Butternut Squash Polenta with Sausage and Onion

Butternut Squash Polenta

When I saw this recipe in the New York Times last week, I though, why have I never thought of adding grated winter squash to polenta? It seems like such a natural paring and after trying this dish I can tell you it is a delicious natural paring and one I’ll be using from now on.

Grated squashThe recipe is quick and easy taking a little over 30 minutes to complete. Grated winter squash is simmered with polenta and bay leaf until they are tender, then you add a little butter and black pepper and the polenta is done. While the polenta cooks, you brown the sausage and caramelize the onions.  What could be easier? Add a nice green salad and dinner is served.

Butternut Squash Polenta 2

Polenta simmering with grated winter squash and bay leaf.

I used andouille sausage since I had some in the freezer and loved the contrast between the spicy sausage and the sweet taste of the squash and onions. I think you could use just about any kind of sausage and have a satisfying result. I did use rosemary but not the fennel seeds, mostly because I didn’t have them on hand. Using sage instead of rosemary could also be a nice variation.

Thanks to Melissa Clark at the New York Times for this keeper. You can find the recipe, a “how to” video and more information about polenta here.

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Winter Squash; The Perfect Side Dish for Thanksgiving

In keeping with my winter squash post from last week, here is another perfect side dish for Thanksgiving.

Butternut Squash with Browned Butter and Thyme

  • 1 1/2 pounds butternut squash, peeled, seeds removed, flesh diced into 1/2-inch pieces (about 4 cups)
  • 3 Tbsp butter
  • 1 Tbsp chopped fresh thyme (or 1 teaspoon of dried)
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper

1 Heat a large skillet on medium heat. Add the butter, whisking frequently. Continue to cook the butter. Once melted it will foam up a bit, then subside. Honey-colored browned milk solids will begin to form. The butter should have a wonderful nutty aroma. Remove from heat. Add the thyme, whisking continuously. If using fresh thyme, the mixture will foam up a bit.

(Note that it doesn’t take much time to go from browned butter to burnt butter. You will want to remove the pan from the heat element and place it on a cool surface to help stop the cooking of the butter. If the butter burns, I recommend dumping it and starting over, something I’ve had to do on occasion when not paying close attention.)

2 Add the cubed butternut squash pieces to the pan and return the pan to the burner, heating to medium high. Use a wooden or metal spoon to stir the squash pieces so they are all well coated with the butter thyme mixture. Sprinkle generously with salt and pepper. Spread the squash pieces out in an even layer and let cook, without stirring, so that they brown a bit on one side (several minutes). Stir and spread the pieces out again and let cook without stirring so more sides get browned.

3 Reduce the heat to low, cover the pan, and let cook until the squash is tender, 10 to 20 minutes, depending on how big you cut the pieces.

Add more salt and pepper to taste, sprinkle with a bit more chopped fresh thyme before serving.

Serves 4.

Pick up these ingredients at your local Farmers Market:

• 1 1/2lbs butternut squash

• fresh thyme

This recipe is from Simply Recipes, a blog or personal website, created and maintained by Elise Bauer. It’s a great site. Check it out and enjoy her yummy recipes.

What To Buy This Weekend At The Farmers Market: Winter Squash

Winter squashWinter squash, abundant fall through late winter, is one of my favorite winter vegetables. I can remember my mom buying those really big, pink-skinned, banana squash. Sometimes she would cut it into chunks  and bake it or, sometimes she would peel it, cut it into chunks and steam it till soft, then mash it with some butter. I remember it tasted so good. When my son was a baby squash was one of the first vegetables I introduced him to and when I my first grand child came along I introduced it to him too.

Throughout the years I have experimented with different ways to prepare winter squash. I’ve tried it in soups, rice dishes, pasta dishes, and baked items I’ve baked it, steamed it, sauteed it and mashed it. Last year’s, favorite preparation was to peel it, cut it in small sized chunks, toss it with olive oil, fresh thyme, salt and pepper and bake till it’s just starting to caramelize. The leftovers were wonderful incorporated into rice or pasta dishes.

Winter squash is good for you too. It rivals cabbage, carrots, potatoes and spinach in its nutritional value and it is a good source of complex carbohydrates and fiber and is very high in beta carotene, the source of vitamin A.

Not only is it good tasting, easy to incorporate into a wide variety of recipes and highly nutritious, winter squash are beautiful in their colors, textures and shapes. Last year I had a fall party and used various sized squashes and small pumpkins as a table centerpiece. When the party was over I moved them out to the garage. I had read somewhere that you could store them for months in this way if you just placed them on some newspaper on the floor. It worked just fine. Sure was great to have such a nice selection of winter squash right outside the kitchen door.

All this writing about winter squash this morning got me in the mood to look through my old cookbook collection for something new and different to do with squash. Here’s what I came up with.

Glazed Winter Squash with Pine Nuts

¾ cup pine nuts

6 tablespoons unsalted butter

1 ½ cups chopped yellow onion

2 teaspoons minced or pressed garlic

4 pounds winter squash, peeled, cleaned and cut into slices 1/8” thick

2 cups heavy (whipping) cream

2 cups light cream or half and half

1 teaspoon minced fresh thyme, or ¼ teaspoon crumbled dried thyme

½ teaspoon ground coriander

¼ teaspoon ground mace

Salt

Freshly ground black pepper

½ cup freshly grated dry Monterey Jack or Parmesan cheese

Place pine nuts in a small dry skillet over medium heat and cook, stirring frequently, until lightly toasted, about 5 minutes. Pour onto a plate to cool.

Melt 2 tablespoons of the butter in a sauté pan or skillet over medium heat. Add the onion and cook, stirring often, until very soft and golden, about 10 minutes. Stir in the garlic and sauté 1 minute longer. Remove from the heat and reserve.

Preheat an oven to 425 F.

Combine the squash, heavy cream, light cream or half and half, thyme, coriander, and mace in a heavy-bottomed saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce the heat to low and simmer, uncovered, until the squash is tender and has absorbed most of the liquid, about 15 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Toss squash mixture with the reserved onion and transfer to a highly greased 8 by 12 inch baking dish. Sprinkle with the cheese and dot with the remaining 4 tablespoons butter. Bake for 10 minutes, then sprinkle with the toasted pine nuts. Continue baking until the top is lightly browned, about 5 minutes longer. Serve immediately.

Serves 10 to 12

From James McNair’s Squash Cookbook

Chronicle Books 1989


Pick up these ingredients at your local Farmers Market:

• 4lbs winter squash (Buttercup, Butternut, Hubbard, Marina di Chioggia or Musquee de Provence would be good choices)

• 2 yellow onions

• fresh thyme

• dry Monterey Jack cheese (some Farmers Markets will have this)

• and if you’re in New Mexico you’ll be able to find pine nuts at the Farmers Market