Sunday, February 03, 2019

An Ode To Butternut Squash

Such bliss!  What a rush,
When the hardy sage meets
the sweet butternut squash.

A bad pome in praise of food.  I feel like writing a post in the cookbooks-by-divines series, one which does not include blood sacrifices and other similar god and goddess foods (eyeballs or arms or burnt offerings in general or even manna).

I love butternut squash.  This is a fairly new love in my life, acquired in this promised land of all pumpkin-seeming things (Trump, too).

Butternut squash is cheap, it's pretty, it's delicious yet unassuming,  and it's good for you.  Its only negative is the very hard skin (which would be useful as an armor to be worn surfing online, but a hazard when it faces me and my largest knife, given the lack of a flat bottom on the squash).

I buy several squashes at one go, halve them along the long axis and then roast them in the oven, cut sides down in a pan coated with some olive oil.  When they are done (375 degrees Fahrenheit), I scoop out the innards and freeze most of them.  That way I have many beginnings for luscious butternut squash meals ready for later.

You could go fancy on those meals and make a butternut squash lasagna with sage.  It's delicious.  It's also a lot of work.  I make it sometimes for parties, but usually I turn the squash innards into a spaghetti sauce with garlic, lots of fresh chopped sage* fried in butter, salt, pepper and perhaps a little vegetable broth or milk or something else if the sauce is too thick.

But my favorite is a butternut squash soup, served with dark bread and some cheese.  I use half a squash (innards), half a chopped onion, two cloves of garlic, about eight turns of a nutmeg mill and some black pepper.  The onion and garlic are stewed in butter or olive oil until the onion is limp and transparent.  Add one to two cups of vegetable broth and a teaspoon or so of honey, and then blend it into a lovely orange smoothness.  Makes enough for two people or one very hungry one.  If you prefer it milder, use partly milk, partly vegetable broth for the liquid.

It's excellent, I think, though do be careful if you use a separate standing blender for the blending.  If you fill it with hot soup, it doesn't help to wear oven mittens to keep the top down or to have two tea-towels between the mitts and the blender lid, and it doesn't matter how hard you press down on the lid:

You will experience an explosion in the kitchen, and if the soup is very hot you might also get lots of little demon-freckles all over your face and neck from the burning.

Don't ask me how I know that.  Wiser minds tell me that blending the hot soup in several small portions avoids the explosion.  Or use an immersion blender.  Or just go nuts with a big fork or spoon inside the saucepan, chasing all lumps, if you have nothing better to do with your life.
* Or frozen sage.  Dried is not quite the same, because it's the fresh sage who married the butternut squash.  I buy one potted sage every spring (if the old one didn't overwinter), plant it in a sunny spot in the garden and harvest it all summer long and into the fall.