The season is turning over to fall fruits quickly now, right in tune with the weather. But summer is long in our river valley and autumn is a slow transition, so alongside the winter squash we should continue to see tomatoes and peppers for a little while yet. These transitional seasons are a great opportunity to combine dishes we don’t normally get to eat side by side when eating seasonally, like oven-roasted tomato bruschetta with butternut squash soup. Enjoy the next few weeks as an opportunity to mix the best of summer and fall before the real chill sets in!
This week’s butternut squash are our first long-keeper squash of the season! These are best stored a little cooler than room temperature and warmer than the fridge, but unless you’re trying to keep them all the way till May, they’ll do fine at room temperature. Sitting on a shelf somewhere, they should keep at least through Thanksgiving, and probably into January. Just watch for signs of softening and mold, especially around the stem end. If there’s just a small spot, you can cut off that end of the squash and use the rest immediately. Handle these gently even though they feel hardy, because any bruising may be invisible now but could show up as mold or a soft spot sooner than you’d like.
To prep, rinse well. Feel free to clean these with a little mild soap to remove any dirt. Slice off as big a chunk as you think you’ll need and cover the cut end of the rest with plastic wrap. Store the leftover squash in the fridge and use within a few days. If you’re going to peel the squash you’re prepping, do it now. The skin of butternut squash is thin enough to peel with a vegetable peeler. Now cut the part you’re using in half lengthwise (after removing the stem) and use a spoon to scoop out the seeds and pith, like you do with a pumpkin. From here, you can either cut it into wedges to roast (leave the skin on for this) or chop it up for risotto, bulgur, or soup. Whatever you do, winter squash loves a generous helping of salt and olive oil or butter, and it REALLY loves either cinnamon or herbes de Provence, my favorite seasoning for winter squashes. Sage and thyme are also good excellent choices. Note that winter squashes are generally all interchangeable with each other, so you can use these for pumpkin pie or pumpkin soup, or really any recipe that calls for winter squash. I personally think they taste much better than pumpkins in anything.
To roast butternut squash wedges, coat them generously in olive oil and salt, and sprinkle on plenty of herbes de Provence, sage, or thyme. Arrange them skin side down on a baking sheet and bake at 375-400 degrees for about an hour, or whenever they are very tender when poked with a fork and the edges are nicely browned and caramelized. As you eat, you can use your fork to scrape the flesh off of the skin, which is technically edible, but not really.