There is a reason the butternut squash is used in the photograph for the Garden Groupie section of this blog. Out of all the luscious and delicious produce that the green-thumbed Cute Gardener cultivates year round in his garden, this beautiful beige voluptuous food, which when split open bursts with the most glorious hue of orange, is my single most favorite thing to eat. Butternut has become one of my top ten flavors in fact. The buttery, sweet and firm flesh when roasted is divine thrown into just about any earthy, harvest dish from noodle to medley or as a hearty accompaniment to meat.
When I first met the Cute Gardener, a bountiful still life of a dozen squash sat waiting on his kitchen counter for the slice of a knife and was one of the hundred or so reasons I fell head over heels. I am on the tail end of my second season with the beauties, and although they grow in July and August and come to maturity in September and October, they are so plentiful that we are just seeing the end of them now as we scurry to come up with more recipes with which to enjoy them.
I tend to use mine in an assortment of pastas that hint at Fall with various butter sauces and toasted seeds that I envision Demeter, Goddess of the Harvest, serving at a grand dinner party to her minions. As a matter of fact, I have fed many of my own muses with a particular dish I have come to call Muse Fettucine. Last month, I needed a photo of reference for a painting in my series-in-progress The Fool. I called upon a friend of twenty years to come over, dress up, collaborate with me in capturing the essence of an Empress, and then fed her for her time.
8 ounces fettucine (or linguine)
*1 c. lemon butter sauce
1 medium sized butternut squash
¼ c. shelled sunflower seeds, freshly toasted
Peel a medium-sized butternut squash with a vegetable peeler. Cut it in half length-wise and scrape out the seeds and pulp. Dice the rest into one-inch cubes and toss in a bowl with one-tablespoon olive oil and one-teaspoon salt. Roast in a 400-degree oven for 30-40 minutes until fork tender but still firm. You don’t want the pieces too mushy so they still have tooth in the pasta.
Cook your pasta and make your lemon sauce.
*What makes this dish extra special is the lemon butter sauce borrowed from Emeril Lagasse’s Fish en Croute recipe. I use the same recipe but don’t go through the trouble of pushing the sauce through a sieve at the end. You can start this sauce as you put on the water to boil for the pasta and it will be done around the same time the pasta comes to al dente.
I like to toast my sunflower seeds in a toaster oven right before everything else is done. It only takes about four minutes and they are still hot and add a crisp crunch by the time they are tossed into the rest of the dish. Watch carefully so they don’t burn, it’s easy to do as I know from experience.
When the pasta is done, transfer it with tongs into the same pan you’ve cooked your sauce in and twirl it around to coat nicely. Add in your squash and seeds and toss well. Add salt and pepper and serve! This makes a full meal in itself but could also go with a simple side salad of greens and carrots.