Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Butternut squash - easy peasy!

Don’t get me started about how much I love squash... and in particular, that gem among the squashes: BUTTERNUT!
Seriously – don’t.
Here you are already on my blog, though, so permit me to ramble a bit about butternut squash. If you make it through the whole post, I guarantee that you will want to run, not walk, to your nearest produce section, and buy a beautiful big, weighty, smooth-skinned, pale caramel gold butternut squash and make it for yourself this very night.
First, the skinny on nutrition. A cup of baked butternut squash has 82 calories, contains almost 60% of your daily Vitamin A, over 40% of daily Vitamin C, 13% of your thiamine, 14% of the niacin you need, and almost 9% of your daily calcium requirement! 
Fiber is, alas, negligible, but squash – winter squash in general – is REPLETE with amazing phytonutrients and other goodies.
Yes, there's lots of carbohydrate, too, but according to my go-to nutrition source:

"We think about winter squash as a very starchy vegetable—about 90% of its total calories come from carbohydrate, and about half of this carbohydrate is starch-like in its composition. However, recent research has made it clear that all starch is not the same, and the starch content of winter squash brings along with it some key health benefits. Many of the carbs in winter starch come from polysaccharides found in the cell walls. These polysaccharides include pectins—specially structured polysaccharides that in winter squash often include special chains of D-galacturonic acid called homogalacturonan. An increasing number of animal studies now show that these starch-related components in winter squash have antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, as well as anti-diabetic and insulin-regulating properties."

From a health perspective eating squash is a no-brainer.  But how to cook it? It's surprising how many people are daunted by the idea of cutting a squash open and dealing with all the seeds.  And it's true that getting through the outer shell of some winter squash can be a challenge. I recently found a recipe for roasting a butternut WHOLE, and it made my day – blew my mind – changed my life!
Here’s what you do.
  • Wash the squash.
  • Place it on a baking sheet in a 400 degree oven.
  • Walk away.

When you come back about an hour later – just to check – you’ll be able to tell if you need to roast it a little more.
How to tell? The top surface will have a slight (slight) char, and you’ll be able to insert the tip of a sharp knife with ease.
A whole roasted butternut squash is HOT, so when it's done pull it out of the oven and wait about 20 minutes.  Then cut it in half, scrape out the seeds (infinitely easier when everything is soft) and feast!

I like my squash topped with just a soupcon - okay, a tablespoon full - of butter and a sprinkle of my new favorite salt: Maldon salt.   But it's also wonderful topped with a shake of ground cinnamon and a drizzle of maple syrup, or whisked into a strong brown veggie stock to make a pure and vibrantly flavored squash soup.  I even like roasted squash cold the next day - a touch of salt brings out the unctuous natural sweetness.

Low in calories - nutrient dense - ever so tasty - and even slathered in butter it's 90 percent vegan: what's not to like?

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