The Daily Southerner, Tarboro, NC

August 15, 2012

Butternut Squash is easy and delish!

Karen Freeman

TARBORO — My garden is beginning to fade away! It's hard to believe that summer is so close to being a memory. I'm not ready! But, one of the things that I love about the end of summer is harvesting my winter squash. This season we planted butternut squash. We vary what we plant each season.

One of the great things about winter squash is that it keeps for a very long time and it's delicious in many dishes. I hope you enjoy these recipes. Give them a try.

The first is a pasta dish. It's fantastic and so easy that you will wonder why you haven't made it before.

The second recipe is butternut squash that is pureed and served with goat cheese. I absolutely love goat cheese. It's one of my favorite things in the world. It's really good with this squash.

The third dish is soup. My brother-in-law says this feels grainy to him but he likes the flavor. I don't think it's grainy, I just think it has texture. Put some croutons on top of this and a dollop of Mexican Crema and it's yummy.

The next recipe is a dip. It's great with pita chips or even wavy potato chips. I also like it on bruschetta.

The last recipe is a basic roasted butternut squash. It's so simple and yet so tasty. Brown sugar and cinnamon make it a favorite of everyone.

Pasta Pan-Fried with Butternut Squash,

Fried Sage, and Pine Nuts

1 medium butternut squash

1 small sweet onion, peeled and diced

3 cloves garlic, minced

Olive oil

Salt and pepper

1/2 cup fresh sage leaves

1 pound farfalle pasta

3/4 cup pine nuts, toasted

4 ounces high quality Parmesan, shredded or shaved (about a cup total)

Heat the oven to 375 degrees. Cut the butternut squash in half and scoop out the strings and seeds the middle cavity. Flip the squash halves upside down and peel them. (Note: The raw squash rind can irritate your hands. If they start to itch or tingle, wear gloves.) Cut the squash into 1-inch cubes. Toss with the onion, garlic, a drizzle of olive oil and salt and pepper. Mince about half of the fresh sage leaves and also toss with the squash.

Spread the squash mixture in a thin layer on a large baking sheet and roast for about 40 minutes or until the squash is soft.

Heat salted pasta water to boiling and cook the farfalle until al dente. Drain and set aside. As the squash finishes roasting, heat about two tablespoons of olive oil in a large high-sided sauté pan. The oil is ready when it pops and sputters. (Don't let it start smoking.) Drop in the rest of the sage leaves and fry for about a minute, or until they begin to just shrivel up.

Remove with a slotted spoon and salt lightly. Crush with the back of a spoon.

Add half the pasta to the pan, along with half the roasted squash mixture. Crumble in half the sage. Cook, stirring frequently, for five minutes or until the pasta is heated through and getting crispy on some of the edges. Add the pine nuts and cook for another minute. Stir in half the cheese and serve.

(Repeat the last step with the rest of the ingredients. We split it into two because none of our pans are big enough to accommodate the entire recipe. It's very important that you not crowd the pan too much - you want the pasta to really pan-fry, not just steam up.)

Roasted Butternut Squash Puree with Goat Cheese

2 pound butternut squash

1/4 cup torn sage leaves

Olive oil

Salt and pepper

1 ounce soft mild goat cheese

Heat the oven to 375 degrees. Cut the squash in half and scoop out the seeds. Rub lightly with olive oil and put the sage leaves in each squash cavity. Rub in a bit of salt and pepper. Turn upside down in a pie pan and roast for about an hour or until very tender. Let cool for five minutes, then scoop out the flesh and puree with the goat cheese.

Cream of Winter Squash & Tomato Soup

1 small winter squash of your choice - pumpkin, butternut, hubbard, banana, etc. You should end up with about 6 cups of diced squash.

4 tablespoons olive oil

1 medium onion, diced

2 cloves garlic, minced

2 bay leaves

Salt & pepper to taste

1 teaspoon paprika

4 cups canned diced tomatoes

3 cups broth (vegetable or chicken)

1 to 1 1/2 cups heavy cream

Cut the squash in half and scoop out the seeds. Rub the cavities with olive oil and sprinkle with salt. Bake at 425 degrees for 20 minutes or until the flesh is tender enough to scoop out. Remove from oven and let cool to a point where you can handle them.

Meanwhile in a large pot sauté the onion, garlic, and bay leaf in the olive oil. Scoop the squash from its shell, discarding the skin. Add the roasted squash flesh to the soup pot and sauté for a few minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Sprinkle in the paprika. Add the tomatoes with their juices. Add the chicken broth. Simmer over low heat for 30 minutes. Salt and pepper to taste.

Remove the bay leaves. Puree the contents of the pot and strain through a mesh sieve. Return to the pot and over low heat, stir in the cream. Gently simmer for 10 minutes. Serve with toasted bread.

Butternut Squash and Parmesan Dip

1 butternut squash, halved and seeded

2 teaspoons olive oil

3 sprigs of fresh thyme, divided

1 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese, divided

1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 cup whole milk or half and half

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Rub each half of the squash, inside and out, with a teaspoon of olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Place upside-down on a foil-lined baking sheet, with one sprig of thyme tucked into the cavity of each half. Roast for about 45 minutes, until a fork poked into the non-hollow end of the squash slides in easily. Remove and let cool just slightly.

Scoop out the flesh of the squash halves and add to the bowl of a food processor (you can also mash by hand with a potato masher or fork; it will just be a bit chunkier). Add 3/4 cup of the cheese, the leaves from the remaining thyme sprig, nutmeg, and salt. Pulse until blended, and then pour in the milk or half and half while the machine is running.

Transfer mixture to a small gratin dish (about 8 inches long) or a shallow pie plate. Sprinkle on the remaining 1/4 cup cheese and return to the oven for about 20 minutes.

After 15 minutes, turn on the broiler so that the top of the dip gets brown. Serve with crackers, toast, or pita chips.

Roasted Butternut Squash

2 medium butternut squash, halved lengthwise and seeded

4 teaspoons butter

4 teaspoons brown sugar

Salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Place butternut squash halves on a large baking sheet flesh side up. Place 1 teaspoon butter in the middle of each squash. Sprinkle brown sugar over each squash.

Season with salt and black pepper. Roast 25 minutes, until flesh is fork-tender. Reserve 2 halves for future meal.