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Fall is a good time for squash

Julian Fong, Wikimedia Commons

Butternut squash is a popular choice for cold-weather meals.


Not everyone in my family cares for squash, no matter the variety or how it is cooked. I am not included in that group, as I dearly love all types of squash.

I don’t know why, but I almost always fail at growing squash, especially zucchini. Seems like everyone else who grows it has a totally different problem: they get too much. I used to think it was the soil, weather, how I watered or other things like that, but zucchini has never grown for me no matter where I lived, and that includes different states besides California.

Since fall is upon is and winter is just around the corner, I will skip recipes for summer varieties of squash and feature one of my favorites from the many winter varieties available: butternut squash. I love to bake it in the oven with a little salt and pepper, brown sugar and butter.

I hope you are transitioning into colder weather, as I have. I am now in my flannel-shirt mode and my jammies are flannel, too. Stay warm, stay happy.

Maple pecan roasted butternut squash

1 large butternut squash (about 3 pounds) peeled, seeded and cut into 1-inch cubes

1 1/2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

1 1/2 tablespoons pure maple syrup

1/3 teaspoon cinnamon

1 teaspoon dried oregano or rosemary

1/2 cup crushed pecans

Salt and pepper, to taste

1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper, optional

1. Preheat oven to 400. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or lightly spray a baking sheet with cooking spray.

2. Spread butternut squash cubes out on the baking sheet. Drizzle evenly with olive oil then sprinkle with oregano, cinnamon, salt, pepper and maple syrup. Add cayenne pepper, if using. Toss all the ingredients together, using tongs or your hands, ensuring all the cubes are coated.

3. Place in preheated oven and roast for 30 minutes (rotating pan if necessary half-way). Add crushed pecans and return to oven for an additional 5 to 6 minutes or until squash is tender. Remove from oven and serve immediately or allow to cool. Makes 4 servings.

Butternut squash, coconut and ginger muffins

2 large eggs

10 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

2/3 cup buttermilk

2 teaspoons. grated peeled ginger (from one 2-inch piece)

2/3 cup plus 2 tablespoons packed light brown sugar

2 cups flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

1/4 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1 teaspoon kosher salt

2 cups grated (on large holes of box grater) peeled butternut squash (9 ounces, from about 1/4 of a large squash)

3/4 cup unsweetened shredded coconut

3/4 cup coarsely chopped pecans

1. Preheat oven to 375. Line a standard 12-cup muffin pan with liners. In a medium bowl, whisk eggs, butter, buttermilk, ginger and 2/3 cup brown sugar. In a large bowl, whisk baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon and salt. Mix egg mixture into dry ingredients with a wooden spoon or rubber spatula until just combined. Mix in squash, coconut, and pecans.

2. Divide batter among muffin cups, filling to the brim (about 1/2 cup batter per muffin). Sprinkle remaining 2 tablespoons brown sugar on top.

3. Bake muffins in preheated oven, rotating pan halfway through, until golden brown and a tester inserted into the center comes out clean, 30 to 32 minutes. Let cool in pan 5 minutes, then transfer muffins to a wire rack and let cool completely. Makes 12 muffins.

Butternut minestrone

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 medium yellow onion, small dice

1 medium carrot, small dice

1 tablespoon minced fresh sage

2 teaspoons minced fresh thyme

1/2 teaspoon dried red chili flakes

3 garlic cloves, minced

1 tablespoon tomato paste

3 cups small-diced butternut squash (about half a small-medium squash)

1 medium zucchini, small dice

1 can (15-oz.) garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed

Sea salt and ground black pepper, to taste

1 can (29-oz.) crushed tomatoes

7 cups vegetable stock

1/2 cup small, dry pasta (such as ditalini, small shells or orzo)

1 bunch Swiss chard, cleaned and chopped

1. In a large, (5.25 quart or larger) heavy pot, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the onions and carrots to the pot and stir. Saute until onions are starting to become translucent and soft, about 3 minutes.

2. Add the sage, thyme, chili flakes, garlic and tomato paste to the pot and stir. Once the tomato paste is evenly distributed and the garlic is fragrant, about 30 seconds, add the butternut squash, zucchini, and chickpeas. Stir to combine. Season the vegetables generously with salt and pepper.

3. Add the crushed tomatoes and vegetable stock to the pot. Cover the pot and bring it to a boil. Then, simmer the soup until the butternut squash pieces are tender, about 20 to 23 minutes. Add the pasta to the soup and continue simmering until pasta is tender and cooked through, about 10 minutes.

4. Add the chopped chard to the soup and place the lid on the pot. Let the soup simmer until the chard is wilted and bright green, about 2 minutes. Check the soup for seasoning. Serve the butternut minestrone hot with drizzles of olive oil, extra chili flakes, freshly ground black pepper, sprinkles of Parmesan cheese or fresh bread. Makes 8 servings.

Butternut squash pasta

8 ounces dried rigatoni pasta

3 cups butternut squash, cut into 1/4-inch cubes

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

1 tablespoon minced garlic

1/4 cup minced shallots

6 tablespoons milk

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more for seasoning adjustment, if needed

1/8 teaspoon black pepper, plus more for seasoning

1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese, plus some extra for topping

1 tablespoon chopped Italian (flat leaf) parsley

1. Cook pasta according to manufacturer’s directions and drain.

2. Place a steamer basket into the bottom of a medium-sized pot and add enough water so that it does not rise above the steamer basket.

3. Place the cubed butternut squash into the steamer basket. Cover and heat on high until steam forms. Continue cooking until the squash is tender, about 8 to 10 minutes. Transfer to a blender or food processor

4. Heat a large saute pan over medium heat. Add olive oil and when it is hot, add the minced garlic and shallots. Saute, stirring, until the garlic and shallots are fragrant and tender, about 2 minutes. Add to the blender or processor. Add milk, 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/8 teaspoon black pepper. Puree mixture until all is smooth. Taste and add more milk, salt and pepper, if desired.

5. In a large bowl or pan, combine cooked pasta, butternut squash mixture and Parmesan cheese. Mix to combine and reheat if needed.

6. Serve pasta topped with more Parmesan cheese and the chopped parsley. Makes 4 servings.


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