Sunday, October 09, 2011

Caramelized Butternut Squash

Winter squash are starting to show up on the market with their distinctive colors, shapes and size. Acorn, Pumpkin, Delicata, Kabocha and Butternut are a few of the many varieties available. While each variety differs in shape, color, and flavor, they all share some common characteristics. They all are picked after they have matured and their skins have hardened, enabling them to be stored for long periods (between one week and six months). Their flesh is sweet in flavor and it continues to sweeten off the vine. Additionally, all have seeds in their hollow inner cavities. Because of those common characteristics they can be used interchangeably in most recipes. I like to use a combination of winter squash in soups, pies, and many other recipes to develop a more complex flavor.

When buying winter squash choose the ones that are firm, heavy for their size, and that have hard, tough skin with no cuts, punctures, sunken spots or mold. A tender rind indicates immaturity, which is undesirable in winter squash.

Winter squash can be kept for up to three months in a cool, dry place. They don’t need to be refrigerated unless they have been cut open.

Butternut squash is one of my favorite varieties of winter squash. It has the shaped of a large pear with creamy colored skin. Its flesh is deep orange and its distinctive butterscotch flavor is enjoyable in savory and sweet dishes.

Caramelized Butternut Squash

This recipe can be enjoyed warm or cold as a side dish or as component for salads, cooked grain or pastas or as a dessert with ice cream or sweet cream.

• 1 medium butternut squash (2 or 3 pounds total)
• 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
• 3 tablespoon maple syrup
• 1 teaspoons sea salt
• 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Cut off and discard the ends of each butternut squash. Peel the squash, cut them in half lengthwise, and remove the seeds.

Cut the squash into 1 1/4 to 1 1/2-inch cubes and place them on a baking sheet. Add the olive oil, maple syrup, salt, and pepper.

With clean hands, toss all the ingredients together and spread in a single layer on the baking sheet.

Roast for 45 to 55 minutes, until the squash is tender and the glaze begins to caramelize.

While roasting, turn the squash a few times with a spatula, to be sure it browns evenly. Taste for seasonings and serve hot.