Sunday, November 11, 2012

Butternut Squash Puree, Your Way!

Butternut squash is, to me, one of the most amazing foods we can eat.  

Butternut squash is extremely versatile.  It can be used as a main course or as  a side.  It's sweet by nature, so it can be made into a dessert.  It can even be hidden within other dishes when we're desperate to ensure our families get the nutrition they need.

The rest of my family doesn't love vegetables the way I do, so I have a great need for culinary creativity.

The beauty of a puree is that it can be used within many different recipes, so I don't have to worry about a veggie war.

So what do you do?

Well, first you have to soften the squash.

This can be done through steaming or through baking (roasting).  For steaming, I throw chunks of squash (skin and all) into a microwave steamer with some water, and set it for between 5 and 7 minutes.  For bigger jobs, I place chunks on a huge cookie sheet, and put them in the oven for a while, like I explained yesterday.

Once everything is nice and softened, it's time to get out the blender.  I use a 7-speed Cuisinart that I've had for 6 1/2 years.  It has about a trillion buttons, and I swear by it.  It does exactly what I want without fail, regardless of task.

Ok, maybe not quite a trillion buttons...
Place your chunks of butternut squash into the blender with a bit of water.

This is the part where it starts to get done your way.  

I can't tell you how much water to add.  

What I can tell you is that it's subjective.  You need to add enough water that everything will mix together in the blender, and so it needs to be done slowly, and with patience.  You'll know when you've added enough, because everything will stick to the sides and refuse to budge until you've added just the right amount.

That's the point where I stop adding water.  I like it thick enough that it sticks to a spoon without dripping.  Over time, sure... some will slough off the spoon.  But that'll take a while.

I like it to be smooth enough that it looks and feels like baby food when I take the top off of the blender.

You, however, may not.

You may want to add more water so that the puree has a bit more 'give' to it.  

That's entirely up to you.  How much moisture you allow it to have is entirely in your hands.  Just don't let it turn into a thin soup... you won't be able to use it in recipes, or deceptively add it to other foods if you do.  Well, not effectively, anyway.

I only used half of my baked butternut squash to make puree, and I came out with about 5 1/2 cups of extraordinarily thick and smooth puree.  The rest of the squash went into a gallon bag and got stored in the fridge for later.

How long can it be kept?

Well, it seems to last forever, because I've never had any go bad.  I always keep some in the fridge, and allow the rest to stay in the freezer.  Let's say 1 week in the fridge, and 6 months in the freezer... just to be safe.

The best thing to do with a basic squash and water puree is divide it into 1/2 c (or even 1/4 c) amounts and freeze the puree in separate containers so that they can be thawed according to whatever recipe you'll be using them in.  I'm still using plastic baggies for this, since I haven't yet found any small containers that fit my own personal expectations (I want something that will last forever, and most small containers are flimsy).

Now what do I do with all of this mushy stuff?

The puree can be added to soups to add a creamy texture.  It can be hidden in cakes, which produces a moistening quality.  Mashed potatoes do well with some added puree.  You can even add it to meat marinades. The choice is yours.

Need recipes? 

Jessica Seinfeld is probably the big guru of puree recipes.  I'm not a big fan, but many people (including people I know personally) swear by her stuff, so I'd recommend starting with her site, then going on from there.

Tomorrow I'll talk about the recipe that I used for butternut waffles. 

 I did things a wee bit differently than was written in the instructions, and the creator of the recipe would probably be giving me the "some people..." look, but the recipe was so good that even with me totally ignoring the basic order of operations, it came out phenomenal, and I want to share it.

So tune in tomorrow for a spectacular recipe!

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