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Gourmet Butternut Squash

Butternut Squash is probably the world’s favorite—it certainly has many admirers.  A fresh squash should have plenty of flavor of its own, but you want to enhance that flavor by adding complementary ingredients.  A really fresh squash deserves a few special touches; in return, it gives you a side dish worthy of being a dessert!
Butternut Squash

1 large or 2 small butternut squash, steamed, drained, and mashed

1 tbls butter

1 tsp salt

1 tbls orange zest

1 tbls vanilla extract (homemade if available)

2 tbls maple syrup or honey

1 pinch nutmeg

¼ tsp cinnamon

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Try to buy your squash when it first appears in the supermarket.  If it’s been there a few weeks, it will probably be dry and insipid.  When you slice into a fresh squash, juice will gush from the veins and you’ll notice a vibrant orange color.  If your squash turns out to be a bit stale, you should be able to revive it with some extra flavoring ingredients:  some extra butter and zest will help to compensate.

To prepare a squash for steaming you will need a sharp, sturdy knife that is large enough to manage the size of squash you’ve chosen.  A large chef’s knife will work for any butternut squash—just be sure to sharpen it well before you start.

Slice the squash in 1” rounds, then remove the peel.  Use a good vegetable peeler to scrape the pith from the hollow; you can save the seeds to feed to birds in suet, or clean and roast them for yourself.  Butternut squash seeds are delicious too!

Cube the squash into roughly one-inch pieces and add a tiny amount of water to a casserole dish.  Cover and microwave on high for roughly 20 minutes, stirring occasionally, depending on the amount of squash you have.  The amounts of seasonings are approximate as well, due to size variations in squash.  Test for doneness with a sharp knife.  Drain liquid and reserve for some other recipe where liquid must be added. 

Mash the cubes and then clear a corner for melting the butter; add the spices and zest to the butter and stir.  Mix with the mashed squash and drizzle the maple syrup or honey and the vanilla over, sprinkle with salt, and combine thoroughly.

If you are short of ingredients, don’t worry.  You don’t need all of the above enhancements, but a few will do.  You can leave out any that don’t suit you; the traditional ingredients are the butter, salt, and nutmeg.  If you don’t eat butter and salt, use the zest and vanilla to compensate.

If you have home-made vanilla extract, this is an excellent opportunity to enjoy it!  Vanilla adds a deep resonance to a fresh Butternut Squash that can’t be equaled. . . .

Enjoy!

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