Thanksgiving is a foodie's holiday, from the planning, to the cooking, right down to the savoring of a feast with family and friends.
Most of us have already determined what we'll be serving, but if you're still looking for something new to add to your menu, we have an easy and affordable recipe for Butternut Squash Puree, a deliciously seasonal soup that will complement the traditional Thanksgiving favorites.
Butternut is Tony's favorite squash, and he loves this golden-orange beauty not only for its appealing color, but also its delicious taste and many health benefits. This power food is loaded with vitamins and minerals, and is a particularly good source for vitamins A and B6, as well as protein and fiber.
Butternut squash is also an excellent source for tryptophan, an essential amino acid known for creating a feeling of well-being. So often we associate this nutrient with turkey, but it's even more prevalent in squash, thus making this an ideal vegetarian addition to your Thanksgiving feast.
To peel a raw squash, cut both ends off and place the squash upright on a cutting board. Use a vegetable peeler to remove the skin, then cut the squash lengthwise and scoop out the seeds with a spoon.
Since we're promoting this recipe as an easy, last-minute side dish, we've kept it relatively simple by using plain butternut squash. However, if you have a little more time, we highly recommend roasting the squash first, which will intensify its sweet, nutty flavor.
This step will also make it easier to remove the skins by hand once cooled. Simply place the squash flat-side-down on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and roast at 400 degrees for 45 to 60 minutes. Test for doneness by inserting a fork into the center of the squash - if it slides through easily, the squash is done.
Fall flavors work wonderfully with butternut squash soup, which Tony likes to call "autumn in a bowl." For this recipe, we've added cinnamon, brown sugar and cloves to bring warmth and comfort to the soup. We also use chicken stock for extra flavor, but you can use vegetable stock instead. If you have a handheld immersion blender, you can puree the soup in the same pot and have fewer dishes to clean.
When buying butternut squash, choose one that is heavy for its size and matte in color. Both are signs that mean it is sweet and ripe. Store the squash in a cool, dry space for up to three months.
This recipe has always been a crowd-pleaser for us, and we hope you enjoy it, too. We've had a great response to last week's recipe for Sarello's Whipped Potatoes, including some good questions about cooking, keeping warm and reheating the potatoes.
I've posted these on our blog at www.thelostitalian.areavoices.com, along with our answers, and encourage you to send us your questions about any of our recipes. We love to hear from our readers, and there are no dumb questions (certainly not any dumber than the ones I've asked). We answer them all, without judgment.
From our home to yours, we wish you and your family a very happy and delicious Thanksgiving.
Butternut Squash Puree
Serves 4 to 6
1/2 large squash, peeled, seeded and rough cut into pieces
1/4 large onion, roughly chopped
2 cloves garlic
4 tablespoons unsalted butter (half-stick)
1 quart chicken stock (or vegetable stock)
1 pinch of ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/3 cup brown sugar
salt and pepper to taste
In a stock pot, sauté the onion and garlic in butter for 3 to 5 minutes. Add the chicken or vegetable stock, cloves and cinnamon, and simmer over low heat for 45 minutes.
Add the cream and brown sugar and puree the mixture using a handheld immersion blender, liquid blender or food processor. Cook until hot, about 3 to 5 minutes.
Add salt and pepper to taste and pour into bowls for serving. Garnish with raisins, dried cranberries, or a drizzle of sour cream.
• Roasting the squash in the oven will intensify the flavor and natural sugars of the squash. To do this, cut the squash in half and place it on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper or oil, flat side down. Bake in a 350-degree oven for 45 minutes.
• For better stability, always remove each end of the squash before cutting lengthwise.
Home with the Lost Italian is a weekly column written by Sarah Nasello featuring recipes by her husband, Tony Nasello. The couple owns Sarello's restaurant in Moorhead and lives in Fargo with their 8-year-old son, Giovanni. Readers can reach them at email@example.com. All previous recipes can be found at http://thelostitalian.areavoices.com.