When I see butternut squash appearing in the markets, I instinctively buy one or two. My reasons are many — its delicious flavor, its beautiful rich color and even its odd shape.
Butternut squash long ago became an autumn tradition in my home. It brings back memories of my dad, who had a penchant for growing all kinds of interesting things in his garden, even before they hit the mainstream.
We had purple potatoes and sugar snap peas several years before they appeared in supermarkets.
Although he grew many kinds of unusual produce out of curiosity, he grew rows of butternut squash because it was one of his favorites. It has become one of mine as well.
My mother prepared it with her own Southern twist, usually split in half and roasted in the oven, perhaps with a sprinkling of sugar and cinnamon, and then mashed with a knob of butter.
Although we simply called it squash in that day, her preparation technique would more properly be labeled roasted butternut squash puree and today would probably accompany roasted chicken or pork.
With butternut squash being a seasonal favorite, I've received several questions recently. Here is one of them:
I tried to cook a butternut squash and the recipe said to peel it and cut it in half. It was so hard, I almost needed an ax to cut it. Are they always that hard? And is there an easier way to cut them up?
Butternut squash is a very dense and hard squash. I find the easiest way to cut the squash is to microwave it a few minutes first to soften the flesh. Be sure to make a few splits in the skin so the steam can escape; this is very important.
A medium-sized one will need 3 to 5 minutes in the microwave, depending upon the microwave wattage and the weight of the squash.
You do not want to fully cook it but, instead, just to soften it so it is easier to cut. After removing it from the microwave, let it set for a few minutes to cool and you will find it is much easier to handle.