even know it is chick pea pasta
Butternut Squash Risotto
- 1 T Olive oil
- 1 C diced butter
- 1 1/2 pounds butternut squash, peeled, seeded, and cut into 1/2-inch chunks
- 1 cup Arborio rice
- 1/2 cup dry white wine
- 1Qt Vegetable Stock
- 1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese, plus more for garnish
- ¼ cup shredded asiago cheese
- 1 tablespoon chopped fresh sage, plus more for garnish
- Salt and Pepper to taste
In a medium heavy-bottom saucepan, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add squash; season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring often, until edges soften, 6 to 8 minutes.
Add rice; stir to coat. Add wine; cook until almost all liquid has evaporated, 1 to 2 minutes.
Reduce heat to medium-low; add 1/2 cup hot broth mixture. Cook, stirring, until almost all liquid is absorbed. Add remaining broth mixture,
1/2 cup at a time, stirring until liquid is absorbed before adding more, 35 to 40 minutes total.
Stir in Parmesan, sage, butter and 1 1/2 teaspoons salt. Serve immediately, garnished with more Parmesan and sage, if desired.
Pumpkin and Apple Custard
The Apple Lover’s Cookbook by Amy Traverso (My bible of all things apple)
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1 cup pumpkin puree
¼ cup apple butter
½ cup evaporated milk
1 Tablespoon all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon kosher salt
¼ teaspoon ground ginger
¼ teaspoon ground cloves
¼ teaspoon ground allspice
Preheat oven to 425 degrees and set a rack in the middle position. Butter souffle dish. Fill a kettle with about 4 cups water and bring to a simmer.
Meanwhile, in a large bowl, using a standard or handheld mixer, beat the eggs and sugar at medium-high speed for 2 minutes, until thick and pale yellow. Gently fold in the remaining ingredients.
Pour the custard into the prepared dish and set in the baking pan. Transfer both to the oven, then fill the baking dish with enough water to come halfway up the sides of the souffle dish. Bake for 10 minutes. Reduce the heat to 350 degrees F and bake until the center of the custard barely jiggles when shaken, 30 to 45 minutes. Let sit for 10 minutes, then serve warm.