Monday, August 23, 2010
Butternut squash, sometimes referred to as butternut pumpkin, is a type of winter squash that has a sweet flavor and texture similar to that of a pumpkin. It has a long, cylindrical, bell-like shape with a thick outer shell that ranges from yellow to caramel-tan. It can grow up to 8-12 inches long and 3-5 inches at its widest point. The outer-shell is hard and there is a stem growing out of the top. The inside is orange and fleshy and similar to that of a pumpkin, with seeds in the middle. It grows on the vine and the more it is ripened the deeper the orange color and the stronger and sometimes sweeter the flavor.
The most popular version of butternut squash used in the United States today, originates from Stow, Massachusetts on a farm that is now known as the Butternut Farm Golf Club. It was created by a man named Charles A. Leggett in the mid 1940’s. There were 2 common squashes in use at that time – the gooseneck squash, which was difficult to transport due to being long and gangly, and the Hubbard squash which was quite large. Leggett wanted a simple squash that was smaller and easier to transport for sales. He tried out several different strains of squash until he got one he liked and then he developed the first official acre crops of butternut squash in the US.
Leggett’s squash was highly praised for its smooth buttery skin and its nutty flavor and that is how it was eventually dubbed butternut squash.
According to several sources, including Wikipedia, the origin of that general family of squash originates around Mexico, and its cousin, the pumpkin, is from South America. Use of similar squashes apparently date back to around 3000 BC, when they were used by Indian tribes throughout Central and South America.
Butternut squash can be prepared in many different ways including being roasted, puréed, mashed, baked, boiled, simmered, sautéed, and made into pies, casseroles, breads or muffins. It is often served as a dessert, with some sort of syrup, nuts and so on. Similar to the pumpkin, in addition to being a good dessert, it is also a great vegetable side-dish or main dish. I’ve eaten this squash in a curry sauce with tofu, or baked right in its shell with a little seasoning.
One of my favorite recipes using this exotic vegetable is as follows:
Butternut Squash Ravioli
• Cook Time: 10 min
• Yield: 4 appetizer servings
• 9 tablespoons butter
• 3 tablespoons minced shallots
• 1 cup roasted butternut squash puree
• Freshly ground white pepper
• 3 tablespoons heavy cream
• 3 tablespoons grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, plus 2 ounces
• Pinch nutmeg
• 1 recipe pasta dough, rolled out into wide ribbons, about 1/4-inch thick
• 12 fresh sage leaves
• 1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh parsley leaves
In a large sauté pan, over medium heat, melt 1 tablespoon of butter. Add shallots and sauté for 1 minute. Add squash puree and cook until the mixture is slightly dry, about 2 to 3 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Stir in cream and continue to cook for 2 minutes. Remove from the heat and stir in 3 tablespoons cheese and nutmeg, to taste. Season with salt and pepper. Cool completely.
Cut the pasta ribbons into 3-inch squares. Place 2 teaspoons of the filling in the center of each pasta square. Bring 1 corner of the square to the other, forming a triangle and seal the pasta completely. Add the pasta to a pot of boiling salted water. Cook until al dente, about 2 to 3 minutes or until the pasta floats and is pale in color.
Remove the pasta from the water and drain well. Season the pasta with salt and pepper.
In a large sauté pan, melt the remaining 8 tablespoons of butter. Add the sage to the butter and continue to cook until the butter starts to brown. Remove from the heat.
Place some of the pasta in the center of each serving plate. Spoon the butter sauce over the pasta. Sprinkle the 2 ounces of cheese over each plate and garnish with parsley.