Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Roasted butternut squash, al orange

It sat on the counter for nearly two weeks like a giant scold daring me to make soup. No, I thought. Not this time.

I have an arsenal of cookbooks to help me with such tasks, but I had a vision -- not of sugarplumbs, mind you, but of a slightly sweet and savory glaze that would transform a hulking 5-pound-plus butternut squash into proper size chunks of glistening beauty. And, I'm happy to report, it worked.

The key ingredient was blood orange-infused olive oil, a vacation souvenir that has surprised me with its extraordinary shelf life. A light drizzle proved to be just the thing that turned common roasted squash into something geninely special.

If you're not so lucky as to have blood orange-infused olive oil in your pantry, add the freshly grated zest of an orange -- then eat the orange. They've been really, really good this year, and you deserve it.

If you opt to try this with a small squash, which makes sense unless you want to eat leftovers for lunch for several days (I did, and it was great), adjust ingredients accordingly. Likewise, if you go ginormous, you could add some broth, pull out the stick blender and turn the balance into terrific soup.

1 5 lb. butternut squash
2-3 tbsp blood orange-infused olive oil (or olive oil and orange zest)
2 tsp cinnamon
2 tsp sugar
1 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
salt, pepper

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Trim ends, scoop out seeds and cut squash into manageable 3-inch chunks. Arrange, skin-side down, on baking sheet covered with foil and coated with vegetable spray.

Blend seasonings together and distribute evenly over squash, then drizzle with oil. Roast about an hour or until tender, nicely browned and glistening. If you're like me, grab the best-looking piece for a taste test, then arrange the rest on a serving dish. Devour.

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