Maple, Sage and Nut Crusted Winter Squash
Any variety of winter squash should be the most delicious, satisfying, sweet vegetable you’ve ever eaten. Should is the key word here. Unfortunately, winter squash can sometimes be disappointingly bland, even when you’ve checked for all the signs that you’ve got a good squash. (see the end of this recipe for how to choose a good winter squash)
I developed this topping after being frustrated with some pretty boring butternut squash. Perks it right up! And, I must say if you’re squash is delicious it makes it even better.
1 1/2 lbs butternut, buttercup, hubbard or acorn squash, cut in half lengthwise, seeds removed, then cut in 1/2 inch thick slices.
Organic squash need not be peeled. I love the skins and eat it right along with the squash.
3/4 cup panko or crushed Erewhon Gluten Free Crispy Brown Rice
3/4 cup chopped toasted nuts – either walnuts, pecans or almonds
1/2 cup maple granules, coconut sugar or brown sugar
¼ cup dried sage
¼ cup herbs d’Provence
sea salt to taste
2 tablespoons olive oil
Bake the squash
Preheat your oven to 375º
Line a sheet pan with parchment paper and lightly oil the paper. Lay the squash in a single layer on the sheet pan. Sprinkle with a little sea salt and brush with olive oil.
Bake covered for about 20 to 30 minutes, until the squash is tender and you can put a fork through it easily.
While the squash is baking combine all ingredients for the crust. If maple granules aren’t available or are too pricey coconut sugar works well, although it’s not as sweet as maple granules so you may want to add a bit more coconut sugar to the recipe. Brown sugar can also be a substitute if you prefer.
Add the crust
Remove squash from the oven when it is cooked through, pack approximately ¼” of the crust mixture onto each piece individually, pressing it gently to make it stick.
Return the squash to the oven and bake for another 8 to 12 minutes, until the crust is browned a bit.
Serve while warm.
Tips for picking and cooking winter squash
When choosing winter squash look for these features which will often denote a ripe, sweet squash.
1 – The best winter squash has experienced a cold spell. The cold helps to bring out the sugars. But, I have gotten some decent squash in the fall, before it gets too cold. And I’ve gotten some pretty lousy squash mid-winter!
2 – The squash should feel heavy for it’s size.
3 – The stem should be dry and brown, no green in it.
4 – Many varieties of winter squash such as buttercup, hokkaido, kabocha, acorn and hubbard, will have a light spot on them. This is where the squash has been laying on the ground. That spot should be yellow/orange in color. If it’s a pale, beige sort of color the squash isn’t ripe.
5 – The color of the skin should be rich – you’ll get to know this after you’ve been purchasing the various types of squash for a while. Butternut squash can be very pale with green lines going down from the stem. This usually denotes a butternut squash that has been picked before it’s ripe. A ripe butternut squash has a deeper, not quite orange color to it.
6 – No soft spots. It’s rotting if there are soft spots.
How to cut your winter squash
You will need
1 cheap cleaver or chef’s knife
1 small/medium rubber mallet
After washing your squash put it on your cutting board.
If there is a decent size stem on the squash whack it off with the back of the knife. It’ll probably fly across the room.
Do not use a good chef knife to cut the squash. It can chip. I have a nice, cheap Chinese cleaver and it does the trick.
Put the sharp edge of the knife on the center – top of the squash and tap the blade of the knife (sometimes with a bit of force) with the rubber mallet. Depending on the width of the squash you may need to do half at a time. Start with the half nearest to you and tap the knife till it goes to the bottom. Remove the knife, turn the squash to the opposite side and repeat.
Butternut squash often doesn’t need this method as it’s quite easy to cut.
Once you’ve scooped the seeds out place the flat side of the squash on your cutting board and if needed use the mallet to continue to cut through the squash to get the size pieces you want.
I was quite impressed when I saw Alton Brown on his show “Good Eats” use my time-honored method to cut squash. Hmmmm – wonder how he figured that one out? Maybe he took one of my cooking classes years ago. Haha!
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