Simple food makes for the best food. The key to preparing simple food well is to purchase the very best ingredients you can find: in that way, their natural flavors are liberated. Some of the simplest preparations allow the beauty of those subtle flavors to stand on their own, albeit dressed with a little butter. This is such a dish. It’s so simple I hesitate in posting as though there should be greater fanfare to its three humble ingredients, as though you might shrug and say to yourself, “Squash, butter and cinnamon? That’s it, really?”
It’s a lovely food, and despite its utter simplicity, it’s worth sharing.
At the end of our farmers market season, we purchase winter squash by the case: pounds of butternut, delicata, acorn and Cinderella squash that we hide in baskets on countertops, in boxes in the unused fireplace – even on the bookshelf. It’s our way of maintaining our commitment to local foods well beyond the harvest season when the days grow dark and nothing grows in the billows of glacial snow. We also purchase cases of carrots and turnips and celeriac. We purchase bushels of apples and pears – and several pints of berries which end up in the freezer. Never mind the heirloom tomatoes – we put up two cases a week for the last six weeks of the market. What this means for my family is that, aside from fresh greens and citrus, we eat from our market for months after it closes.
Those cases of squash sustain us. We serve winter squash, in one form or another, at least twice a week throughout the winter. The acorn squash are the first to go. They don’t last long. Next go the Cinderella squash which can go mushy in the blink of an eye if you don’t act quickly enough. The delicata quickly follow, but the butternut squash – they outlast everything and we’ll eat them well into March and April. And as the butternut squash age, they grow sweeter so that those final butternuts we enjoy in the middle of April are sweeter than any dessert.
Winter squash, like all strikingly colorful foods, is rich in nutrients – particularly carotenoids which are thought to offer anticarcinogenic properties and fight inflammation. Winter squash is also quite rich in many vitamins and minerals including folate, vitamin B6, potassium and manganese. Butter, included in this recipe, adds a velvety touch to the squash and also enables your body to better assimilate the nutrients the squash contains; remember: we need fat to absorb our nutrients.
- oil or fat, (for greasing the squash)
- 1 medium butternut squash
- 2 tbsp butter or clarified butter, (from grass-fed cows)
- 1 tsp ground cinnamon
- dash unrefined sea salt
- Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Split and seed the butter nut squash, then grease its skin with any oil or fat and place it flesh-side down in a casserole dish or clay baker.
- Add about one to two cups water to the casserole dish and roast the squash at 375 degrees Fahrenheit until tender and easily pierced with the tines of a fork, about forty to sixty minutes.
- Remove the squash from the oven and allow it to cool until you can easily handle the squash without gloves.
- Spoon out the squash’s bright orange flesh and place it in a food processor or stand mixer along with two tablespoons butter, one teaspoon ground cinnamon and a dash unrefined sea salt.
- Process until well-blended and quite smooth.
- Serve warm.