By Erika Mathieu
Sunny South News
Colour me orange; the leaves are turning, the sweaters are returning, and the pumpkin patch is calling.
There is something really comforting about the transition seasons between the extremes of summer and winter. The air is a bit crispier, but the days are still long enough to enjoy the last remnants of summer. And although there has been a pretty unfounded blowback against the pumpkin-spiced everything in recent years, pumpkins (and squash more broadly) are one of the most versatile and non-polarizing veggies around. It’s pretty hard to find someone who hates squash in every iteration. That’s the beauty of it actually, it can easily be dulled into the background of a recipe where you can capitalize off of its volume-building and flavour-absorbing properties, or you can highlight and bring out its unique flavour with the right spices and techniques.
To start, squash freezes pretty well. Heartier varieties, like butternut and pumpkin, can last months in cold storage, if stored properly. Now that autumn is underway, and cooking indoors won’t exacerbate the unruly summer heat, I thought I would share my favourite fall recipe ever; roasted butternut squash sauce. One of the reasons I love this is because it is really easy to pack with “hidden veggies” and it is so versatile. You can use it as a sauce for pasta, gnocchi, flatbreads, or enjoy it on its own as a soup.
This recipe calls for three cups of chopped cubed butternut squash, (you can always chop and freeze your squash ahead of time, or buy the frozen prepared variety from a grocery store). Line a baking sheet with parchment paper, toss squash in a few slugs of olive oil and roast in a 425-degree oven for 45 minutes, until the outer bits begin to caramelize. It is optional to add a handful of tomatoes as well to the pan, which adds a bit of acidity, you can add as much or little as you want. I used about a cup for my test batch for this column. I also chose to roast a whole head of garlic with the other veggies because slow roasting totally transforms the abrasive sharpness of raw garlic into a nutty, sweet addition. To roast, keep the head of garlic intact, running a sharp knife through the top of the head to expose each of the cloves. Place the cut head onto a square of tinfoil and drizzle with olive oil and wrap tightly with foil.
Once the squash and tomatoes have roasted, transfer to a food processor or blender and blitz until smooth. At this point, I added about one cup of liquid chicken stock (or vegetable), and one cup of preferred plant or dairy milk. Add two tablespoons of soft herbed cheese, such as Boursin, a pinch of freshly grated nutmeg, and one tsp of ground sage. Toss in your favourite pasta, or serve in a shallow bowl as a soup finished with a scrunch of black pepper, good olive oil, and some browned bits of crispy sage.