Oh butternut squash, how I’ve missed thee.
I’m going to be honest, I haven’t had butternut squash in almost two years. And that’s coming from the girl who used to eat it almost every day, thanks to this recipe of my butternut squash ice cream/pudding. Which, believe me, is a whole heck of a lot more delicious than you’re probably imagining right now.
But it’s actually quite a funny story.
So, I live in NYC. In a studio apartment. It’s less than 500 square feet. Prewar building, meaning…the ventilation isn’t phenomenal.
Anyway, if you’ve ever lived in an apartment — particularly a New York apartment, where the apartments are right on top of each other and crammed in like sardines — then you know that cooking aromas….waft. Even if coming from a kitchen the size of a walk in closet.
Now, I personally think the smell of a butternut squash baking in the oven is glorious…there’s a sweet caramelization, and with cinnamon and vanilla, it truly smells like pumpkin pie.
Well. My neighbor was not so keen on any cooking fragrances of any sort that would come from my apartment…even delicious ones that smell like Thanksgiving dessert. And so, every time I would pass him in the hallway, he’d always comment on it. Like, “Are you opening a restaurant?” Or…”You’re making those sweet potatoes again!” Or…”I could smell that you were back in town!” Or…”Living next door to you makes me hungry.”
Which — sure, all sound fine on their face, but they’re subtly passive aggressive, which as any apartment dweller knows, passive aggressiveness can be many tenants’ forte. I mean, it was literally the only thing he would say to me whenever I would see him. Not even a “Hello” or “How are ya?” Just a jab at how my cooking was a nuisance to his existence.
I did everything I could to mitigate the aromas: I bought a window fan to pull the air out of my kitchen, I had enough candles and febreeze plug ins, and air freshener sprays to make you lightheaded (and probably concern the fire department). And still — I would get comments about the cooking smells.
So I stopped. Cold turkey, and I didn’t make a single butternut squash for nearly two years.
I know, that’s probably absurd, but I guess that’s just the people pleaser in me.
And to put a button on this squash saga, since terminating my butternut baking, my neighbor now speaks to me about normal neighborly topics…like the weather, and holidays, and Covid.
Anywho — I didn’t cook this at my apartment, I cooked it at my special gentleman’s…
But it was so delicious, I nearly cried, I missed it so!
Introducing, my Pesto Butternut Squash Boats!
Tender-roasted butternut squash, mashed with bright and flavorful pesto, and topped with crunchy roasted seeds and a sprinkle of parmesan cheese! MMM!!! I served it with pan seared scallops and blistered asparagus.
What a truly magnificent meal!
In addition to being rustically fabulous and gorgeous, it’s also gluten free, paleo, keto and Specific Carb Diet friendly! (And vegan if you omit the cheese!) So literally, this is a crowd pleaser!
Here’s What You Need: (Serves 2)
1 butternut squash, cut in half, seeds removed
4 tablespoons of pesto, divided (either homemade or store bought) — I used store bought, but this is my recipe for SCD/Vegan Pesto
Parmesan cheese, garnish
Good Chef’s Knife
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
Cut your squash in half lengthwise with a good, sharp knife. Do this by cutting the top and tail off, and then standing it on the flat bottom surface you just created, and carefully cut down the center of the squash.
Scoop out the seeds, and reserve them for baking later.
Line a baking sheet with nonstick tinfoil. Pour a little olive oil down, and spread to ensure easy lift off afterwards. Rub each squash half with olive oil, ensuring to get the outside, all the exposed flesh, and especially the cavity where the seeds were scooped from. Sprinkle with salt, and then place cut-side-down on the baking sheet. Space the squash with a good amount of distance in between, so that they cook evenly.
Bake for 45-60 minutes, until the squash easily give when pressed on the outside with your finger.
During this time, if you’re using homemade pesto, make that, using this recipe. Also, toast your butternut squash seeds in a dry pan with salt over low heat, stirring frequently, until the have become golden brown and fragrant. Finally, prepare the rest of your dinner during this time. I made scallops and roasted asparagus, but the possibilities are endless!
When the squash is finished cooking, remove it from the oven, and flip them over. At this time, using a fork, scrape the squash flesh from the sides, bringing it into the center. Mix this mash with 2 Tbsp of the pesto, and combine well. Top with a sprinkle of parmesan cheese and your seeds, if desired.
OK WOW. First of all, can we just say how dang dramatic and beautiful this is!
I mean, a butternut squash boat is something worthy of a magazine cover. It’s so substantial-yet-inviting, homey-yet-gorgeous.
And the seeds on top make it so intriguing!
Baking a butternut squash is magical. The reason it has a pumpkin pie aroma, is because of the natural sugars in the squash itself, that when baked low and slow, caramelize in the oven. It is SO delicious.
And that sweetness, paired with the bright and fresh pesto, and salty pumpkin seeds — it’s just divine! (It also paired wonderfully with the earthy asparagus and delicately sweet scallops.)
And the texture was phenomenal. By mixing the pesto with the hot squash when it’s fresh from the oven, it melts the cheese in the pesto, giving it this gorgeous body, that calls to mind risotto or thick mashed potatoes. That with the crunchy seeds, and the chewy skin — it was perfect!
Whatever you do, get yourself a squash and make this dish!!
The good news, is that with all the stock shortages at the grocery stores, squash is actually one item who can always count on to be in inventory. I guess there aren’t as many squash enthusiasts as I am. I’m setting out to change that 🙂
Alright, that’s it for now! Thanks so much for stopping by, and I’ll talk to you tomorrow!
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