Eat Your Vegetables: Butternut Squash

The bad news for me: Today is day six (6!!!) of forced rest days, thanks to the congestion in my head and the razorblades in my throat. Also, it’s Part II of “Mel makes the rounds of all her doctors to make sure everything is working properly now that she’s over 40 and only has half a thyroid”… which means full exam and blood work at my GP and later, for fun, a mammogram.

The good news for you: You get a rest day recipe, and it’s a yummy one for Thanksgiving week.
I’ve tested and discarded several winter squash recipes this season: a pumpkin soup that was too bland and watery, an acorn squash I couldn’t adapt to remove the offending brown sugar and honey… but the recipe below is a mash-up of the technique from one recipe and the spice blend from another. It’s creamy, spicy, rich, and can stand proud on a table as a replacement for bland, starchy mashed potatoes. It’s also very versatile; don’t miss my bonus ideas at the end!
The special ingredient that makes this recipe sing is Ras el Hanout, a spice blend from the Middle East and North Africa. Spice market vendors all claim their version to be the best, so express your creativity and feel free to play around with the proportions below if you favor one spice more than another. I might have been a little heavy-handed with the cumin in mine (with excellent results.) And don’t be put off by the long-ish list of ingredients; some recipes include more than 100 spices! (Also of note, some people consider Ras el Hanout to be an aphrodisiac. You be the judge.)

Mashed Butternut Squash with Roasted Garlic & Ras el Hanout

Ingredients for Ras el Hanout:
2 1/2 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons cumin
2 teaspoons ginger
2 teaspoons black pepper
1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon coriander
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon allspice
1/2 teaspoon cloves
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
optional: 1 teaspoon saffron threads 

Ingredients for butternut squash puree:
2 1/2 pounds winter squash (kabocha, butternut, acorn, pumpkin)
1/2 teaspoon olive oil
1 head garlic
1 tablespoon coconut oil
2 tablespoons coconut milk
3/4 teaspoon salt 

1. Blend all the Ras en Hanout spices in a small bowl and set aside.

2. Preheat the oven to 350F. Cut the squash in half and scoop out the seeds. Brush lightly with olive oil and place cut-side-down on a baking pan. Sprinkle 2 tablespoons of water onto the pan.

3. Peel the loose, papery skin off the garlic, keeping the head intact, and wrap it in a sheet of foil. Put the baking sheet and the foil packet in the oven. Bake 40 to 50 minutes, until the squash is tender. Set aside until both are cool enough to handle… maybe about 20 minutes or so.

4. With a spoon, scoop the now-soft squash into the bowl of a food processor. Separate the garlic cloves and squeeze the roasted pulp into bowl with the squash. (Be prepared to say “ew!” because the roasted garlic expulsion process is… squirty). Process the mixture to a smooth puree, then add the coconut oil and coconut milk.

5. Turn the puree out into a mixing bowl and add salt and the Ras el Hanout, to taste. I used about 1 1/2 teaspoons of the Ras el Hanout to start, then kept adding a little at a time ’til I was happy with it.

Serving ideas:

1. Eat it just like that. It’s delicious. Serve alongside roasted turkey, lamb kabobs, or grilled chicken thighs. It’s also a tasty bed for sauteed ground beef or lamb or sliced, smoked sausage, especially with some hearty winter greens (kale, mustard greens) on the side.

2. Make a casserole. Grease the inside of either individual ramekins or a casserole dish with a little coconut oil, then add the squash puree. Top with chopped pecans and bake in the same 350F oven for 15 minutes or so.
3. Make soup. Add heated chicken or vegetable broth to the squash puree and stir until desired consistency. Sprinkle the top with chopped cilantro or parsley and a squeeze of fresh lemon or lime juice. Bonus if you also stir in a tablespoon or so of coconut milk. Double bonus if you add shredded cooked chicken and make it a meal.

Bonus recipe: I haven’t tried this one yet, and I usually don’t like to recommend recipes if I haven’t given them a test run. BUT, the recipes on Kalyn’s Kitchen are usually very good, and this roasted, Moroccan-spiced butternut squash looks like a good alternative if puree isn’t your thing.

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5 Responses to “Eat Your Vegetables: Butternut Squash”

  1. Aaron and Marcy says:

    You've probably already had your mammogram by now. I subscribe to your RSS feed but I am behind. I love your site. I just wanted to encourage you to do your research about mammograms for the future. They don't reduce your risk of dying of breast cancer and they increase your risk of unnecessary biopsies, etc, and the stress that goes with the C word! There are also some indications that they increase tumors, although not necessarily cancerous ones.

    Taking responsibility for one's own health is important and everyone deserves to be fully informed about the benefits and risks of mammograms!!

  2. Hannah says:

    This is INCREDIBLE!! I’ve made it three times in the last two weeks!! Eating it for b-fast, lunch & dinner…. Yum!!

  3. Boulderbird says:

    Only started reading your blog recently, and even though you posted this recipe forever ago, I just had to leave a comment on how amazing it is. Seriously… I just ate a bunch of it as dessert. Yum!

  4. Rachel B says: Made it for Thanksgiving this year. Thank you!!

  5. […] revelation: Middle-Eastern Butternut Squash. My sister didn’t like this because of how much garlic is in it, but I loved it. I’ve […]

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