ASD Recovery Cooking: Butternut Squash

I bought this organic butternut squash of, almost, embarrassing size. It’s a two-weeker.

Winter squash is hardly a nutritional powerhouse, but it is non-starchy, and Martin can eat as much of it as he wants. Thus, when dealing with standard, non-gargantuan vegetables, I process about one butternut squash per week. My gourd friends meet their fate like this:

First, I peel the entire squash and discard the rind. For three or four seconds I gaze upon the rind strips lying atop my garbage, sigh, and long for a compost bin.

Second, I cut the neck from the bulbous seeded section, which I set aside. I slice the solid flesh of the neck lengthwise into French-fry shape, about 1/8″ • 1/8″ • 4″. I store the sliced French fries, raw, in a lead-free glass container in the refrigerator. (No need to cover them with water; they keep well.) Martin frequently enjoys these French fries with breakfast. Those mornings, I spray a stainless-steel cookie sheet lightly with olive oil; spread the fries in a single layer; mist them with more olive oil; sprinkle with kelp or dulse granules, or salt; and bake at 450º for about 10 minutes, or until browned and slightly crunchy. (Uniformly sized fries are key. Otherwise, some will remain soggy whilst others start to burn.)

Third, I halve the bulbous section previously set aside and scoop the seeds and their fibrous coating—which I usually call by its technical name, “stringy stuff”—from each part. I separate the seeds from the stringy stuff; discard the stringy stuff, with another corresponding longing for a compost bin; rinse the seeds, as best is possible; and spread them on a sheet in my dehydrator. (I don’t start the dehydrator yet.) Once the seeds are dehydrated, they make crunchy little toppers for veggie dishes, or mix-ins for the occasions when Martin eats quinoa or rice.

Fourth, I cube the flesh that surrounds the seed pocket. This part of the squash does not make very good French fries, because it is rounded and hard to cut into the right shape. Instead, I juice the cubes with my high-powered juicer. What, you might ask, does one do with squash juice? One uses it in recipes, as a replacement for tomato juice, and to moisten vegetable dishes flavorfully.

Fifth, the juicing process leaves behind pulp in the juicer, which I remove and spread on another sheet in the dehydrator. Then I start the dehydrator, with seeds and pulp inside. Because juicing the flesh has removed most of the moisture (and nutrition, and taste) already, this pulp comprises almost only fiber, and desiccates rapidly. Once it is completely dry, I use a coffee/spice grinder to break it down to a fine powder. I use the powder in place of arrowroot or tapioca (which are starchier) as a thickener in stews and sauces.

The end. From my butternut squash I extract French fries, seeds, juice, and thickening powder.

From the squash pictured above I extracted three containers full of French fries, ¼ cup of seeds (post-drying), about 10 ounces of juice, and a spice bottle full of thickener.

So we’re good for a while.

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