Butternut Squash Salad with Mint

I grow lots of butternut squash.

Butternut harvest

They are one of the few squashes that are resistant to borers, a persistent noxious bug around here (resistant… not immune).  They are large plants and need room to roam or a sturdy trellis to climb over. And while the harvest is not always as abundant as the picture above, we always (so far) have had enough for us, and generally quite a few to sell.

If fully ripened, they are a star of the stored pantry (immature ones can be eaten like a zucchini shortly after harvest). A well cured butternut will keep 6 to 9 months, at cool room temperature – in the low 60’s F (15-18 C). They and sweet potatoes can carry us through winter.

I do like them a lot in the kitchen. What would be the point of growing them after all… unless they are good on the table?  They are very versatile, a strong taste and a firm texture. They make velvety pureed soups and buttery never-stringy mash; they also hold their shape well in curries and stew. Roast them, steam them, saute them, butternuts are up to the task. Chutney, English-style piccalilli,  or pickles? Yes, butternut is there for you. 

What else can you do with them? Add them to a risotto or wheat berries; toss small cubes of roasted butternut with buckwheat pasta or with cooked barley; mash cooked butternut with ricotta and stuff ravioli. Slice thinly and top a white pizza. Use as filling for quiches. Roast slabs and layer them in a lasagna… They are endless ways to prepare butternuts.  And they are all delicious. While I prefer them in savory dishes, they just work well as pumpkin replacement in pies or cakes.

In her book “My Calabria”, Rosetta Constantino prepares winter squash to be served as a cold salad dish. It was a revelation to me: until then I never thought of eating cold winter squash and I don’t use mint much in savory dishes. It’s a dish I often make now, especially for a crowd. I have adapted her method to the oven (Rosetta fries her on the stove top). You can find Rosetta’s recipe on her website.

Butternut Squash Salad with Mint

Choose a butternut squash with a long neck to maximize the amount of usable vegetable. Fresh mint is better, but high-quality fragrant dry mint will work.

  • 1 butternut squash (about 3 pounds)
  • ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil (more as needed)
  • 2 tablespoons cider vinegar
  • 2 fresh plump garlic gloves, green germ removed if any, and very (very!) thinly minced or sliced
  • 1 tablespoon finely shredded fresh mint leaves (or 1 teaspoon fragrant high quality dry mint)
  • Salt to taste

Trim off ends of squash. Cut off the neck, halve, and peel. Slice in 1/4 inch thick slices. Halve the remaining quash, remove seeds from the cavity, peel, and slice. Preheat oven to 425F.

Generously oil 2 large rimmed cookie sheets. I mean generously. Arrange the squash slices in a single layer, moving them around on the pan to coat them with oil.

Bake squash until the slice edges start to brown and blister – about 30 minutes. Rotate the cookie sheets once. If needed, move the slices on the outside to the center of the pan if they are crisping too fast.

Remove from the oven and while the butternut is still hot, layer slices of them in a glass bowl. Sprinkle each layer with salt, vinegar, garlic and mint.  When all done pour the accumulated juice and oil from the pans on top. Let marinate for a few hours. Eat at room temperature.

 

 



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