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Squash for Thanksgiving: Let Us Count the Ways

Chances are you’re in the home stretch of your Thanksgiving dinner shopping, and another good bet is that you’ve already grabbed one of more types of winter squash to include in your menu. Colorful, delicious, and traditional, there’s no end to the ways in which squash dishes are a welcome addition to the celebration. Try one of these for next week’s feast or save for Christmas, which is just around the corner!

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SQUASH SOUP WITH BLUE CHEESE CROÛTES

SERVES 8 TO 10

            Use any combination of winter squash — butternut, acorn, carnival, and sweet dumpling work well — to make this soup, which also uses a potato for thickening. Serve it with little toasts made with Cashel Blue cheese or with croutons.

For the soup

5 tablespoons butter

5 cups winter squash, cut into 1/2-inch pieces

1 leek, green and white parts, chopped

1 small carrot, chopped

1 celery stalk, chopped

1 large potato, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch pieces

2 sprigs fresh thyme

2 fresh sage leaves

4 cups homemade chicken stock or canned low-salt chicken broth

Salt 

Ground black pepper 

1/2 cup heavy (whipping) cream

Chopped fresh chives, for garnish

For the croûtes

1 baguette, cut into 1/4-inch-thick slices

4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

3/4 cup crumbled Cashel Blue or similar blue cheese

2 tablespoons Parmesan cheese

2 tablespoons crème fraiche

3 tablespoons minced fresh flat-leaf parsley

Ground black pepper

1. Make soup. In a large saucepan over medium heat, melt butter. Add squash, leeks, carrot celery, and potato; stir to coat. Cover; cook for 12 to 15 minutes, or until vegetables are soft but not browned. Stir in thyme and sage.

2. Add stock, bring to a boil, and then reduce heat to low. Cover; simmer, stirring occasionally, for about 30 minutes, or until vegetables are tender. Remove thyme sprigs and sage leaves; let cool.

3. Working in batches, transfer soup to a food processor or blender; purée until smooth. (May be prepared to this point 1 day ahead). Return soup to same pan, stir in cream; bring to simmer. Season with salt and pepper.  

4. To serve, ladle soup into bowls; sprinkle with chives and serve with croûtes.

5. Make croutes. Preheat broiler. Arrange baguette slices in a single layer on a baking sheet; brush tops with olive oil. Broil for about 1 minute, or until lightly browned and crisp. Remove from oven; turn over.

6. In a small bowl, combine blue cheese, Parmesan cheese, crème fraiche, parsley, and pepper; mix well. Spread mixture on slices, return to broiler for about 1 minute longer, or until mixture is browned and bubbling.

ROASTED SQUASH HUMMUS

MAKES 2 CUPS

            Although hummus is not traditionally associated with Ireland or Irish cookery, it’s a great go-to dip for easy entertaining wherever you live. You can increase the flavor and nutritional value by adding butternut squash. You can find it pre-cut in many supermarkets, making it even more user-friendly for this delicious dip.

1 1/2 cups cubed butternut squash 

Sea salt 

Ground black pepper

Extra virgin olive oil

1 (15-ounce) can chickpeas, drained and rinsed (reserve 3 tablespoons liquid)
1/4 cup tahini (sesame paste)
3 tablespoons reserved liquid 

2 garlic cloves

1 teaspoon ground cumin
Juice of 1 lemon
Roasted squash seeds, for topping (optional)

Rosemary sprigs, for garnish (optional)

Carrots, crackers and toasted pita bread, for serving

1. Preheat oven to 425°F. In a large bowl, toss squash cubes with salt, pepper, and olive oil. Spread in a single layer on a rimmed baking sheet.

2. Roast, turning once or twice, for 20 to 25 minutes, or until squash is lightly browned and tender; let cool for 10 minutes.

3. Transfer squash to a food processor or blender. Add chickpeas, 1 tablespoon reserved liquid, garlic, cumin, and lemon juice. Process until smooth, adding remaining reserved liquid, if needed. (Cover and refrigerate for up to 1 day, if desired).

4.Transfer to serving bowl and swirl top using back of a spoon; drizzle with additional olive oil. Garnish with roasted seeds and rosemary sprigs (if using) and a few additional grinds of pepper. Surround with carrots, crackers ,and pita bread.

WILD RICE-STUFFED ACORN SQUASH 

SERVES 4

            This is a great make-ahead side dish. For the wild rice filling, a good choice is to use a packaged brand like Near East or Carolina that comes with seasonings. 

Extra virgin olive oil

2 acorn squash, cut in half and seeded

Sea salt 

Ground black pepper

1 package long grain and wild rice mix

2 tablespoons butter

1 shallot, chopped

1 Granny Smith apple, peeled, cored and chopped

1/4 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley 

1/4 cup golden raisins

1/4 cup dried cranberries

1/4 cup toasted walnuts, chopped

2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese

1. Preheat oven to 400ºF. Brush cut sides of squash with oil; season with salt and pepper. Place squash, cut side up, on a baking sheet. Bake for 35 to 40 minutes, or until tender. Reduce oven temperature to 325ºF.

2. Cook rice according to package directions. Transfer to a large bowl.

3. In a medium skillet over medium heat, melt butter. Stir in shallot and apple; cook for 5 to 6 minutes, or until shallot is soft but not browned. Stir into rice; stir in parsley, raisins, cranberries, and walnuts.

4. Spoon filling into each squash half; sprinkle with cheese. Arrange in a casserole dish; bake for 15 minutes, or until filling is hot.

ROASTED SQUASH, SWEET POTATOES AND CARROTS WITH POMEGRANATE DRIZZLE

SERVES 8

This Mediterranean-inspired vegetable mélange will please everyone. The drizzle is a homemade version of pomegranate molasses, but you can use balsamic glaze if you wish. Allow for about an hour of cooking time if you plan to make the molasses.

For the molasses

3 cups pomegranate juice

1/3 cup sugar

2 tablespoons lemon juice

For the vegetables

2 delicata squash, halved crosswise, seeded and sliced into 1/2-inch-thick rings

2 acorn squash, halved, seeded and cut into 1/2-inch-thick wedges

3 medium sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 3/4-inch-thick rounds

1 pound carrots, preferably baby carrots with stems

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes

2 teaspoons sea salt 

Ground black pepper

3 thyme sprigs, plus additional for garnish

Pomegranate arils (seeds), for garnish

1. Make molasses. In a medium saucepan over medium heat, slowly bring juice, sugar, and lemon juice to a boil; cook until sugar dissolves. Reduce heat to medium-low. Cook, stirring frequently, for about 1 hour, or until mixture thickens and reduces to about 3/4 cup. Remove from heat; let cool. Transfer to lidded jar; refrigerate after use.

2. Make vegetables. Preheat oven to 425°F. In a large bowl, toss squash, sweet potatoes, and carrots with oil. Add pepper flakes, salt, and pepper; toss again. Arrange on a rimmed baking sheet with thyme sprigs. 

3. Roast, tossing once halfway through, for 20 to 25 minutes, or until vegetables are tender and browned. Transfer vegetables to a platter, drizzle with pomegranate molasses (or balsamic glaze), and garnish with fresh thyme sprigs and pomegranate arils.

    Margaret Johnson’s “Recipes” page also includes “Ireland Hopping: Adventures in Food, Drink, and Travel.” For further details on her work, or to order a signed copy of her new cookbook “Festive Flavors of Ireland,” visit www.irishcook.com

 

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