It seems that I have been inundated with butternut squash. Our own garden yielded a few nice size squash this year (score!) and my CSA share has included two or three in each of the last three weeks. So, the squash are really piling up in my pantry.
It’s no worry though, because everyone in my family loves butternut squash. Yes, really, everyone! My oldest son just learned that he liked squash this fall. And not just butternut squash either. He has decided he also likes acorn squash, spaghetti squash and delicata. Victory!
I’ve been coming up with all sorts of creative ways to use the squash: butternut squash muffins, black bean and butternut squash tacos, butternut squash soup, butternut squash and kale risotto, mashed butternut squash and, of course, simple roasted butternut squash.
It’s the roasted butternut squash recipe that I am going to share today as a healthy Thanksgiving side dish, simply because it’s so easy to prepare and so delicious with turkey. Because let’s face it, with all the things we need to do to get Thanksgiving dinner on the table, everyone needs a few simple sides dishes.
The hardest thing about preparing butternut squash, especially for roasted recipes, is cutting up the squash. I always struggle with this vegetable. For years I blamed it on dull knives; but, even after investing in a new set of high-quality kitchen knives I still struggle. I was ready to admit it was a lack of strength on my part which prevented me from expertly chopping up this vegetable; but, even my husband admits it is a difficult job. So much so that when I put butternut squash on a shopping list he buys the pre-cut variety. For the record, I am fine with that; but, I don’t think I can take the dozen or so squash that I already have to my local grocery store for chopping.
I have learned that the easiest way to cook butternut squash is to roast it whole in the oven. Simply poke a few holes in the skin of the squash, put it in a glass dish with a little bit of water in the bottom and bake at 350 degrees for about an hour. (This works for pumpkins too, btw). Once the squash has cooled slightly, cut it in half, scoop out the seeds and peel away the skin. This method yields a soft squash perfect for pureeing and mashing. But, it doesn’t work so well if you want to maintain chunky pieces of squash.
Fear not though. I do have a tip to make prepping butternut squash for roasting easier. Simply poke a couple holes in your squash, place on a microwave safe dish and microwave it on high for about 3 minutes. This softens the squash enough to make it much easier to get your knife through it, but does’t cook it enough to make it mushy. Once the squash cools slightly, you can still dice it up for roasting. And it cooks faster in the oven – BONUS! Note: You may have to play around with your microwave cooking time to yield the perfect consistency as all microwaves are different.
For this recipe I simply combined 2 tablespoons of olive oil, 2 teaspoons of sea salt, 1 teaspoon of coarse black pepper and 2 teaspoons of cinnamon in a small bowl. On a baking sheet I spread out 1 large butternut squash (about 3 cups) cut into 1 inch pieces and 2 cloves of garlic, minced. Then I drizzled the seasoned olive oil over the squash and tossed to combine. I roasted the squash in a 400 degree oven for about 20 minutes, until squash was tender and lightly browned. The squash is both sweet and savory and pairs well with the brussel sprouts recipe I posted last week.
Oh, and don’t worry about your Thanksgiving oven being too crowded to make this easy, delicious and healthy side. These dishes can be prepared ahead and then cooked up quickly after your turkey is done and resting on the counter.