Sunday, October 31, 2010

A minimalist approach to butternut squash

Butternut squash soup and salad by Lucy Mercer/A Cook and Her Books

Mark Bittman is a food writer with a fresh approach. I happen to love his easygoing attitude towards recipes in his New York Times Minimalist column. Bittman's minimalist approach can refer to using few techniques and few ingredients, but it mostly (to me, anyway), means he assumes his readers know their way around a kitchen, probably own a cookbook or two and can translate his shorthand instructions into decent or even delicious food.

Butternut squash by Lucy Mercer/A Cook and Her Books

In considering butternut squash this week, I decided to take a minimalist approach to one of my favorite autumn vegetables. Butternut squash is pretty much the package - good taste, good nutrition, and good looks (once you get crack open the beast and reveal the amber-gold flesh within). I selected a large squash at the supermarket and made two recipes - soup and salad.

Peeling a butternut squash can be daunting, but with patience, a solid cutting board, a vegetable peeler, and sharp, sturdy chef's knife, it can be easily handled. Begin by cutting the vegetable in half across the width, just above the bulbous end. With the long narrow end, cut it in half lengthwise, then using a vegetable peeler (I find a "Y" peeler to be most useful here), peel off the tough outer layer. With the bottom, rounded end of the squash, do the same - cutting in half through the length, then peeling each piece. The top half of the vegetable will be cubed and cooked with onions and chicken broth for a savory soup and the remainder of the squash will be roasted with olive oil, butter and salt and tossed with salad ingredients.

Butternut squash soup by Lucy Mercer/A Cook and Her Books

My Minimalist Butternut Squash Soup: half of an onion, chopped, sauteed in butter, add cubed squash, chicken broth, a bay leaf, some sprigs of thyme, salt and pepper. Cook until squash is softened, then puree in processor or blender. Some might add chopped apple to the saute, in fact, I've heard tell that's the secret to the very best butternut squash soup. Some might garnish with bacon, but I like a sprig of thyme, and maybe buttery croutons if I have them on hand.

Butternut sqash salad with greens and brown rice by Lucy Mercer/A Cook and Her Books

My Minimalist take on Butternut Squash Salad: Cooked brown rice tossed with torn baby spinach, roasted cubes of butternut squash, generous squeeze of lemon juice, glug of extra virgin olive oil, Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper. (To roast squash: cubed butternut squash, tossed with extra virgin olive oil, salt and pepper, roasted in a 450 degree oven for 30 minutes.)

One squash, two tasty dishes, lunches for three days or more, with a minimum of fuss.
Text & images copyright 2010, Lucy Mercer.


The Teacher Cooks said...

I have a butternut squash in my pantry right now not knowing what to do with it I should try out this soup!

Anonymous said...

Where can I get a "glug" measuring spoon?