By now your local markets are probably overflowing with all varieties of pumpkins and squashes. While I'd like to roast a whole pumpkin this month or next, I've only managed to cook with canned pumpkin puree so far. Tsk tsk. I know.
Instead, I picked up a winter butternut squash and acorn squash (the green squash pictured above) from Whole Foods. I checked out a few links on the best way to cook them (since it was my first time) and found that most people were frustrated with cutting and peeling the squash. Many comments called for a very sharp knife and a strong, steady arm.
That said, I was surprised when my knife sliced through it easily. I exerted minimal effort. Sure, I used a Henkel, which is a decent knife brand, but it's years old and has never been sharpened. The hardest thing I've ever had to cut were yams and this was nothing close to that.
Not sure if people on those sites/forums were using incredibly dull knifes or simply exaggerating to look like badasses. Either way, don't let the internet intimidate you. Cutting and cooking squashes is easy stuff.
Once I cut, seeded, peeled and chopped the butternut squash in all its splendiferous glory, I had a moment of indecision. How to season it?
Sweet or savory?
I'd read a plethora of comments suggesting savory spices. I was slightly skeptical since I grew up with brown sugar and butter on my sweet potatoes, but I figured it was worth a shot. Especially since my boyfriend dislikes "sweet" things—specifically the aforementioned sweet potatoes and any form of squashes.
Thus, I split the prepped bounty in half and seasoned each portion separately. The more diverse the better, in my eyes. They both turned out great. In fact, it's still hard for me to decide which one I prefer. If someone twisted my arm, I'd probably say the pumpkin pie spice and turbinado half, but only because I didn't put enough seasoning on the savory side (I like A LOT of spices). Don't let that influence you, though. Try 'em both!
Roasted Butternut Squash Seasoned Two Ways
Subtly sweet & creamy butternut squash is roasted to enhance its delicate flavor but first it's divided into two portions--one half with warm pumpkin pie spice and sweet turbinado and the other half with cracked black pepper, cayenne pepper and italian seasoning blend for a savory kick. Which seasoning will reign supreme: sweet or savory?
1 butternut squash, cut in half, deseeded, peeled & chopped
1-2 teaspoons of extra virgin olive oil
Cracked Black Pepper
Italian seasoning blend (oregano, marjoram, thyme, basil, rosemary & sage)
Pumpkin Pie Spice Blend (the link goes to my recipe for how to make it at home for cheap)
Turbinado (or any raw sugar)
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
Slice the ends off the butternut squash then slice it in half lengthwise. Scoop the seeds and mushy inner membrane out of each half. Using a good vegetable peeler, peel the skin off both halves. Chop the squash into half inch pieces. Spread on a foil-lined cookie sheet.
Pour 1-2 teaspoons of extra-virgin olive oil across all the squash and mix the pieces around so they're evenly coated. Sprinkle everything liberally with sea salt. Divide the squash into two even portions.
Season the first half with pumpkin pie spice and turbinado, to taste. I recommend starting with a half teaspoon of the pumpkin pie spice and working up from there. It's pretty overpowering in large quantities.
Season the second half with cracked black pepper, cayenne pepper and italian seasoning blend, to taste. Use these spices liberally! The more the better, unless you have an aversion to hotness, then only use a bit of cayenne.
Bake for 30-40 minutes, or until squash is tender and is easily pierced through with a fork or knife.
Question for Discussion: What is your preferred way to season winter squashes? Answer in the comments section below.