Kitchen Confidence column: 3 reasons to fall for butternut squash | SummitDaily.com

Kitchen Confidence column: 3 reasons to fall for butternut squash

Tom Castrigno
Kitchen Confidence

The harvest season evokes images of baskets full of apples, corn, nuts and squashes. Of these, squashes in particular, practically shout, "Fall is here!" Personally, I have fallen hook, line and sinker for the butternut. Not only are these smooth tan beauties healthy, they are affordable, easily available and versatile. These are only a few reasons to "butter-up."

The high number of servings you can make from a single squash makes them affordable. Butternuts range in size from small enough for a single serving to large enough to make a huge pot of soup out of, so you can buy just the amount you need. This is one heavyweight that won't break the bank, expect to pay under $3 per pound, even for organic.

Most groceries and farmers markets will have piles of squashes available from early fall into winter. Look for a deep tan color and smooth skin. In the right environment (cool, dry and dark), squashes can keep well for months. Even keep them in your garage if the temperature there is appropriate (above freezing). Having a butternut handy makes dinner planning easy.

Baked, stewed or steamed, butternuts cook quickly in 40 minutes or less. Bake squash halves at 350 degrees until tender and then stuff with beans, other vegetables, or simply enjoy with a dab of butter. Peeled and cut into 1 inch chunks, butternut will steam in about 15 minutes or so. From there, the chunks can be tossed with black beans for a great salad or pureed into a creamy side dish.

Perhaps my favorite way to prepare these tan beauties is stewed in coconut milk to create delicious Thai green curry. This recipe is from my book "Recipes to Thai For," available on Amazon.

BUTTERNUT SQUASH WITH GREEN CURRY

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Serves 4

1 small butternut squash, about 1 ½ lbs

1-2 tablespoons green curry paste

1 can (14 oz.) coconut milk

Fish sauce to taste

Juice of ½ lime

1 teaspoon sugar

¼ cup fresh basil leaves

1.) Trim the ends off of the butternut squash. Cut the squash in half crosswise and carefully peel it using a knife. Cut the bottom of the squash in half lengthwise and scoop out the seeds and fibers. Next cut the peeled squash into 1-inch chunks and set aside. You should have about 4 cups.

2.) Shake the coconut milk can well (you may need to stir it up after opening). Spoon out ½ cup into a medium saucepan and bring to a gentle boil over a medium heat. Cook, stirring occasionally, until it thickens and releases its sweet fragrance, about 3-5 minutes.

3.) Add the curry paste and cook for 2-3 minutes, mashing and stirring to dissolve the paste in the coconut, until it is heated through.

4) Add the squash and stir until well coated. Add the remaining coconut milk, ½ cup of water, the sugar and salt. Raise the heat to high and bring to a boil. Stir well. Reduce heat to maintain a gentle boil, season with fish sauce and cook until squash is tender, about 15 minutes.

5.) Slice the basil leaves into thin strips. When the curry is cooked, stir in the basil and fresh lime juice. Serve over jasmine rice topped with ground peanuts.

MORE TO LOVE

You know carrots are a good source of vitamin A, right? Did you know butternut squash is another great source? With its bright orange flesh, butternut is loaded with beta-carotene that your body converts into vitamin A, more than 3,000 IU from only 1 cup. Why should you care? Vitamin A has been shown to ward off skin disorders, help prevent age-related vision loss such as AMD, and even stave off leukemia. The combination of fiber and potassium can protect against heart disease and high blood pressure.

Tom Castrigno lives in Frisco where he is known as The Mobile Chef. Visitors can enjoy one of Tom's delicious meals prepared right in their condo. BreckenridgePrivateChef.com