Battle Butternut

(Folks, I am taking on my nemesis orange vegetable, the winter squash in all its varieties.  If I find a preparation I like, I promise to add to my vegetable tattoos with one of a butternut squash.  Artist Kathleen Volp better get her drawing supplies ready because I am determined to find a way to eat winter squash if it takes me all, um, winter.)

This is my current favorite handbag:

two favorite pairs of summer sandals:

and the back view of a new comfortable summer dress up dress:

What do all of these things have in common?  That’s right: orange.  Cheerful, sunny, yummy, orange is one of my favorite colors.

But this love of orange does not translate into a love of orange foods.

This kind of orange frightens me.

We’ve talked about this before, so no need to belabor the point.  You do need to know, though, that for the past two weeks I have purposely not taken my CSA winter squash from Heron Pond Farm.  At Cider Hill I have exchanged the past two weeks’ worth of butternuts at the swap table, once for broccoli, once for an eggplant.  The thought of squash makes me shudder, perhaps too many frozen bricks of vivid orange mush in my childhood.

More likely it is some combination of taste and texture.  Sweet, sticky squash, commonly made sweeter and stickier with brown sugar and pie spices like nutmeg and cinnamon.  I like my veggies savory.

Hence, battle butternut.  If I can find a butternut – or any orange winter squash – recipe that I will eat and enjoy ( just one will suffice; I don’t need miracles), I will march into Chameleon Tattoo and have a black-and-white butternut squash added to the peas, beet, and artichoke that now make their home on my calf.  Don’t worry, this is motivation not punishment.  I want another tattoo so believe me, I am striving to find the one recipe for me.

I will be as objective in judging a dish’s worth as I can be, with a result that tastes like baby food puree being 1 on the appeal scale, and manna from heaven being a 10.  Again, not expecting miracles, if a dish lands at 7 or above, it will be declared a winner.  Rankings will be listed when I have run out of viable preparation ideas.  What I’m looking for is: caramelization (preferably), a dessicated toothsomeness instead of gumminess, and a savory perhaps even smoky balance to the squashes natural sugars.  Here goes nothing.

I’m starting simple.  Tonight is Pan-roasted Butternut Squash with Rosemary and Balsamic Reduction.

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

Place 1/2 of a butternut squash, peeled and cut into uniformly sized small cubes (about 1-inch), on a foil or parchment lined baking sheet.

Sprinkle liberally with grapeseed oil because grapeseed oil makes everything taste better.

Season with salt and pepper and one fairly large branch of fresh rosemary.  Roast for 45 minutes.

While the squash is roasting, place 4 Tbsp. of good quality balsamic vinegar in a shallow pan set over medium high heat.  Let this reduce until you have between 1 and 2 Tbsp. of vinegar syrup.  Remove the squash from the oven.  Strip the rosemary leaves off its branch and scatter over the squash pieces.  Turn into a serving bowl and drizzle with the syrup.  Serve.

©2010  Jane A. Ward