Even the name—butternut—brings fall to mind. Nature brings us such end of the season treats in November. The queen of winter squash hides hers in a soft beige overcoat, revealing the rich, orange-yellow flesh when cut.
Jim, our vegetable expert at the garden, has harvested bushels of lovely butternuts. He planted the exuberant vines in the heat of the summer, with harvest plans for November. All squash are types of gourds. Butternuts should be harvested when firm, well shaped, and heavy for their size. Unlike their thin-skinned summer cousins, winter squash have a hard tough shell. Butternuts can be stored for several months in a cool, dark place.
Of course, the fun is deciding how to serve butternuts. Soup? Such a lovely, rich addition to the Thanksgiving table. Roasted? Add a bit of fresh ginger and butter. Or enjoy its sweet, slightly nutty flavor in filled pastas, spicy curries, or stews.
Butternut–and other winter squash like acorn, pumpkin, and Hubbard–are a nutritional bonanza. They are rich in Vitamin A (beta-carotene), fiber, folate (folic acid) and potassium.
So don’t pass up these lovely winter squash for your Thanksgiving table. You might try my daughter Molly’s favorite: Butternut Squash Soup.
Butternut Squash Soup
1 Tbs olive oil
5 oz. pancetta, cut into small dice
1 yellow onion, chopped
1 tsp sugar
1 tsp minced garlic
1 sprig fresh sage leaves
3 ¼ cups low-sodium chicken broth
3 cups butternut squash, peeled, seeded, and cut into 1 ½ inch chunks
1 ½ Tbs. Marsala wine
Salt and pepper to taste
¼ cup heavy cream
Lightly whipped cream for garnish
¼ cup hazelnuts, toasted and chopped
In a stockpot over medium-low heat, warm the olive oil. Add the pancetta and cook, stirring occasionally, until lightly crisp, 5-7 minutes. Transfer to a paper towel-lined plate; reserve the oil in the pot.
Add the onion and sugar to the pot and cook, stirring occasionally, until the onion is tender and slightly caramelized, 8-10 minutes. Add the garlic and sage sprig and cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Add the broth and squash and simmer, covered, until the squash is tender, 20-25 minutes. Remove the sage sprig and discard. Add the Marsala and season with salt and white pepper. Simmer for 3 minutes, and then remove the pot from the heat.
Puree the soup in a blender until smooth, then whisk in the cream. Ladle the soup into warmed bowls. Garnish with the pancetta, a dollop of whipped cream, and hazelnuts.
Adapted from a Williams-Sonoma recipe