Mark Bittman is a food writer with a fresh approach. I happen to love his easygoing attitude towards recipes in the New York Times Minimalist
column. Bittman's minimalist approach can refer to using few techniques and few ingredients, but it mostly (to me, anyway), means he assumes his readers know their way around a kitchen, probably own a cookbook or two and can translate his concise, shorthand instructions into delicious food.
In considering butternut squash this week, I decided to take a minimalist approach to one of my favorite autumn vegetables. Butternut squash is pretty much the package - good taste, good nutrition, and good looks (once you crack open the beast and reveal the amber-gold flesh within). I selected a large squash at the supermarket and made two recipes - soup and salad.
Peeling a butternut squash can be daunting, but with patience, a solid cutting board, a vegetable peeler, and a sharp, sturdy chef's knife, it can be easily handled. Begin by cutting the vegetable in half across the width, just above the bulbous end. With the long narrow end, cut it in half lengthwise, then using a vegetable peeler (I find a "Y" peeler to be most useful here), peel off the tough outer layer. With the bottom, rounded end of the squash, do the same - cutting in half through the length, scraping out the seeds and fibers with a spoon or your fingers, then peeling each piece of squash flesh. The top half of the vegetable will be cubed and cooked with onions and chicken broth for a savory soup and the remainder of the squash will be roasted with olive oil, butter and salt and tossed with salad ingredients.
My Minimalist Butternut Squash Soup: half of an onion, chopped; sauteed in butter; add cubed squash, chicken broth, a bay leaf, some sprigs of thyme, salt and pepper. Cook until squash is softened, then puree in processor or blender. Some might add chopped apple to the saute, in fact, I've heard tell that's the secret to the very best butternut squash soup. Some might garnish with bacon, but I like a sprig of thyme, and maybe buttery croutons if I have them on hand.
My Minimalist take on Butternut Squash Salad: Cooked brown rice tossed with torn baby spinach, roasted cubes of butternut squash, a generous squeeze of lemon juice, glug of extra virgin olive oil, Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper. (To roast squash: cubed butternut squash, tossed with extra virgin olive oil, salt and pepper, roasted in a 450 degree oven for 30 minutes.)
One squash, two tasty dishes, lunches for three days or more, with a minimum of fuss.
Text & images © 2010, Lucy Mercer.