Leaves are falling. There’s a nip in the night air. It’s getting dark earlier and earlier….all signs of autumn.
With the changing of seasons, so do our menus need tweaking. The grill will be replaced by the oven, which also helps to heat our kitchens on chilly evenings. We can’t avoid it…it’s here.
When you visit the farmer’s market, the summer crops have been replaced by pumpkins, acorn and butternut squash, gourds and bales of hay. So, this month we’re looking at butternut squash.
Butternut squash is a tasty vegetable, which can be fixed in a matter of minutes in the microwave. On busy days, I simply cut it in half lengthwise, spoon out the seeds. Pierce with a fork all around and microwave it for about seven minutes, face down on a plate.
Then I simply turn it upright, zap it again for about seven minutes. Then I fill the cavity where I removed the seeds with butter and brown sugar. Microwave it again for a minute or two…and there’s your vegetable.
Now, there are other ways to serve this vegetable if you are so motivated. Here are some wonderful ways to prepare it. Think ahead to Thanksgiving and Christmas meals.
Butternut Cider Bisque from the Red Lion Inn:
1 Tbsp. olive oil
1/2 large onion, diced
1/2 large carrot, diced
1 stalk celery, diced
1 pound butternut squash, peeled, seeded and diced
4 sprigs fresh thyme, rinsed
5 cups chicken stock or canned chicken broth
2 cups apple cider
2 cups heavy cream
Salt and pepper, to taste
Heat oil in large pot and saute’ onion, carrot and celery until the carrot and celery are soft and onion is translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the squash and thyme and saute’ until all of the vegetables are coated with the oil, about 2 minutes. Add the stock and the 2 cups of cider and simmer until the squash is very soft, about 30 minutes.
Remove from heat. Puree mixture in small batches in a blender on medium speed until smooth and well blended. Place pureed mixture into another pot and stir in cream to achieve the desired consistency. Salt and pepper to taste.
Heat gently and serve. Serves 6-8.
Whipped Butternut Squash from the Red Lion Inn:
3 lbs. butternut squash, peeled, seeded and coarsely chopped
1/2 cup butter
1/4 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
2 Tbsp. pure maple syrup
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. white pepper
1/2 tsp. ground nutmeg
Chopped fresh parsley for garnish
Preheat oven to 350 F. Grease a 3 quart baking dish. Boil squash in salted water to cover until tender, about 20 minutes. Drain well. While still hot, combine squash with remaining ingredients, except parsley, in a mixing bowl. Whip with an electric mixer until smooth. Adjust the seasonings.
Spoon squash mixture into prepared dish, cover, and bake until piping hot, about 15 minutes. Garnish with parsley and serve. Serves 10-12.
NOTE: For those of you unfamiliar with the Red Lion Inn, it’s one of the oldest and most famous country inns in the nation. It is located in Stockbridge, Mass. and was once home to Country Curtains, which closed last year.
Upon receiving the letter from Country Curtains that it was going out of business, I told my husband we had an emergency trip to take. So we drove up to Stockbridge on a gorgeous, and I mean gorgeous, autumn day where we had a delicious lunch.
The Inn has a huge covered porch with tables and chairs. That’s where my husband sat while I spent over three hours in the store. Even though Country Curtains has closed, it’s a great day trip in the fall.
New England Autumn Casserole:
2 1/2 cups sliced butternut squash, peeled and seeded
1 1/2 cups sliced apples
1/4 cup butter, melted
3-4 Tbsp. brown sugar
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 cup walnuts or almonds, broken up
Salt, to taste
Place a layer of squash, then a layer of apples, in a 2 quart casserole. The squash will not cook as quickly as the apples, so slice it more thinly than the apples. Combine 1/4 cup melted butter, sugar, cinnamon, nuts and salt; drizzle some over apples and squash.
Continue alternating layers and drizzling with butter and sugar mixture until all ingredients have been used. Dot with a bit more butter. Cover casserole and bake in 350 degree oven for 45-60 minutes or until squash and apples are tender. Makes 4 servings.
Nutty Creamy Butternut Squash:
1 large butternut squash
1/2 cup butter, melted
1 1/2 cups sour cream
Salt and pepper, to taste
3/4 cup chopped walnuts, divided
1 cup herb-seasoned bread crumbs
Peel squash and cut into 3/4″ cubes. Boil in salted water until crisp-tender; drain and place in buttered 13x9x2″ baking dish. Pour butter over squash. Gently fold in sour cream and fold in 1/2 cup nuts.; season with salt and pepper.
Top with breadcrumbs and 1/4 cup nuts. Bake at 350 degrees for about 40 minutes or until bubbly. Cover squash with aluminum foil to reheat. Makes 10 servings. Great as a side dish for ham, turkey, chicken or roast beef.
Butternut Squash Casserole:
5 cups shredded, peeled butternut squash
Juice and grated peel of 1 lemon
1 cup raisins
1/3 cup chopped dried apricots
1 medium tart apple, cubed
2 cups ricotta cheese
1 egg, lightly beaten
3 Tbsp. sour cream
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/8 tsp. ground nutmeg
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
In large bowl, toss squash with lemon juice and peel. Place half in a greased 11x7x2″ baking dish. Combine raisins, apricots and apple; sprinkle over squash. In a small bowl, combine ricotta, egg, sour cream, cinnamon and nutmeg; spread over fruit mixture. Top with remaining squash. Sprinkle with nuts.
Cover and bake at 375 degrees for 35-40 minutes or until squash is tender. Makes 10-12 servings.