Farmers markets and produce aisles are overflowing now with of all kinds of squash. I’m always inspired by their great shapes and colors; butternut, patty pan, acorn squash, along with various kinds of pumpkins, make lovely and inexpensive autumnal table decorations! But don’t stop there; these seasonal fixtures are as delicious tasting as they are ornamental. And if you prepare them properly – that is, without adding a lot of oil or cream to the recipe- they are good for you as well, providing a low-calorie source of fiber and important vitamins like C and A.
Don’t let the bulky shape or the hard skin of fall squash intimidate you. Use a sharp chef's knife to slice off the stem end, and then a sharp paring knife or vegetable peeler to do the peeling. If you have a large butternut squash or long neck pumpkin and don’t want to cook it all at one time, just stop peeling midway through and cover the open end with foil or wrap, to be saved for another time. (If all of this seems like too much work, your grocer may have done the hard part for you. Check the refrigerated part of your produce aisle for pre-cut packages of butternut squash like the picture here. This is definitely not cheating and, once cooked, I promise no one will be able to tell the difference!).
For the simplest preparation of squash or pumpkin, cut into bite sized chunks and place in a roasting pan or on a foil lined baking sheet. Drizzle with olive oil, top with a sprinkling of salt and pepper, and roast for 15 minutes at 375. Serve the squash as a side dish with any meat, or combine with cooked pasta, barley or quinoa for a meatless entrée. Or make your squash/pumpkin really stand out by making a soup: after roasting, sauté the squash with diced onion and stir in a teaspoon of ground cinnamon. Add about 3 cups of low salt chicken broth and continue to heat to a boil. Simmer for 5 minutes, cool and then pureé in a blender until smooth.