Squash Three Ways
By Susan Olcott
There are so many kinds of squash to explore and they are worth playing around with to be sure. But, I’m going to save the odd ones for later and focus on a familiar one that you might have run out of new ideas for preparing. Butternut squash is such a versatile variety with its hearty texture yet sweet flavor. It is a favorite of kiddos and is also easy to get your hands on almost any time of year in Maine. My affection for butternut squash was enhanced further after reading a super story, Sophie’s Squash, about a little girl who loves her squash so much that she dresses it up as a little baby, taking inspiration from its chunky, curvy shape and names it Bernice. Though her mother had purchased Bernice from the market with plans to cook her for dinner, she sympathizes with little Sophie and orders pizza for dinner. When Bernice starts to get a bit mushy and develops spots, her parents encourage her to select a non-vegetable playmate, but to no avail. Finally, she consults the vendor at the farmer’s market who advises her that squash need dirt, fresh air and love. So, she finds a perfect spot in her yard to nestle Bernice down for the winter. You can probably guess what happens in the spring after the snow melts and she goes to check on her old friend. This is particularly delightful to imagine right now as we are in mid-March, buried in snow, and just hanging on for that exposed dirt and first green shoots. There it was – a sprout! There’s nothing so magical as the sprouting of a seed. She watches it and watches it through leaves and blossoms until little Bonnie and Baxter are born.
As much as I love this story, I also love to eat butternut squash. I’ve had it chunked and roasted and also mashed, as you might imagine from my previous blog posts. I’ve also had it cut in half, seeds scooped out, rubbed with a bit of salt and olive oil and baked. But, recently I’ve found a few other different ways of eating tasty Bernice. One hurdle I’ve often faced is peeling and cutting up the squash. So, if you’re looking for a simple short cut, Spears Farm sells peeled halves of squash at Hannaford and sometimes you can even find it cubed. Or, if you’re really in a pinch, you can even use frozen, cubed squash. But, that kind of defeats the whole fun of using local ingredients.
If you’re okay with cutting up that sweet little Bernice, each of these recipes starts with about a 1-½ pound squash.