So. I’ve had a couple of butternut squashes in my fridge. They’ve been taunting me. Staring me down. Begging me to do something, anything with them. But I was nervous. It’s been years since I handled and cooked squashes in their whole form. Typically, I take the easy way out and buy squash that’s already been peeled and cubed. But I couldn’t let the squash go to waste. I had to overcome my nerves and just use it.
Turns out, working with butternut squash is way easier than I remember. Since I ultimately wanted cubed squash, I cut the ends of the squash off to make them flat — easier to work with the squash that way. Then I used a regular ol’ vegetable peeler to peel the skin (which wasn’t as tough or thick as I expected), taking care to peel away until I saw orange flesh. Finally, I sliced the squash in half length-wise, removed the seeds and stringy things and sliced the squash into 1/4-inch slices. I used what I needed immediately, dicing it, and stored the rest in an airtight container in the fridge.
Honestly, working with a whole squash wasn’t any harder or more time consuming than cutting down the big chunks of butternut squash into a quarter-inch dice. And it’s way more cost effective. Guess what I will be buying in the future? Yep … no shortcuts needed on this one.
I’ve been roasting most of the squash and using it in different dishes. When you roast butternut squash, it becomes soft and sweet — a natural, light caramelization that’s just awesome. For this, I tossed the squash with a bit of olive oil spray, cinnamon, paprika and salt (a killer combination on orange veggies), which gives it a rich savory sweetness once it’s been roasted for about 25 minutes.
One of my favorite things to do with this roasted squash is to sprinkle it onto salad. It’s amazing, and a little unexpected. This salad combines the sweet, soft bits of squash with sweet-tart dried cranberries and warm, meaty toasted walnuts. It’s served on a bed of romaine. And one of my favorite things about it? It didn’t take more than 30 minutes to make. Okay. maybe 40 minutes, if you haven’t already peeled and sliced your squash.
It’s a great fall salad for lunch or a light dinner. Who doesn’t love a great salad?
What shortcuts do you take in cooking? Dish in the comments.
Butternut Squash, Toasted Walnut and Dried Cranberry Salad
- 2 cups diced fresh butternut squash 1/4-inch dice
- olive oil spray
- 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
- 1/2 tsp ground sweet paprika
- kosher salt to taste
- 1/2 cup chopped walnuts
- 8 cups washed and torn romaine lettuce
- 1/2 cup dried cranberries
- dressing of your choice
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line a baking sheet with nonstick aluminum foil. Spread the butternut squash over the baking sheet. Spray with olive oil spray. Sprinkle with the cinnamon, paprika and salt. Stir and toss gently to disperse the seasonings throughout.
- Bake for 22-25 minutes, stirring once, until the butternut squash is golden brown and tender.
- Meanwhile, in a small warmed skillet set over medium heat, toast the walnuts for 1-2 minutes, until warmed and slightly browned. Remove from heat.
- Arrange two cups of lettuce on each of four plates. Top with 1/4 of the butternut squash, toasted walnuts and dried cranberries. Drizzle with dressing, as desired.
- Serve immediately.
Sarah Walker Caron is a cookbook author, freelance writer and founder of Sarah’s Cucina Bella. Her latest cookbook is The Super Easy 5-Ingredient Cookbook, published by Rockridge Press, which focuses on quick, easy, from-scratch cooking for busy people. A single mother to two kids in middle school, Sarah loves nightly family dinners, juicy tomatoes plucked fresh from the vine and lazy days on the beach. She also adores reading and traveling.