I have adapted a new personal policy when it comes to grocery shopping. We all have our own personal staples, and it is easy to slip unconsciously into mundane dining. I always look for new and different seasonal produce (a boon not only for the palette, but also for the planet, if you let the season guide your selection). And thanks to this new personal policy, I just discovered the most delicious squash I've ever eaten.
Buttercup. A blue- and green-skinned turban winter squash.
I chose it because it was small enough to not be too much of a burden for the bike ride home, and it looked funny, but also relatively easy to peel (I was also considering an awesome-looking warty variety. Of course, I ended up baking my squash, so there was no peeling necessary).
Baking is an excellent and versatile method of cooking winter squash. Once thoroughly soft and moist, the meat can be scooped out and added to just about any recipe.
Basic Instructions for Baking Winter Squash:
- Cut your squash in half
- Scoop out the seeds and pulp (I like to save these flavorful tidbits for a homemade vegetable stock)
- Brush the cut side with oil or melted butter
- Place them cut side down on a baking pan with about 1/2 inch of water
- Bake at 375 (although, if your squash is sharing the oven, it is much more flexible with concern to the temperature than most things)
- Bake until the meat is soft and the skin is wrinkly (about 30-45 minutes)
- Allow your squash to sit and cool in the pan for a bit and reabsorb any moisture it may have oozed during baking.
While my squash was baking, I caramelized a red onion. This brings out the beautifully rich, sweet flavor of the onion; I almost always caramelize onions when I cook with them.
- Heat up a few tablespoons of oil or butter in a wide, thick-bottomed saute pan
- Stir in onions
- Once thoroughly warmed and coated with oil, reduce heat to avoid burning
- Cook over low heat, stirring often for 30 minutes or more
- If your onions get too dry or begin to burn, splash some water into the pan
When the onions were about halfway done, I added a few cloves of minced garlic to the mix. When the squash was ready and cooled off enough to handle, I scooped out the meat and added it to the pan of garlic and onions. A little salt and pepper, the juice of a lemon wedge, some chopped cranberries to garnish, and it was literally the best squash I've ever had. This little fella was so sweet and flavorful, you'd have thought I'd added a healthy helping of brown sugar. But it was all squash! I was totally floored.
I served it with brown basmati rice and sauteed baby wild greens (another phenomenal seasonal find).