Squashing any difficulties

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote about my experience cooking up some Squash Risotto for the Daily Globe’s Food page. Anyone who has made risotto know it takes patience to get the texture of the dish right, and I was prepared for it to take some time. But I wasn’t prepared to expend so much energy just preparing the squash for the dish.

Well, at least one reader out there empathized with my struggle. Betty Wilcoxon of Slayton emailed her remedy for dealing with a tough butternut squash.

“I read in your column about how hard it is to cut into a squash. Here is an easy trick, for the large hard-shelled ones. Put it in a plastic bag and THROW it on the cement sidewalk. It will split in half, or thirds so easily. When I fix them, I scoop out the seeds, then take the portion I want for our meal, wrap it in waxed paper and microwave for about 10 minutes, depending on size.

“My husband planted two small packages of seeds last spring – acorn and Mooregold (the best, yummiest squash), and he got over 200 squash, so we give them to everyone we know that wants them (or don’t want them!) also the food shelf twice, now we are down to a manageable size for ourselves!”

I haven’t had the opportunity to try out Betty’s method yet, but will certainly give it a go the next time there’s a big squash in our larder.

Before the snow gets deep on the deck, I’d like to give this recipe a try.

Grilled Butternut Squash with Spicy Honey Butter

Heat the grill to medium high (325 to 350 degrees).

Combine ½ stick salted butter, softened, with 1½ tablespoons honey, pinch of ground cinnamon, ½ teaspoon chili powder and ½ teaspoon hot pepper sauce.

Slice the stem end off a large butternut squash. Cut the squash into six long wedges. Scoop out the seeds and stringy pulp, season with salt and pepper and coat with olive oil.

Place the squash on the grill, skin-side down, over indirect heat. Cook for 30 minutes. Turn the wedges onto one of the cut sides and grill until browned, about 8 minutes; repeat process on the other cut side. Squash should be tender enough to pierce with a fork.

Coat with the prepared butter and add a squeeze of fresh lime juice before serving. Makes 6 servings.

While I’ve got squash on the brain, I will share a winter squash treatment from DotMom’s “Mixing & Musing Cookbook.” It’s credited to Ruth Correll.

Squash Casserole

Prepare 2½ cups cooked squash. Add ½ stick butter or margarine, melted; 2 beaten eggs; 1 teaspoon salt; ½ teaspoon pepper; 2 to 3 teaspoons chopped onion; ¾ cup grated cheese; ½ to ¾ cup half-and-half cream; and 1 cup cracker crumbs.

Combine well and place in casserole dish. Bake at 350 degrees for 40 to 50 minutes.

It’s hard to believe that Thanksgiving Day is just 10 days away. The only thing that is assured on my holiday menu is the dessert  —a pecan pie in the freezer, a gift from friends on Texas that I’ve been hoarding for the occasion. I suppose I should start thinking about the turkey and other accompaniments pretty soon.

What’s on your holiday menu? Do you have some family favorites that are must-haves on the table, or any new dishes that will be added to the mix? Please share your holiday successes by emailing brickers@dglobe.com; or via regular mail, Daily Globe, Box 639, Worthington 56187.

3 thoughts on “Squashing any difficulties

  1. I use a very large serrated bread knife to cut squash, it is much easier that way than any other knife I’ve used. I usually cut accross the butternut squash into 2 inch slices and then peel it and cut into whatever sized pieces I want.

  2. Another easy way to show the big butternut squash that
    you are the boss—wash the skin clean with water, place
    on a foil lined cookie sheet, poke with air holes, especially
    one in the seed pocket. Bake at 350 until done. Cool
    a little, the skin peels off with no problem. I slice off what I
    want to eat and them slice the rest in one inch round pieces, slip into a freezer bag and can enjoy any time with out the mess of baking more squash.

  3. Assuming you don’t have one of those basketball-sized Hubbard squash, you can put the whole squash in the microwave for a few minutes, just until the skin and flesh soften slightly so you can safety cut it with a sharp knife.

    Also, when making risotto, America’s Test Kitchen (a.k.a. the Cook’s Illustrated Magazine people) has shown you can make perfect risotto without all the stirring–use a heavy pot (such as a enameled cast-iron Dutch oven by LeCreuset or Lodge), saute’ your shallots/onions and raw rice as usual; add 4/5 of your liquid, bring to an almost-boil, reduce heat to medium-low and cover for 20 minutes–stirring twice; add final ~3/4 cup of liquid and cook with stirring over medium heat for about 3 minutes. [You can get more detailed instructions by visiting AmericasTestKitchenTV.com, but I think I've summarized fairly well] Perfect risotto without all the work!

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