Friday, December 9, 2011

Butternut Squash

 There is a subtle beauty in everything nature produces. When Marie Eby gave us a stack of various gourds some time back, we carefully kept them cold so that we could use them for meals, one after the other. We've already dined on the lovely spaghetti squash, as interesting a vegetable as I've ever seen. Then we followed up with a cushaw pie and enough leftover filling to make another.
 We still have three varied acorn squashes; they'll be the last of the fall bounty we convert into a meal. For now they are decorative, as pretty colors and shapes as any field could be expected to produce. Today, however, it is the butternut squash's turn to go into the oven.

 The exterior is of a soft tan, variegated with delicate green lines; the stem, cut so long ago, is dry and prickly. It sits odd and bulbous beside our sink, waiting for me to find the "large knife", the same one I use to clean corn, and slice off the top of bottom and cut the squash in half longitudinally.
 I lay it in the sink for this exercise, a confined spot to keep the squash in place and perhaps save the seeds from spilling onto the carpeted floor. As I make my first cut, the interior flesh is a surprising orange, - even though I know exactly what to expect - the color of sunrise beside the drain.

 A butternut is mostly flesh. Towards the bottom there is this small pocket of seeds, strung together with fibers of orange. I dip a large spoon into this mass, cut slightly into the edible flesh and lift the whole seed mass out in nearly one piece. Mom immediately begins salvaging a few seeds. She'll wash them, dry them on a paper towel, pocket them in a labeled envelope and these will find their way to a spot in our own garden next spring.

 Now free of the seeds, the butternut is ready for baking. We'll brush the raw side with olive oil to keep it moist, turn that side down onto a no-stick cookie sheet and slide it into the oven. It is a cold day (only 32° at 9 a.m.) and the kitchen will be made warm and pleasant through this creation of lunch.
 Commonly butternuts are served with maple syrup. I doubt we'll have this that way, instead opting for something remarkably plain. No more than  a sprinkling of salt with make a meal out of just one half.
 The other half will go into the refrigerator, awaiting another day. Maybe we'll dice it up, toss it into spaghetti?
 In any case, today's lunch considered, we'll enjoy these spoonfuls of warm sunshine while snow flurries threaten.

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