Spreading Squash

Squash Butter on multi-grain crackers.

Squash Butter on multi-grain crackers.

Happy New Year. May yours be full of peace, prosperity, and more winter squash.

All the squash I grew this summer resides in the cool, dry, and dimmer corners of my house, which includes my bedroom, so when I wake up in the morning I see the array of Delicatas, Acorns, Butternuts, Buttercups, Kabuchas, and pumpkins and am reminded to use them. (My cellar is too damp to store squash in, though the potatoes like it very well down there.)

There are times when I feel outnumbered by the squash, so ever searching for new ways to prepare it, I was intrigued when I saw a recipe for something called Squash Butter, intended for an appetizer spread on crackers, pita chips, or crostini, though I suspect it might be fine as a vegetable dip, too, the way one uses hummus.

In fact, I have been noticing that creative cooks are playing fast and loose with the hummus and dip meme. Essentially, if one can puree and season it, and if it holds together on a chip or vegetable, then one can turn it into an appetizer. This means using cooked dried or shell beans, cooked peas, several kinds of root vegetables, and winter squash. At a conference I attended a year ago, wait staff passed pureed beets with a sprinkle of feta and fresh dill on crostini. It was really good. Eat ten of those little numbers and you can chalk up another vegetable serving for the day.

So with a pile of squash and an urge to vege it up around here, I gave the Squash Butter a try. There will be some variation in the moisture and texture of squashes, so be prepared to tweak your mixture. For example, add extra liquid in case it seems a little dry and tight. Fiddle with the seasoning, vary the cheese you use or leave it out, and play with the garnishes. This time I used bacon, but next time I am going to sprinkle toasted cumin seeds on it and I think fried onions would be good, too.

Make your own crostini by slicing baguettes and brushing them with olive oil, and baking until crisp in a 350 oven.

Squash Butter

4 cups of cut-up winter squash

¼ cup olive oil

2-3 ounces of blue cheese

2-3 cloves of garlic, pureed

2 tablespoons butter

½ cup of hot water or broth

Salt and pepper to taste

Cooked bacon, crumbled for garnish

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees, or use a skillet on the stove top. Dribble some of the olive oil on the squash pieces, tossing to coat. Roast or sauté the squash until tender and a golden, about fifteen to twenty minutes. Put it into a food processor, and puree it, adding the rest of the olive oil, cheese, garlic, and butter. Add the water or broth very gradually until the mixture is smooth and easy to spread. Add salt and pepper. Serve with the bacon broken up over it, and pass your favorite crackers or vegetables. You can also spread it on crostini, garnish, and pass them.

Makes a generous two cups of spread.

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About Sandy Oliver

Sandy Oliver Sandy is a freelance food writer with the column Taste Buds appearing weekly since 2006 in the Bangor Daily News, and regular columns in Maine Boats, Homes, and Harbors magazine and The Working Waterfront. Besides freelance food writing, she is a pioneering food historian beginning her work in 1971 at Mystic Seaport Museum, where she developed a fireplace cooking program in an 1830s house. After moving to Maine in 1988, Sandy wrote, Saltwater Foodways: New Englanders and Their Foods at Sea and Ashore in the 19th Century published in 1995. She is the author of The Food of Colonial and Federal America published in fall of 2005, and Giving Thanks: Thanksgiving History and Recipes from Pilgrims to Pumpkin Pie which she co-authored with Kathleen Curtin. She often speaks to historical organizations and food professional groups around the country, organizes historical dinners, and conducts classes and workshops in food history and in sustainable gardening and cooking. Sandy lives on Islesboro, an island in Penobscot where she gardens, preserves, cooks and teaches sustainable lifeways.