As the leaves begin to turn and the air gets crisp, my taste buds start to crave certain flavors. And what flavor epitomizes fall more than pumpkin? Now I know you are thinking, “pumpkin?” isn’t the title of this post butternut squash? Oddly enough butternut tastes very much like pumpkin. In fact, many “pumpkin” flavored dishes use butternut squash because it tastes more like pumpkin than pumpkin does. (And here’s a good tip: If you need to entice picky eaters who are more familiar with pumpkin, go ahead and change your recipe names– it will be our little secret).
A very versatile vegetable, (although technically a fruit because it bears the seeds of its plant) butternut squash is plentiful and affordable this time of year. Considered a winter squash (a differentiation given depending on when the squash is harvested) butternut was originally cultivated in America by the Native Americans. If you have never attempted to cook your own squash, take a deep breath and throw that long tubular thing in your cart. With only a thick skin between you and a soft, nutty, sweet flesh, you have no excuse not to give it a try.
When you do decide to tackle the wonderful world of squash, don’t forget to save your seeds and toast lightly with olive oil, salt and pepper. A good heathy snack, as well as a garnish for either of these recipes, toasting seeds is a great way to get the most out of your squash. Here are two of my favorite recipes using butternut squash.
Butternut Squash Tortellini
While it may sound a little intimidating, this “homemade” pasta recipe is simple to make and packs a serious punch. The use of wanton wrappers allows you the taste of delicate homemade pasta without all the trouble of making your own. Like most traditional Italian dishes, the ingredient list is simple to highlight the natural flavors. Roasting the squash intensifies the flavor and caramelizes the sugars to add sweetness. The ricotta rounds out the squash and adds a hint of creaminess to the filling. Gingersnap cookies are the secret ingredient adding a hint of crunch and ginger. Plus, what better way to intrigue your children with dinner other than to add cookies to pasta!?
The tortellini freeze well and are a special treat for a mid-week meal.
Curried Butternut Squash Soup
The addition of curry to this soup helps to jazz up the traditional butternut soup. Some recipes tend to be overly sweet, but here the cilantro lime yogurt garnish helps to keep the soup fresh and balanced. Steaming the squash is a different approach, but again helps to stay away from the overly sweet caramelization of the roasted squash. The key to this flavorful soup is the sautéed pumpkin seeds and strings. Instead of trashing this part of the squash, the sauté really intensifies the flavor (and emits a fantastic aroma that impress anyone entering your kitchen) Plus, with this method, no peeling is required! I promise you will not be disappointed with this recipe. It’s butternut with a twist.