More often than not, it seems, winter squash is prepared as a sweet addition to the meal. The addition of brown sugar, maple syrup, or <shudders>marshmallows</shudders> leave us wanting to skip dessert, arguably the best part of the meal.
We tend to head to savory end of the spectrum for winter squash prep. Here’s one of our simplest takes savory winter squash.
Savory Roasted Acorn Squash
Prep time: 10 minutes
Total time: 35-45 minutes
- 3 acorn squash, all close in size
- 2 Tbsp. olive oil
- 2 tsp. kosher salt
- 1 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
- Place a rack in the center of the oven and preheat the oven to 375°F. Locate and set aside 2 13″x9″ pans. There’s no prep needed in the pans.
- Halve the acorn squash through the stem; scoop out the seeds and fibrous pulp. Cut each half in half once again so that each squash yields 4 pieces.
- Toss the squash with the oil and then sprinkle the interior of each piece with salt and pepper. Lay the squash, cut side up, in the 13″x9″ pans.
- Bake for 35-40 minutes. Squash is ready when a fork easily pierces the squash.
Any number of savory spices could be sprinkled over the squash before baking. Cumin, coriander, sumac or a spice blend such as za’atar would all be tasty.
Last weekend I roasted some cubed butternut squash, tossed it with finely chopped red peppers, and served it as a side dish. I had a fair amount left over and got it in my head that I wanted to make dessert with it for some reason or another. If I’m being honest squash pie isn’t my favorite pie. It falls well behind apple, chocolate cream and chicken.
Butternut Squash/Apple Cake with Tangerine-Ginger Streusel
Google found me 12 Perfect Fall Desserts Made with Winter Squash, one of which seemed to fit what was in my head. Crystallized ginger was not to be found at my local mega mart though so I used some homemade candied tangerine peel that Ted made back when tangerines were in season. The result was surprisingly moist with the squash basically disappearing into the cake.
The last slice of cake.
This side dish makes a hearty accompaniment for roasted or braise meat. The cumin and cinnamon echo the earthiness of the root vegetables and the high temperature cooking helps bring out their natural sweetness.
You could also use it as part of a chicken pot pie or even the start of a tasty soup.
Roasted Winter Root Vegetables
Prep time: less than 5 minutes (plus oven preheat time)
Total time: 20 minutes
- 1 lb. butternut squash, peeled and cut into 1/2″ cubes
- 1 lb. turnip, peeled and cut into 1/2″ cubes
- 1 lb. sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2″ cubes
- 1/4 cup vegetable oil
- 1/2 Tbsp. kosher salt
- 1 tsp. ground black pepper
- 1/2 tsp. cumin
- 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
- Arrange oven racks so one is in an upper-middle position and the other is in a lower-middle position. Preheat oven to 450°F. Line two rimmed baking sheets with parchment or Silpat.
- Combine all ingredients in a large bowl. Toss to coat vegetables with oil and spices.
- Place the baking sheets in the oven. Cook for 15-20 minutes. The veggies are done with they are easily pierced with a table fork. Transfer vegetables to a warmed service bowl and serve.
- If prepping for later use transfer baking sheets to cooling racks and rest for ~30 minutes. Transfer roasted vegetables to a seal-able container and refrigerate for up to 5 days.
Any combination of root vegetables will work for this. In addition turnip and sweet potatoes used above there are many varieties of winter squash. Carrots, parsnips and rutabagas also make great choices.
Winter squash is a staple for us once the weather turns cold and the fresh local vegetables are no longer available. When I have time, and forethought, this is my preferred method of preparing it.
Pureed Butternut Squash
Prep time: 5 minutes
Total time: 55 minutes (plus drain time, see below)
- 3.5 # pounds butternut squash, split in half lengthwise, seeded
- 1-2 tablespoons olive oil
- kosher salt and cracked black pepper
- Preheat oven to 425°F. Line a rimmed baking pan with parchment.
- Rub the cut side of the butter squash, including the hollow created when removing the seeds, with olive oil. Sprinkle with salt and black pepper. Place cut side down on the baking pan.
- Cover tightly with foil and bake until a paring knife slides easily into the thickest part of the squash, 30-40 minutes.
- Remove the squash from the oven and allow to cool until you are comfortable holding it.
- Once the squash is cool enough to touch remove the skin (or scoop the squash from the skin) and place the squash into the bowl of a food processor. Run the food processor until the squash is smooth.
- Transfer to a fine mesh strainer set over a bowl and allow whatever liquid that can escape to do so for as long as you can let it. Discard the liquid and reheat the squash double boiler style. Season as desired.
Letting the excess liquid drain from the pureed squash leaves behind a more intensely flavored product.
If serving as a standalone side dish may I suggest melting 2 tablespoons of unsalted butter. Add 1 tablespoon of finely chopped fresh sage, stir until aromatic and then add to the squash. Mix to combine and serve.
Squash prepared in this manner can be kept up to 2 days in the refrigerator before using. If you want to save it for longer I recommend freezing it in a screw-top plastic container or zipper style plastic bag.
I first encountered Israeli couscous at a local Whole Foods in the prepared food gallery. In fact that same discovery was the inspiration for this dish. In the prepared foods case was a large bowl with a colorful array on orange, red, brown and green against a canvas of the white couscous.
This makes a great buffet item as it is tasty warm, cool or room temperature. It lends itself to infinite variations as well. Here is one of my favorites.
Israeli Couscous with Roasted Butternut Squash, Dried Cranberries and Toasted Walnuts
Prep time: 25 minutes
Total time: 60 minutes
- 1 2-pound butternut squash, peeled and seeded, and cut into 1/4-inch dice
- 3 tablespoons olive oil (divided)
- kosher salt and cracked black pepper
- 1 large red onion, chopped
- 2 x 8.8 oz. packages of Israeli couscous
- 2 (3-inch) cinnamon sticks
- 1 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
- 1/2 cup chopped walnuts, toasted
- 1/2 cup dried cranberries
- zest and juice of 1 lemon
- Preheat oven to 475°F. Line a half-sheet pan with a Silpat or sheet of parchment.
- In a bowl toss squash with 2 tablespoon olive oil, 1 tsp. salt and black pepper. and spread in 1 layer. Spread on sheet pan into a single layer. Roast in upper third of oven 20 minutes, or until squash is just tender. Transfer to a large bowl.
- While the squash cooks heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a non-stick skillet over medium heat. Add the onion, sprinkle with a pinch of salt and cook until tender. Golden brown is OK here. Add to the bowl with the squash.
- Bring 6 quarts of water to a boil. Add 1 tablespoon kosher salt, return to a boil and add the couscous along with the cinnamon sticks. Cook for ~10 minutes, until the couscous is tender. Drain, shake to remove excess water and add to the bowl with the squash. Remove the cinnamon sticks and discard them.
- Add lemon peel and juice, parsley, walnuts, dried cranberries to the bowl along with the last tablespoon of olive oil. Toss well to combine. Taste for seasoning and adjust as necessary.
Most of the prep time here is in peeling and cubing the squash. I prefer to peel the squash with a chef’s knife. A sturdy U-shaped vegetable peeler will also work.
While there are several components to this dish, much of the cooking can be done at the same time. For example, the squash can roast while the onion cooks and pasta boils.
You can make this dish in advance, store it overnight and serve cold, room temperature or reheated in the microwave.
This was a hit at our recent holiday party. While I meant it as a hot/warm side a number of our guests called it a salad and I’m OK with that. It was quite colorful as well; a really nice addition to the buffet table.
In the spirit of giving credit where credit is due, this recipe is based on one from the grocery chain Wegmans.
Butternut Squash with Baby Spinach and Cranberries
Servings: 8-10 as a side; 15-20 as part of a buffet
Prep time: 30 minutes
Total time: 75 minutes
- 4 lbs. butternut squash (this was 3 squashes for me)
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 1 Tbsp. kosher salt
- 2 tsp. cracked black pepper
- 6 oz. baby spinach
- 1 cup dried cranberries
- Preheat the oven to 450°F. Cover a half sheet pan (or two rimmed cookie sheet pans) with aluminum foil.
- While the oven preheats prep the squash. Cut off the top and bottom. Cut each squash in half across the middle and then in half vertically so you have 4 pieces. Peel the skin with a serrated peeler. Scoop out the seeds and strands from the center. Finally cut the into 1/2″ cubes.
- Toss squash with olive oil, salt and pepper. Spread on squash onto the baking pan(s) into a single layer. Ideally you want a bit of space between your squash so that it has a bit of free space. Free space should promote browning. Roast for 20-25 minutes, until easily pierced with a fork.
- While the squash cooks rinse and dry the spinach. Place the spinach and dried cranberries in a heat-safe bowl large enough to also hold the squash.
- When the squash is ready add it to the bowl with the squash and cranberries. Toss thoroughly and serve.
Instead of peeling, cleaning and chopping the squash yourself you can do as the original recipe suggests and purchase already prepped squash. My experience is that the squash is sometimes a bit dried out and will certainly need to be cut into uniform pieces. If you want to save a bit of time, in exchange for a bit of money, already prepped squash is the way to go.
The original recipe called for chopped onion. I left it out of this recipe because one of our expected guests is allergic to onions and peppers. I’ll probably make it with onions at some point though because I think it would add an extra dimension to this dish. I’d go with 2 red onions, peeled, halved and sliced thinly into half moons.
This dish held up remarkably well. It was ready 45 minutes before our guests arrived. I covered the bowl with plastic wrap and set it aside. When I was laying out the buffet I microwaved it for about a minute just to reheat it a bit and gave it an extra toss for good measure.
I asked one of the young ladies who comes to dinner what she wanted to have this week and she said apple sauce. So here’s a menu with apple sauce.
Orange-marinated turkey tenderloin
Potato pancakes with apple sauce & sour cream
Roasted butternut squash with brown butter and sage
Steamed snap peas
Hot cross buns with currants and candied tangelo peel
Notes under the cut