The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

February 5, 2014

A taste embrace

Squash the boring out of winter eats

By Lisa Shrewsberry with chef Devin Godbey
Lifestyles Editor

— Ever been afraid to expand the “specials” menu at your home? Do you panic in the “organic” produce aisle? Have you eyeballed colorful eggplant, only to wimp away with a pasty head of iceberg lettuce instead?

 

Chef Devin Godbey, director of the UC-Beckley Culinary Program, challenges you to be bold and embrace a new taste.

Chef Devin has a few tricks up her professional sleeves to empower home-based foodies who typically shy away from unfamiliar ingredients. Or maybe you’re known as quite the cook, but feel a recipe rut coming on.

Devin and her culinary partners will tutor cooking newbie or ninja through lessons on techniques and not-so-common ingredients, as well as offer methods for those basics we might have missed along the way. She’ll also demonstrate each tip step-by-step at www.register-herald.com.



For her first challenge, Devin chose: the butternut squash.



This pumpkin-y ingredient (Aussies even call it “butternut pumpkin”) is considered the prima donna of pureed soups and a team player for stews, salads or even lasagna.

“Butternut squash gives a creamy texture and flavor to recipes,” says Chef Devin. “You would almost think you’re having cheese when you eat it.” Butternut can be spiced to extra sweetness with cinnamon or seasoned toward savory with chipotle powder or cayenne. It is also one of the most versatile superfoods, rich in vitamin A, vitamin B6, potassium and fiber.

Another advantage to the butternut is its prepping and storing potential.

“You can cut it up and freeze it, then thaw just before adding to recipes or roasting...” — a timely idea for squirreling away the goods for a savory salad (see recipe on Page 2B) before they’re out of season.

“You can also substitute it for pumpkin in pies or even make smoothies with it. It has the same flavor as a sweet potato or pumpkin in recipes,” Devin notes.

Unfortunately, the gourd-like goodie doesn’t arrive in perfect cubes and can be a rather hard “nut” to crack.

With a vegetable peeler, a sharpened knife and a little perseverance, however, you’ll tackle it like a pro. Now … Allez Cuisine!



Step 1. Trim ends from squash after washing and drying. Be careful squash doesn’t roll during cutting.

Step 2. Before cubing, use a vegetable peeler to remove hard outer skin. “Using a dull knife can be dangerous,” says Devin, so make sure the knife is sharp and not too small in size. Use a paper towel to steady the squash if it gets slippery during peeling.

Step 3. Cut peeled squash in half, leaving a top and bottom. Cube the top half (perfect squares optional).

Step 4. For bottom half, scoop out seeds with a tablespoon and clean all fibers out before cubing.

Step 5. Place cubes on baking sheet, seasoning with black pepper, kosher salt and olive oil. “It’s important to use a larger pan instead of crowding. If the cubes are crowded, they’ll steam instead of roasting,” warns Chef. Salt and pepper will bring out the natural nuttiness of the squash, “… but you can also use sugar or cinnamon, or cumin or smoked paprika for a spicier flavor.”

Step 6: Roast cubes 20 minutes in a 400-degree preheated oven, or until golden brown, flipping cubes halfway through for even roasting on all sides. The cubes are ready to use as a side dish or to cool and add as ingredient.



Some prefer to roast two halves of a butternut squash without peeling, scooping out the flesh for recipes or to stuff and serve as an entrée. If halving, Chef Devin suggests scoring the squash first and taking time pressing the knife through to split the squash into two even sides. After seasoning, roast halves flesh-side down to avoid color as a recipe additive. Roasting halves should take about 30 minutes, or long enough for the flesh to become smooth and creamy.



One to try…

Butternut Squash Salad with Cranberries and Balsamic

4 cups Mixed Greens

1 Butternut Squash (peeled, cubed and roasted with olive oil, salt and pepper)

3/4 cup Dried Cranberries

1 cup Toasted slivered or sliced almonds

Place the Greens on your platter.  Top with cooled squash cubes, cranberries and toasted almonds.  Toss with the vinaigrette or serve on the side of the salad.  

Balsamic Vinaigrette recipe follows:



Balsamic Vinaigrette

1 cup Balsamic Vinegar

2 cups Canola or Vegetable oil

2 cloves garlic

1 shallot (peeled)

1 Tablespoon Dijon Mustard

1 tsp. dry basil (or 3 leaves of fresh)

1 tsp. dried oregano (1 sprig of fresh)

1/4 cup of honey (or to taste)

  1 tsp. salt

  1 tsp. black pepper

1. Place your vinegar and all other ingredients in a blender or food processor.  Puree until smooth.

2. Using the feed tube on your blender or food processor slowly stream in the oil while the machine is running. This will emulsify the vinaigrette and should create a creamy thickened texture.

3. Taste for seasoning and adjust according to your taste.  

4. Adjust the oil and vinegar to your taste and consistency. Add more oil if the vinegar flavor is too pungent.  

5. Store in an air-tight container in the refrigerator.  This will hold for at least a month under refrigeration.  Shake to blend the vinaigrette before using



To see Chef Devin’s preparation by video, visit www.register-herald.com

— E-mail: lshrewsberry@register-herald.com