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It’s really fall now! I hope you enjoyed the pumpkin recipes last week. This week I’m exploring a cousin to pumpkin — butternut squash.

I’m 95% sure I had not tried butternut squash until I was in my mid-20s. I don’t think I had even heard of it before then. My parents had a general dislike of squash and so they didn’t introduce me to the whole squash family of vegetables, even though mushy, overcooked yellow summer squash (what they were familiar with) is nothing like the hearty, roastable winter squashes that have so much more potential.

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My first introduction might have been butternut squash soup from Panera. It looked like pumpkin soup but a little more golden and I think they hinted that it had some apple in there, so on a certain day, it just looked inviting and I gave it a try. And I loved it! I’ve since made my own version of butternut squash soup in a number of different ways, but I’m guessing you might have tried that at home too, so for this week’s column I went for some different ways to use butternut squash.

First up, in a fall salad. The picture of this one was beautiful, from the deep green kale, the light green Brussels sprouts, the purple cabbage, and the orange butternut squash and sweet potato. This recipe leaves the kale and cabbage raw, but I would be inclined to either wilt them a little in a large saute pan or at least massage the kale with a little salt and olive oil ahead of time, because that just makes kale taste so much better. The recipe includes a homemade honey-Dijon dressing, and then some seeds, nuts, dried cranberries and apple matchsticks to give it that sweet and salty crunch combination. Add some grilled chicken and you have a complete meal here.

Next, I liked this idea of using cubed butternut squash in a farro salad with prunes, pecans and fresh herbs. If you can’t find farro try barley, which has a similar chewy texture once cooked. Again, if you’re looking to make this into a full meal, try adding some crumbled sausage to this delicious grain salad.

And for the third recipe, dressed up oven-roasted butternut squash, tossed with caramelized onions and gorgonzola cheese for a rich flavor. Eat it as a side dish, or put it on a flatbread pizza crust for a meal that feels like you’re out at a fancy bistro.

Enjoy!

The ultimate fall harvest salad

1 bunch dinosaur kale, chopped and sliced thin

1/2 head purple cabbage, sliced and chopped thin

1 butternut squash

1 large sweet potato

1 tablespoons olive oil

sprinkle of salt and pepper

1/4 teaspoon smoked paprika

2+ cups Brussel sprouts, halved

1 medium apple, cut and sliced into matchsticks

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3 tablespoons olive oil

3 tablespoons apple cider vinegar

1 lemon, juiced

1 tablespoons Dijon mustard

1 tablespoons honey

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/8 cup hemp seeds (or sunflower seeds)

1/4 cup chopped pecans or walnuts

1/4 cup dried cranberries

Freshly shaved parmesan for topping

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Chop sweet potato into bite-sized pieces, and cut Brussel sprouts in half. Add to sheet pan and drizzle with 1/2 -1 tablespoon olive oil and season with salt, pepper, and paprika.

Cut both ends off butternut squash. Peel skin, then chop into ¼-inch cubes. Add to second baking sheet and drizzle with olive oil. Season with salt and pepper.

Add both baking sheets to oven and roast for 25-30 minutes, checking and stirring halfway through.

While vegetables are roasting, prepare remaining ingredients. Add 3 tablespoons olive oil, apple cider vinegar, lemon juice, Dijon mustard, honey, and salt to a small bowl and whisk. Set aside.

Thinly slice and chop cabbage and kale and add to a large serving bowl. Cut apple into matchsticks and add to serving bowl.

Once veggies are done roasting, let cool. Once cool, add to salad and sprinkle with cranberries, nuts, and hemp seeds. Drizzle dressing over salad and toss. Serve with freshly shaved parmesan.

Farro with prunes, butternut squash and pecans

3 tablespoons apple cider vinegar

1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil, divided

1 1/2 teaspoons sea salt, divided

1 1/2 cups uncooked farro or whole grain of choice

10 prunes (dried plums), thinly sliced, about 3 ounces

4 cups butternut squash cubes (about 1/2-inch)

3 scallions, thinly sliced, green and white parts, separated

1/2 cup packed thinly sliced fresh basil

1/4 cup packed chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

1/3 cup pecan pieces or pine nuts, preferably pan-toasted

In a medium bowl, whisk together the apple cider vinegar, 2 tablespoons of the olive oil, and 1 teaspoon of the salt. Set aside.

Add the farro to 5 cups of cold water in a large saucepan and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce heat to low, cover, and cook according to package directions until tender. (Note: cooking time will vary for other grains.) Drain well of excess liquid through a fine mesh strainer. Add the cooked farro and sliced prunes to the apple cider mixture; stir to combine and set aside.

Meanwhile, heat the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a large cast iron or other stick-resistant skillet over medium heat. Add the butternut squash cubes and remaining ½ teaspoon of salt and cook while stirring occasionally until just-tender and lightly browned, about 15 minutes. If you prefer a richer caramelization, increase heat to medium-high towards the end of this sauté process. Add the white part of the scallions and cook while stirring occasionally until the scallions are lightly browned, about 3 minutes.

Add the butternut squash cube mixture and scallion greens to the farro mixture. Gently stir. Adjust seasoning.

Stir in the basil, parsley, and pecans and serve warm or at room temperature. Alternatively, chill the farro mixture, then stir in the basil, parsley, and pecans, and serve cool.

Roasted butternut squash with caramelized onions, gorgonzola and crispy fried sage

2 cups butternut squash, cut into ½-inch cubes

2 tablespoons olive oil, divided

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon pepper

2 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided

1 small medium, sliced

2 cloves garlic, minced

8 sage leaves

1/3 cup crumbled gorgonzola cheese

Pre-heat oven to 450 degrees.

Toss cubed butternut squash with 1 tablespoon olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Place in a single layer on a baking sheet and roast for about 20-30 minutes, until tender and nicely browned. Toss squash after about 10 minutes of cooking time.

While squash is roasting, heat remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil in a large skillet and add 1 tablespoon butter. Add sliced onion and cook on low until caramelized, about 25-30 minutes. Add garlic, sauté for a few more minutes and set aside.

Transfer caramelized onions to a plate and melt remaining 1 tablespoon butter in skillet. Let the butter brown a bit and then add the sage leaves. Sauté for about 2-3 minutes, until crispy.

Add onions, squash, and gorgonzola to the pan and toss (try not to let the cheese melt). Serve warm or at room temperature.

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