Tag Archives: Butternut Squash

Tart Art: Recipes for Sweet or Savory Rustic Tarts

DSC_0626I’ve been looking for a great excuse to repost this blog on rustic tarts. Well, it being the eve of you-know-what, I don’t thing I even have to mention why you might want to totally distract yourself with an incredibly delicious cooking project. (Perhaps you don’t have a TV or the internet in your kitchen.) But even if you don’t feel like cooking today or tomorrow, chances are that either a sweet or savory tart might fit perfectly into one of your holiday menus. So, Ta da! A repost of where to find directions to all my yummy rustic tart recipes.


Sweet or savory, these open-faced pies can be everything from appetizer to dessert—and even breakfast. A couple years back, I wrote and photographed a story called “Tart Art” for Martha’s Vineyard Magazine, and now the recipes are all online. It’s a great place to go for my all-purpose, buttery, flaky dough recipe—and to find recipes for both my versatile fruit filling (apples, pears, or plums) and for two different savory fillings.


The fruit fillings work for sweet rustic tarts that are as delicious for dessert as they are the next day for brunch or an easy leftover breakfast. And if you’ve got a copy of Fresh from the Farm on hand, you can find one of my favorite variations in the recipe for Little Pear Crostatas with Hazelnut Crisp Topping. (Rustic tarts go by the name crostata in Italy and galette in France.)


The savory fillings I did for Martha’s Vineyard Magazine—Savory Cabbage, Apple & Cheddar and Savory Roasted Butternut, Pear, and Cranberry—are variations on the fillings I did for my tart chapter in The Fresh and Green Table. Not only are these savory tarts deeply flavored and satisfying (great with soup or salad), but they are a lot of fun to put together.


For step by step assembling instructions, you’ll want to look back at the directions and the photos I included in a previous blog, which includes a link to one of the recipes from The Fresh & Green Table. (The Seven Treasure Roasted Winter Veggie Tart is also a favorite in The Fresh & Green Table.) And over on the Martha’s Vineyard Magazine website, you’ll see that I’ve given you options for dividing the dough into either two or four pieces to make two bigger or four smaller tarts.

So you’ve got options.

And when summer comes around (we can be hopeful, right?) don’t forget about my most favorite tart of all—the Roasted Tomato Rustic Tart in Fresh from the Farm!




A Winter Farmers’ Market Book Signing, plus Family Time

photo-398Saturday morning early-early, we (Roy, Farmer, and I) saddled up the little red Honda and boarded the ferry (aka the icebreaker) and whooshed our way over to Woods Hole. We picked up Libby in Falmouth and drove up to Wayland, Massachusetts, just west of Boston, where I was scheduled to do a book signing event at a winter farmers’ market held inside Russell’s Garden Center.

I had tried to get to the Wayland Winter Farmers Market in January, but that time we had boarded the boat, only to get backed off due to high winds. No way was I going to miss it this time.

Now, I only wish I could go back to the market next Saturday (which will be the last market for the season) as it was truly wonderful. I was so busy at the signing table (a very good thing, of course) that I didn’t get to poke around as much as Roy and Libby did.

ask dr. cheese

Ann StarbardHeld inside a big greenhouse (my table backed up to an orchid display), the market was packed with farmers and vendors from all around New England. In fact, this Saturday was New England Cheese Day at the market, and next to me was Ann Starbard from Crystal Brook Farm (right) with her award-winning fresh goat cheeses. I could have spent a good bit of time sampling!

I brought along my own samples—three loaves of Spiced Butternut and Cranberry Quick Bread (top photo), a recipe from Fresh From the Farm. We cut the loaves into small pieces, but nevertheless they disappeared! Along with almost all of the books we brought with us.

Susie M and friends

The best part was meeting quite a few readers of my cookbooks—and friends of friends—who made a dedicated effort to come to the market.  (Sisters Gail Lilligreen, right, and Linda Ohsberg, left, in the photo above, drove up from Rhode Island.) Such nice people.

The nicest of all was market manager Peg Mallett, who is not only super-organized and friendly, but saved me with three bottles of water and a cool spot to sit for a minute when I unexpectedly felt very light-headed and momentarily thought I had come all that way only to fall ill…’Jeesh, Susie,’ was all I could think.

Ron & Libby

While I regained my equilibrium, Roy and Libby manned the table, holding would-be book buyers hostage with farm stories until I returned. After that, Roy and Libby had a well-earned (and delicious) lunch of thin-crusted pizza from the Vesta mobile wood-fired oven at the entrance to the greenhouse. And then they gave Farmer a tour of the (outdoor) grounds.


We were all so tired at the end that we drove straight back to Woods Hole (one quick stop at Lowe’s) and got on an early ferry. There’s just only so much you can do in one off-Island excursion.


DSC_0001Now, as if Libby doesn’t get inundated enough with everything food-and-cooking (like trips to farmers markets on her school vacation!), we decided to do some cooking lessons together this week. First assignment: Making and baking Tollhouse chocolate chip cookies, solo. (Well, solo, with a few tips from teacher.)

Happy to say she got an A+ on this assignment. (Yes, that is Barney on the kitchen counter in the background of the photo at right.)

The cookies were a surprise for Dad, who is truly swamped with work, both on-farm and off. On Sunday he was starting to build a chicken coop in the yard on a trailer—until we got the call that our 200 new birds won’t be coming this week, after all, but three weeks from now.

What a relief.


The snow is beginning to melt, and it is predictably swampy out there now. But at least we can think about getting the spring work rolling. Oh goody.


Photo credits: Cheeses, courtesy ask.dr.cheese.com; photos of all people at market, Peg Mallett; photo of wood-fired oven, courtesy Vesta Mobile Wood-Fired Pizza; all others, Susie

Kitchen Travel: From Point A to Point B = Pumpkin Hand-Pies

photo-231Sometimes, in my efforts to use up food, I never know what I’m going to wind up with in the kitchen. This week, among far too many things I’d amassed in the fridge, a container of roasted squash was staring at me from behind a bag of kale. I have no idea what I’d been planning to do with it when I pulled it out of the freezer. Maybe make my Spiced Butternut and Cranberry Quick Bread from Fresh From the Farm? Usually I wait until closer to Christmas time to do that. And I know it wasn’t one of many different butternut soups I make. (Though soup is the main reason I roast and freeze winter squash “meat.”)

Puzzled, I returned to my computer, where I happened across an email from Food 52 with a “Genious Pumpkin Butter” recipe in it. I’m not really a fruit butter kind of gal, but I clicked on this because I loved the photo and the deep color of the pumpkin butter. When I got there, I realized why it looked so appealing. In a word (one of my favorite words): Caramelization. The pumpkin (or squash) is basically roasted twice, first to get the flesh tender and scoopable (and out of the skin); second with brown sugar, spices, and a little butter in a shallow baking pan so there is lots of contact with direct heat. You stir the squash mixture from time to time as it bakes and releases a lot of moisture, making it drier, much more flavorful, and deeply colored.

I’d already done the first part—check. So I measured the roasted squash I had (3 cups) and set about to make this right away. (I cut the recipe in half  and used a 7 x 11 Pyrex baking dish.) The house began to smell holiday-fragrant, and stirring the squash every once in a while was one of those comforting and tactile pleasures that make cooking so satisfying.


I ate some right out of the pan not long after it came out of the oven–delicious. Like pumpkin pie filling only much tastier and more concentrated. Which reminded me, of course, that I now had to do something with the squash butter (thinking Roy was really not going to be interested in squash butter crostini for dinner.) So once again, fate (and web surfing) intervened, and as I was perusing The New York Times thanksgiving coverage, I came upon Melissa Clark’s simple pie dough recipe. I had just seen a recipe for cranberry hand pies on another site, and suddenly I knew what I wanted to do—make mini pumpkin (or squash) hand-pies.

After making and chilling Melissa’s easy dough, I promptly stopped looking at anyone else’s recipes, which might have been a mistake, because I haven’t made hand-pies in centuries. But I was already having so much fun with my old pastry cutters, flour flying all over the place.

photo-237 photo-235So only after I had already cut out circles that were rather small, cut little windows out of them, and spooned a heaping portion of roasted squash on to them, did I realize that folding one half of this circle of dough on to itself (to make a half-moon shape) was going to be a stretch and a squish. I should have made bigger circles and smaller cut-outs. Whatever, I said! And forged ahead again, baking them anyway, and then going on to use the rest of the dough to make full-circle hand-pies that held the filling more demurely. (The half moons were cuter, though, even if they were a bit stuffed.)

But wait! Half way through I also stopped and folded a couple tablespoons of mascarpone cheese into the pumpkin butter and tried that as a more “pie-ish” filling. The first one of those I tasted I loved and promptly filled the rest of the dough with that stuff. Later, after everything cooled–and more sampling ensued–I decided that I actually liked the straight roasted squash butter filling better. The crust was so flaky and buttery that it didn’t need a creamier filling.


Well, in the end these things were very cute and very tasty. But of course I can’t give you a full recipe, because I was playing, rather than developing! But if you’re intrigued (and the little pies would be great on a Thanksgiving dessert buffet—they don’t even need to be warmed up), you can certainly grab the pumpkin butter and pie dough recipes and have at it yourself. I would say that in the end I got about 12 to 14  hand pies out of the one dough recipe. (And there is plenty of leftover pumpkin butter, so you could certainly make more dough to yield more pies.) The photo-236only other things you will need are a little egg wash (made from one egg yolk and a bit of cream) and some coarse sugar. I brushed a little of the egg wash around the edges of the dough circles before sealing them. And I also brushed the tops of the pies—for color and to help the sugar adhere. I used some raw cane sugar I happened to have around, but a cinnamon sugar mix might be nice to try, too.

P.S. If you’re in the process of making up your Thanksgiving menu, and you’re looking for side dish ideas, I’ve been posting my favorite side dishes on Face Book at Susie Middleton Cooks. And you can click here for a link to some of my older favorites.

P.P.S. My apologies for the fuzzy (and poorly lit) photos–my good camera has now left the repair place and apparently is being sent back to the “factory” for repair. Yikes.


Stormy Minestrone, A Recipe for Comfort

All I can think about today is soup. This may be because I have too many vegetables crowding up the fridge. After another round of recipe development and a pre-hurricane sweep of the garden, I am left with the clear makings of minestrone—everything from a five-pound bag of carrots to three awkwardly space-hogging baby fennel bulbs. I have a big basket of winter squash I keep stumbling over in the pantry, and I have a little handful of green beans I just plucked off the dying vines this morning. I even have a few cranberry beans that are finally ready to harvest, from plants that miraculously show very little storm damage.

Our storm damage, in fact, was minimal. Had circumstances been different—if Sandy hadn’t taken a left turn when she did—we would likely be facing a very different winter here on the farm. Instead the hoop house is still standing, the animals are all fine, and in fact, we have another flock of laying hens due to arrive here this week (more on that soon). So thankfully, Roy is building—rather than rebuilding. Now, of course, I hear that a big Nor ‘Easter is coming up the coast this week. So maybe we are not out of the woods yet. But still. I can’t stop thinking about Staten Island and the Rockaways and Seaside Heights. All those folks still without power and nights getting really chilly. And lots of friends on the coast of Connecticut with serious flood damage. We did have plenty of coastal erosion up here on the Island and flooding in the lowest harbor areas in the towns, but most homes were safe and dry (and warm).

Everyone knows it could have been different, though. One Island friend posted an idea on Facebook a couple days ago for a coats-and-warm-blankets drive, and seemingly overnight, boxes outside of Island businesses filled up with donations, and volunteers have come forward to drive the items down to a particularly hard-hit neighborhood in Queens.

I will be here, making hot and comforting soup, sort of a crazy response to feeling for other people who are cold. It’s like I have a sympathetic and not entirely imaginary chill that must be chased away. We human beings have strange responses to things—I know I can’t share my soup with those folks, but I’m hoping someone else will share their hot food with someone cold and hungry, and in the meantime I’m sending comfort-soup-karma out as best I can.

Here’s my Fall Farmers’ Market Minestrone recipe from The Fresh & Green Table. Deeply flavored without any meat at all, it’s a good starting point for comfort soup, but feel free to vary the veggies as you please.

Fall Farmers’ Market Minestrone  

Recipe copyright Susie Middleton, from The Fresh & Green Table (Chronicle Books, 2012).

The secrets to this meatless minestrone include lots of aromatic veggies and a Parmigiano rind. I usually finish the soup with grated Parmigiano and/or a bit of gremolata (a mix of freshly chopped parsley, lemon zest, and garlic). But if you don’t want to bother with the gremolata , it’s perfectly delicious without it.


1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil

2 cups medium-diced onions (about 1 large or 2 medium)

2 cups thinly sliced Savoy cabbage (about 1/4 small head)

1 cup thinly sliced fennel bulb (quartered and cored first, about 1/2 small bulb)

1 cup thinly sliced carrots (about 2 carrots)

Kosher salt

1 cup peeled, medium-diced butternut squash (about 4 to 5 oz.)

1 cup large-diced stemmed Swiss chard leaves (thinly slice stems separately and include them, too)

1 Tbsp. minced fresh garlic (plus 1/2 tsp. if making gremolata)

1 Tbsp. chopped fresh thyme

2 tsp. chopped fresh rosemary

1 tsp. ground coriander

1 Tbsp. tomato paste

1 14 1/2-oz. can diced tomatoes (I like Muir Glen), well drained

1 2-inch Parmigiano-Reggiano rind

½ cup ditalini pasta or other very small pasta

1 cup thinly sliced green beans (about 4 oz.)

½ to 1 cup fresh corn kernels (optional)

1 to 2 tsp. lemon juice

½ tsp. lemon zest (if making gremolata)

2 Tbs. chopped fresh parsley

1/3 cup coarsely grated Parmigiano Regianno


a 5- to 6-quart Dutch oven or other large soup pot, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the onion, fennel, cabbage, carrots and 1 tsp. salt. Cover and cook, stirring occasionally, until the onions are softened and mostly translucent and the cabbage is limp, about 6 to 8 minutes. Uncover and continue cooking, stirring occasionally, until much of the cabbage is browning and the bottom of the pan is browning as well, about another 8 to 9 minutes.

Add the 1 Tbsp. garlic, the thyme, the rosemary, the coriander, and the tomato paste. Stir until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add the butternut squash, the chard, the diced tomatoes, and 1 ½ tsp. salt and stir well until incorporated. Add the Parmigiano rind and 8 cups water.

Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer, and cook, stirring occasionally, for 10 minutes. Add the ditalini and cook another 8 minutes. Add the green beans and the fresh corn (if using) and cook for 4 to 5 more minutes. Remove the pot from the heat, remove the Parmigiano rind, and stir in 1 tsp. of the lemon juice. Let cool for a few minutes; taste and adjust for salt, pepper, and lemon juice.

For the gremolata (optional), combine the 1 tsp. garlic, the lemon zest, and the fresh parsley in a small bowl.

Garnish each portion of hot soup with some of the gremolata or chopped parsely and some of the Parmigiano.

Yields 8 cups, Serves 6



Best Roasted Brussels Sprouts + 10 Fave Thanksgiving Sides

This time last year I was preparing to be on television the day before Thanksgiving. (The Martha Stewart Show—I cooked quick veggie sides from Fast, Fresh & Green.) A few years back I did a satellite media tour around this time to promote Fine Cooking’s book How To Cook A Turkey. The year before that, I did a radio blitz for most of November and December to promote all the holiday tips and recipes on Fine Cooking’s website (which, if you haven’t looked lately, is by far the best place to go to plan your Thanksgiving menu. Check out the cool interactive Create Your Own Menu Maker. But I’m not biased or anything.) Well, you can imagine how relieved I am not to be PR-ing this holiday season. I did in fact just record some radio spots for Fine Cooking that will soon air on WGBH (I’ll keep you posted); but they were a whole lot of fun to do—and they didn’t require a new wardrobe or an anxiety attack.

So we are free and clear to have a simple and quiet Thanksgiving at the farmette (yippee!). I still have squash, rutabagas, onions, kale, arugula, herbs, and salad greens from the garden, plus green beans, corn, and roasted tomatoes that I froze, so we will be able to make most of the meal über-local. I will wander across the street to the West Tisbury Winter Farmers’ Market on Saturday to see if I can get the rest of what I need.

Regardless of where you plan to get your goodies, most of you, I know, have this one thing on your mind: What kinds of dishes can I cook that are easy and delicious, that everyone likes, and that will serve a decent-sized crowd? To that end, I’ve gathered a list of ten of my own favorite side dish recipes that serve at least six people (below). Some of these recipes reside on sixburnersue.com, but several are ones I developed a few years back for an “updated classics” story on Thanksgiving sides for (you guessed it) Fine Cooking magazine. And I also threw in a “create your own” creamy veggie soup from another FC article I did years ago, in case yours is the kind of family that likes to start the meal with an elegant soup (or needs options for vegetarians).

But for the tenth recipe on the list, I couldn’t resist posting my Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Orange Butter Sauce. This is a recipe I originally created for Fast, Fresh & Green but that I tweaked last year for the TV gig so that it would feed more people. I just remade it this morning and am happy to confirm that it is not only delicious, but possibly one of the fastest and easiest Thanksgiving side dishes ever to make.

Here’s my list:

1. Green Beans with Crispy Pancetta, Mushrooms, and Shallots

2. Roasted Turnips with Maple and Cardamom

3. Pomegranate-Balsamic-Glazed Carrots

4. Bourbon Sweet Potato and Apple Casserole with a Pecan Crust

5. Creamy Baked Leeks with Garlic, Thyme, and Parmigiano

6. Mashed Yukon Gold Potatoes with Roasted Garlic

7. Thanksgiving Gratin of Butternut Squash, Corn & Leeks

8. Potato Galette with Fresh Rosemary & Two Cheeses

9. Creamy Vegetable Soup (Pick Your Own Veggie!)

10. Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Orange Butter Sauce (see below)

Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Orange Butter Sauce

I’ve roasted Brussels sprouts a few different ways, but you can’t beat this method for volume (large rimmed sheet pans hold a lot), quickness (16 to 18 minutes in a 475° oven), and great results (by halving the sprouts and roasting them cut-side down, the tops and bottoms brown but the interiors steam). The flavorful butter sauce gives the nutty roasted sprouts just the right touch of tangy-sweet richness to make this completely holiday-worthy.


2 lb. small Brussels sprouts, trimmed and halved lengthwise

1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil

1 tsp. kosher salt

1 Tbsp. plus 1 tsp. balsamic vinegar

2 Tbsp. pure maple syrup

2 Tbsp. fresh orange juice

1 tsp. finely grated orange zest or lemon zest

4 Tbsp. cold unsalted butter, cut into 16 pieces and kept chilled


Preheat the oven to 475˚F. Line two large heavy-duty rimmed sheet pans with parchment paper. In a mixing bowl, toss the Brussels sprouts with the 1/4 cup olive oil and 1 tsp. of the salt. Divide the sprouts between the two sheet pans and arrange them, cut-side down. Roast until brown and tender, 16 to 18 minutes. (The tops will be dark brown and crispy and the sprouts should feel tender when pierced with a paring knife.) Transfer the sprouts to a mixing bowl.

Combine the balsamic vinegar, maple syrup, orange juice, and orange zest in a small saucepan. Heat the mixture over medium heat just until it’s hot (you will see a bit of steam), but not simmering. Remove the pan from the heat and add the cold butter, several pieces at a time, whisking constantly until the mixture is smooth and creamy. (Don’t reheat the mixture or the butter will break and the sauce won’t be creamy.) Pour the sauce over the sprouts and stir thoroughly but gently until most of the sauce has been absorbed. Transfer the sprouts and any remaining sauce to a serving platter and serve right away.

Serves  8

Farm Critters, Chicken Butts, and A Thanksgiving Butternut Squash Gratin

When I first got to the Vineyard, I was totally charmed by farm animals. Back in my suburban  I-95 world, I hadn’t run into a lot of pigs and goats, much less a baby lamb or a pair of hulking oxen. I traipsed (okay, maybe trespassed) all over the Island, taking pictures of anything with four legs or feathers. I got lucky I guess, or maybe I was entranced, because I took a lot of nice photos of critters (some of my favorites are above). Sometimes the animals even looked at the camera.

Lately it seems my luck (or probably my patience) has run out. Granted I don’t have a lot of time to wander around stalking farm animals. But when I do get close to a critter with the camera, I get mooned. Yeah, butts. Especially chicken butts. This week, I wanted to blog about our chickens…and their beautiful eggs…and about how wonderfully efficient they are at processing leftover food (and other farm compostables, like pumpkins). Yes, I know I’ve talked about this before, but after ranting about waste and expense last week, I had to share the satisfaction I got out of watching the hens efficiently turn our jack-o-lantern into fertilizer.

But the ladies would not cooperate for a good picture. When I got in the pen with them (to avoid shooting through the deer fencing), of course they all rushed away from the pumpkin and towards me. I crouched down to frame the shot and Perky jumped on my leg for a visit, while Martha and Opti started pecking at my boots. Very distracting. In the end, the best shots I got were of tail feathers. Granted those chicken butts are cute (and soft, too). But they’re still butts.

Oh, well. I finally realized that Thanksgiving is a breath away, and that it might be nicer if I paid attention to our country’s biggest cooking holiday for this blog instead of some chicken whim of mine. So I marched into the kitchen and made a new version of one of my favorite gratins from Fast, Fresh & Green—this one with a big enough yield to warrant a place on the Thanksgiving table. It turned out so well that Roy and I both snacked our way through the afternoon on it.  It features my favorite fall harvest combo—butternut squash, leeks, and corn—and, oh yes, a bit of cream and Parmigiano, plus thyme and just a hint of lemon.

Next week, I’ll offer up a green veg recipe for the Thanksgiving table—if I don’t get distracted by a baby goat or a stray dog or something.

Thanksgiving Gratin of Butternut Squash, Corn & Leeks

Since Thanksgiving is a crazy cooking day, here are some make-ahead tips for this recipe: Dice, chop, and otherwise prep all the ingredients ahead. (And buy already-peeled butternut.) Then go ahead and sauté your leeks, garlic, and corn, too. (If you’re working hours ahead, refrigerate.) You can grease the gratin dish ahead as well. Then all you’ll have to do is combine and assemble before cooking.


2 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon unsalted butter

1 1/2 cups fresh breadcrumbs

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

kosher salt

2 cups thinly sliced leeks (white and light green part only, about 2 large), rinsed well but not dried

2 teaspoons minced fresh garlic

1 1/4 cups corn kernels (from about 3 ears)

1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons heavy cream

1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons low-sodium chicken broth

½ teaspoon freshly grated lemon zest

freshly ground black pepper

2 teaspoon finely chopped fresh thyme leaves

1 1/4 pounds peeled, seeded butternut squash, cut into ½-inch dice (about 4 cups)

1/2 cup finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano


Heat the oven to 400 degrees F. Rub a 2-quart shallow gratin dish with 1 teaspoon of the butter.

In a small bowl, combine the breadcrumbs, 1 tablespoon of the olive oil, 1/4 teaspoon salt and mix well.

In a medium (10-inch) heavy nonstick skillet, melt the remaining 2 tablespoons of the butter with the remaining tablespoon of olive oil over medium-low heat. Add the leeks (with any water still clinging to them) and 1/4 teaspoon salt; cover, and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened and translucent, about 5 minutes. Uncover and continue to cook, stirring frequently, until the leeks are shrunken and lightly browned in places, 10 to 12 minutes more. (The pan will dry out.) Add the minced garlic and stir until softened and fragrant, about 30 seconds.

Add the corn kernels, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and a few grinds of fresh pepper. Cook, stirring, until the corn has lost its raw look, is glistening, and is slightly shrunken, about two minutes. Take the pan off the heat and let the mixture cool for five to ten minutes.

Combine the heavy cream and the chicken broth in a liquid measure. Add the lemon zest, a scant 1/2 teaspoon salt, and a few grinds of pepper. Stir to mix well.

Add the corn-leek mixture and the herbs to the diced squash and toss well to combine. Transfer the mixture to the gratin dish and arrange as evenly as possible. Sprinkle the Parmigiano on the vegetables. Stir the cream mixture one more time and pour and drizzle it over everything. Be sure to scrape out any seasonings left in the liquid measure. Sprinkle the breadcrumbs evenly over all.

Bake until the crumb topping is deep golden and the squash is tender when pierced with a fork, 42 to 45 minutes. The juices should have bubbled below the surface of the vegetables, leaving browned bits in a line around the edge of the pan.

Serves 6 to 8 as a Thanksgiving side dish

On the Menu: Roasted Butternut Squash with Cranberry-Ginger Butter and Toasted Walnuts

A few weeks ago I mentioned my imaginary friend Shorty. Things have gotten worse. Now I have a whole bunch of imaginary friends. I had a party and invited them over two nights ago. It was a spur of the moment thing, so there was no time to invite real friends.

I had been making my black bean chili all afternoon—one of the last recipes for the new book, and one I’m particularly excited about. But once I had a big pot of the stuff on my hands around 6 o’clock, I realized I needed to get an accurate read on the portion sizes—not just of the chili, but of the rice, the vegetables, and the garnishes that go with it. So I made all the accompaniments and then started putting out little bowls (each for a half-size portion), figuring I’d kill many birds with one stone. (Our pet, Ellie the Lovebird, with whom I have a tenuous relationship, did not like this analogy.)

Not only did I want to test proportions, but I wanted to test different taste combinations. So I put little name cards next to the bowls as a fun way to indicate the different combinations. “I think I’ll blog about this,” I told Roy, who was looking at me with amusement. “No, I think I should write the next blog,” he said, “about what it’s like to live with a cookbook writer on deadline.” Needless to say, I’m keeping him far away from the keyboard.

Happily both Roy and I and all of the imaginary guests (or as best as we can figure) liked all of the chili combinations. But everyone’s favorite vegetable topping for the bean chili was roasted butternut squash. I nibbled on the squash as we were cleaning up (the guests did not hang around to do the dishes), and I thought about what a delicious side dish roasted butternut is, simply diced up and cooked on high heat. But even better, a super-quick flavored butter (my favorite has lots of chopped dried cranberries, fresh ginger, and a little lime in it) turns this earthy-sweet vegetable into a real star. So I’m passing along that recipe—since I can’t share the chili recipe just yet.

The only problem with this recipe is portion size (ack—the bane of my existence!). Even if you scooch up the amount of raw squash to 1 1/4 lbs. (any more than this amount on one large sheet pan will steam, not roast), you still only wind up with about enough to serve 3 people as a side, because this is so tasty. At least you won’t have to invite any imaginary friends to eat the leftovers.

Roasted Butternut Squash with Cranberry-Ginger Butter & Toasted Walnuts


1 to 1 1/4 lb. peeled butternut squash, cut into 1/2-inch dice

3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

Kosher salt

2 tablespoons unsalted butter

3 tablespoons chopped dried cranberries

1 teaspoon chopped fresh ginger

1/4 teaspoon finely grated lime zest

½ teaspoon fresh lime juice; more if needed

2 tablespoons finely chopped toasted walnuts

2 teaspoons chopped fresh cilantro (optional)


Preheat the oven to 450°F. Line a large heavy-duty rimmed sheet pan with a piece of parchment paper. In a mixing bowl, toss the squash with the olive oil and 1 teaspoon salt. Spread the squash in one layer on the sheet pan. Roast, flipping once with a spatula after about 18 minutes, until the squash are tender and  brown on the bottom and around the edges, about 12 minutes more or 30 to 32 minutes total.

Meanwhile, melt the butter in a small saucepan over low heat and add the cranberries, the fresh ginger, and the lime zest. Stir well and cook to soften the cranberries a bit, about 1 minute. Take the saucepan off the heat while waiting for the vegetables to finish roasting.

Transfer the squash to a mixing bowl. Reheat the cranberry butter to loosen it up if necessary. Add the ½ teaspoon lime juice, stir, and pour and scrape all of the cranberry butter into the bowl with the squash. Toss thoroughly but gently. Taste and add up to ½ teaspoon more lime juice if desired. Add the walnuts and cilantro (if using) and toss again. Serve right away.

Serves 3 (maybe 4!) as a side