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Butternut Squash

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With Thanksgiving approaching it's time to take a look at recipes for side dishes that might get you out of your ordinary rut. Perhaps the most emblematic vegetable for this season is the butternut squash, which is among the most versatile items in our pantry.  Chef Jerry Pellegrino will tell you, this tasty winter squash just begs to be doctored up.

Going on line to look up recipe ideas is like going to a library looking for something to read.  A website called Delish is a good example. "26 Delicious Butternut Squash Recipes to Make" is what they offer, and that's only a drop in the bucket.

Here are some of the ideas from Delish which may inspire you.  We've included the link so you can check them out.

Butternut squash ravioli is a no-brainer.  Assuming you can make some ravioli from home-made pasta, you're going to concentrate on the filling.  It amounts to a purée of squash, and it's totally easy.  First you will want to bake 1/2" squash cubes in a hot oven for about an hour and then purée the squash.  Work in some ricotta cheese, a bit of brown sugar, salt, pepper and a bit of grated parmesian cheese.  That's it!  Just spoon the filling into your little ravioli squares, seal them, and then boil them for only about 2 /12 minutes. You're done. Recipe. 

In Italy I had a wonderful thick and creamy butternut squash soup with a hint of curry.   You start by roasting your squash with some onions, carrots and garlic cloves.  Season the veggies with your curry powder, salt and pepper.  When everything is nicely roasted, you simply purée the veggies, adding a bit of chicken broth for liquid. To serve, finish it with a bit of coconut milk and garnish with cilantro or parsley. Recipe. 

A butternut risotto is a great idea.  It builds on the standard idea of cooking arborio rice first in white wine, then in chicken broth.  But before you do that, you brown some squash and onions in butter in the bottom of the soup pot.  After that, the process is like any other risotto:  keep adding a little broth at a time and give the rice the chance to absorb the liquid.  You're going for creamy here, so be patient and diligent. Recipe.

If you have one of those gadgets that turn vegetables into noodles, you can use it with butternut squash.  Once you have the noodles, bake them at 425° for about 10 minutes, then serve with a simple olive oil and parmesan treatment, or try a nice marinara.  Simple and very fulfilling. Recipe. 

The butternut squash can be used in its entirety by scooping out the flesh after roasting.  If you leave a 1/2" border around the shell, you can use the squash for the filling.  Simply put together the scooped out squash,  ground beef, onions, black beans, cherry tomatoes, shredded cheese and a whole bunch of spices to make a filling.  Cook it quickly, and then just stuff the squash shells and bake them for a second time at 350° for just a few minutes to melt the cheese. Each boat will serve two people easily. Recipe. 

Finally, let's use butternut squash for a frittata.  You'll be using the squash, onions, bacon and gruyere cheese to give the frittata substance, with half a dozen eggs to fill in the baking dish.  Again, the idea is simple and easy to do. Recipe. 

Butternut squash grow very well in Maryland and will be available all winter long.  They are a tad bit difficult to peel, but once you get past that chore, they are  a lot of fun to work with.

-Al Spoler 

Al Spoler, well known to WYPR listeners as the wine-loving co-host of "Cellar Notes" has had a long-standing parallel interest in cooking as well. Al has said, the moment he started getting serious about Sunday night dinners was the same moment he started getting serious about wine. Over the years, he has benefited greatly from being a member of the Cork and Fork Society of Baltimore, a gentlemen's dining club that serves black tie meals cooked by the members themselves who are some of Baltimore's most accomplished amateur cooks.
As General Partner of Clipper City Brewing Company, L.P., Hugh J. Sisson is among Baltimore's premier authorities on craft brewing and a former manager of the state's first pub brewery, Sissons, located in Federal Hill. A fifth generation Baltimorean, Hugh has been involved in all aspects of craft brewing.