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Broyles: Use winter gourds to make next-level butternut squash soup, acorn squash risotto

Addie Broyles
More Content Now
America's Test Kitchen amps up their butternut squash soup by adding matchstick apples, pork and a savory seed brittle.
Butternut squash adds flavor and color to this borani from "Simply" by Sabrina Ghayour.
This dish from Nadiya Hussain's new book, "Time to Eat," is inspired by Hasselback-style potatoes, but she uses squash instead.
This vegan pizza from Stefania Evangelista and Tim Barclay has a butternut squash sauce, caramelized onions and kale.

Your jack-o'-lanterns might be decomposing outside, but unless you carved the butternut squash, too, your winter squashes are likely doing what they do best: waiting patiently on your countertop to be used.

It's a fall ritual for me to buy acorn and butternut squashes and then conveniently overlook them for months. I pass them over and instead use another vegetable, like carrots or potatoes, which are easier to be peel or don't have to be peeled at all.

At some point, however, I decide it's time to enjoy these beastly, thick-skinned gourds. The tough peel is what gives them the superpower to stay fresh for months after harvest, but it also can be hard to cut through, so I have been known to microwave the entire gourd for five minutes to soften it before cutting in half and roasting on a sheet pan. (Sometimes, they are tough enough that it's hard to poke them with a fork, which is what you're supposed to do to release steam. I haven't had any trouble with exploding squashes yet, though.)

If I buy one whose skin isn't too hard, I'll take the time to peel it with a vegetable peeler, chop it in half, scoop out the seeds and cut into cubes.

Each of these recipes, all of which come from a handful of new cookbooks that have come out this year, includes different methods for working with butternut or acorn squash.

"Great British Baking Show" winner (and Netflix host) Nadiya Hussain, author of a new book called "Time to Eat: Delicious Meals for Busy Lives," requires peeling the squash before cutting Hasselback-style slits in the flesh and roasting it with a mix of ginger paste, chile flakes, rosemary and cumin.

If you're usually underwhelmed by butternut squash soups, check out America's Test Kitchen's version from their new book, "Bowls: Vibrant Recipes With Endless Possibilities." They amp up the creamy soup by topping it with ground pork, matchstick apples and a crunchy savory seed brittle.

Butternut squash soup (or puree or sauce) can be an unexpected ingredient on pizza. Stefania Evangelista and Tim Barclay, authors of "Vegan Pizza: Deliciously Simple Plant-based Pizza to Make at Home," use a homemade butternut squash sauce to replace tomato sauce on a pizza also topped with kale and caramelized onions.

Risotto is one of those carb-heavy fall foods that are good for cold nights when you don't mind standing in front of the stove stirring the rice. In their book, "Fraiche Food, Full Hearts: A Collection of Recipes for Every Day and Casual Celebrations," Jillian Harris and Tori Wesszer infuse their squash risotto with two kinds of squash prepared in a couple of different ways.

And as we're starting to think about our Thanksgiving dinners, check out the butternut borani from "Simply: Easy Everyday Dishes" by Sabrina Ghayour. It's a room-temperature dip that blends butternut squash with yogurt and garlic with dill, Aleppo pepper and walnuts on top.

Hasselback Squash with Burnt Garlic Rice

This squash is cooked whole, with slits cut into it so all the flavor can permeate through. It's served with a simple burned garlic rice. Sometimes all we want is something hearty with veg, and that is exactly what this is. - Nadiya Hussain

For the squash:

1 medium butternut squash

5 tablespoons vegetable oil

1 teaspoon salt

1 tablespoon ginger paste

1 teaspoon chile flakes

1 tablespoon dried rosemary

1 tablespoon ground cumin

1 lemon, finely grated zest and juice

Fresh parsley, chopped, to finish

For the rice:

3 tablespoons vegetable oil

7 tablespoons unsalted butter

1 whole head of garlic, peeled and sliced

2 1/2 cups basmati rice

1 tablespoon salt

Heat the oven to 400 degrees and have a roasting dish at the ready.

Peel your squash, then take off the top and bottom ends, cut it in half lengthwise, and scoop out the seedy bits. Now, with the cut side of the squash flat against the chopping board, make slits across it horizontally.

Start at the top, working your way down and leaving 1/4-inch gaps, ensuring each slit does not go all the way through the squash. Cut each half all the way through lengthwise, so you have 4 individual quarters. Don't worry if you accidentally cut too far when making the slits - just slide the pieces together when you put them in the roasting dish.

Put the oil, salt, ginger paste, chile flakes, rosemary, cumin, and zest and juice of the lemon into a bowl and mix together really well.

Put the squash in the roasting dish and smother it with the dressing. Bake in the oven for 30 minutes, until the squash is tender.

Meanwhile, cook the rice. Put the oil and butter into a large pot over medium heat. When the butter has melted, add the garlic and cook on high heat until it is almost black, stirring occasionally. As soon as it is very dark, take the pan off the heat and stir in the rice and salt.

Have a kettle of boiling water ready by your side. Cook the rice on medium heat for 3 minutes, or until the grains are an opaque white, stirring all the time. Pour in water until it is 1/2 inch above the level of the rice.

Cook the rice on high heat until all the water has been absorbed, stirring to make sure the rice doesn't stick to the bottom of the pot. Then turn the heat right down to the lowest setting, pop the lid on and let the rice steam for 15 minutes.

Serve everyone some squash and rice, and sprinkle with the fresh parsley. You might like to add some pesto to this. Any leftover rice can be frozen. Serves 4.

- From "Time to Eat: Delicious Meals for Busy Lives" by Nadiya Hussain (Clarkson Potter, $29.99)

Creamy Butternut Squash Soup with Apples and Pork

Butternut squash soup makes for a rich, creamy soup on its own but can also take on an array of hearty toppings. To simplify the cooking process, we parcooked large chunks of squash in the microwave and let them drain while focusing our attention on cooking a crispy topping of ground pork seasoned with fennel, garlic and shallot. We then caramelized the squash in the pork's rendered fat to build some flavorful fond before deglazing and pureeing our soup. Fresh apple matchsticks added just the right contrasting crunch and sweetness.

- America's Test Kitchen

1 1/2 pounds butternut squash, peeled, seeded and cut into 2-inch pieces

4 ounces ground pork

1 large shallot, minced, divided

1 garlic clove, minced

1/2 teaspoon ground fennel seeds

1/4 teaspoon table salt

1 tablespoon unsalted butter

2 cups chicken broth

1 sprig fresh thyme

1/2 apple, cored and cut into

2 inch-long matchsticks

Savory seed brittle, for garnish (optional)

Microwave squash in covered bowl until paring knife glides easily through flesh, about 10 minutes, stirring once halfway through. Carefully transfer squash to colander set in bowl (squash will be very hot) and let drain for 5 minutes, reserving any liquid.

Meanwhile, break up ground pork into small pieces in bowl, then stir in half of shallot, garlic, fennel and salt until well combined. Melt butter in large saucepan over medium heat. Pinch off 1/2-inch pieces of pork mixture into saucepan and cook, stirring gently, until pork is golden brown, 2 to 4 minutes. Using slotted spoon, transfer pork to bowl.

Pour off all but 1 teaspoon fat from saucepan. (If necessary, add oil to equal 1 teaspoon.)

Add drained squash and remaining shallot and cook over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally, until squash begins to break down and fond forms on bottom of pot, 5 to 7 minutes.

Add reserved squash liquid, broth and thyme, scraping up any browned bits with wooden spoon. Bring to simmer and cook over medium heat until flavors meld, about 5 minutes.

Discard thyme sprig. Process soup in blender until smooth, about 1 minute. Return soup to clean saucepan and bring to brief simmer, adjusting consistency with hot water as needed.

Season with salt and pepper to taste. Divide soup among individual serving bowls and then top with pork and apple and savory seed brittle, if using. Serve.

- From "Bowls: Vibrant Recipes with Endless Possibilities" by America's Test Kitchen (America's Test Kitchen, $27.99)

Savory Seed Brittle

For a topping that can instantly take any bowl to the next level, we developed a seed brittle packed with both outstanding texture and delicious savory flavor. To achieve the ideal crunch, brittle texture that would break into bite-size pieces, we added an egg white and some maple syrup, which also added just a bit of sweetness to offset all the savory flavors. This brittle can last up to 1 month, making it perfect to keep on hand as an easy bowl upgrade, on something creamy, like a butternut squash soup, or a salad. Do not substitute quick or instant oats in this recipe. - America's Test Kitchen

2 tablespoons maple syrup

1 large egg white

1 tablespoon olive oil or vegetable oil

1 tablespoon soy sauce

1 tablespoon caraway seeds, crushed

1/2 teaspoon table salt

1/4 teaspoon pepper

1/2 cup old-fashioned rolled oats

1/3 cup sunflower seeds

1/3 cup pepitas

2 tablespoons sesame seeds

2 tablespoons black sesame seeds

Adjust oven rack to the upper-middle position and heat oven to 300 degrees. Line an 8-inch square baking pan with parchment paper and spray parchment with vegetable oil spray. Whisk maple syrup, egg white, oil, soy sauce, caraway seeds, salt and pepper together in a large bowl. Stir in oats, sunflower seeds, pepitas, sesame seeds and black sesame seeds until well combined.

Transfer oat mixture to prepared pan and spread into even layer. Using stiff metal spatula, press oat mixture until very compact. Bake until golden brown and fragrant, 45 to 55 minutes, rotating pan halfway through baking.

Transfer pan to wire rack and let brittle cool completely, about 1 hour. Break cooled brittle into pieces of desired size, discarding parchment. (Brittle can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 1 month.)

- From "Bowls: Vibrant Recipes with Endless Possibilities" by America's Test Kitchen (America's Test Kitchen, $27.99)

Squash Risotto

Risotto is the food equivalent of a hug in a bowl, and this squash risotto takes comfort food to a new level. Roasting the squash brings out its natural sweetness; if you don't feel like dealing with the hassle of peeling the acorn squash (those ridges can be such a pain in the you-know-what), simply replace it with more butternut squash, which has a sweeter flavor and is slightly easier to peel. We love the color and contrast of using both, but the choice is yours. Risotto takes time to make, so pour yourself a glass of good wine, turn on some chill music and warm up your stirring arm. - Jillian Harris and Tori Wesszer

2 pounds acorn squash, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch cubes

3 pounds butternut squash, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch cubes, divided

1/4 cup plus 6 tablespoons olive oil, divided

Salt and pepper

3 cups finely chopped yellow onion, divided

3 cloves garlic, crushed, divided

10 cups vegetable stock, divided

1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice

1/4 cup fresh sage leaves (about 12 leaves)

2 cups arborio rice

1 cup white wine (such as pinot gris)

1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese, more for serving

Heat the oven to 400 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Place the acorn squash and 1 cup of the butternut squash on the prepared baking sheet, spread it out evenly, and drizzle with 1/4 cup of the olive oil. Season with a sprinkle of salt and pepper. Roast until the squash is soft and golden brown on the edges, 45 to 50 minutes. Let cool.

Meanwhile, in a medium, heavy-bottomed saucepan, heat 2 tablespoons of the olive oil over medium-low heat. Add 1 cup of the onions and cook until soft and translucent, 3 to 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add one clove of crushed garlic and cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Add the remaining 2 cups butternut squash and 2 cups of the vegetable stock and simmer until the squash is very soft, 10 to 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove from the heat and stir in the lemon juice.

Puree using an immersion blender or high-speed blender. You may need to add more stock to get a thinner puree. Season with salt and pepper and set aside.

In a small frying pan over medium heat, heat 2 tablespoons of the olive oil. Add the sage leaves and cook until they are crispy but not turning brown, 2 to 3 minutes. Using tongs, transfer the fried sage leaves to a plate lined with paper towel and set aside.

In a large saucepan, bring the remaining 8 cups vegetable stock to a simmer, then reduce the heat to low and cover.

In a large, heavy-bottomed pot, heat the remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil over medium-low heat. Add the remaining 2 cups onions and cook until soft and translucent, 3 to 4 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the remaining 2 cloves crushed garlic and cook, stirring, for 1 minute.

Add the rice and cook, stirring constantly, for 3 to 4 minutes to gently toast the rice.

Add the white wine and cook, stirring, until the wine is absorbed into the rice. Stir in 1/2 cup of the hot vegetable stock and cook, stirring, until the stock is absorbed into the rice, about 2 minutes. Repeat, adding 1/2 cup stock at a time and stirring until each addition has been fully absorbed into the rice and it becomes thick, until the rice is creamy and soft with a slight bite to it, 20 to 25 minutes. You may not use all the stock.

Stir in the roasted squash, Parmesan and salt and pepper, to taste.

To serve, ladle a few spoonfuls of the squash puree into shallow bowls and spoon the risotto in the center of the puree. Garnish with additional Parmesan and a few crisp sage leaves and serve immediately. Serves 4 to 6.

- From "Fraiche Food, Full Hearts: A Collection of Recipes for Every Day and Casual Celebrations" by Jillian Harris and Tori Wesszer (Penguin Canada, $32)

Butternut Squash and Kale Pizza with Caramelized Onions

Butternut squash is a good alternative to tomato sauce. With its sweet, nutty taste, similar to that of a pumpkin, and its creamy texture, it makes a perfect base for a winter pizza. This recipe uses a whole butternut squash, which will make more sauce than you need, but you could cut it in half to make a smaller quantity. This pizza is also topped with lacinato kale, which is traditionally used in Italian cuisine, especially in Tuscany. Its slightly bitter taste marries well with the sweetness of the butternut squash and caramelized onions, making this pizza a winter winner! You can use other kinds of kale or hearty winter greens. This recipe calls for 1/3 cup caramelized onions, which you can cook ahead of time from 1 or 2 large onions.

- Stefania Evangelista and Tim Barclay

For the butternut squash sauce:

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

1/2 shallot, minced

1 butternut squash, peeled, seeded and cut into large cubes

1 tablespoon white wine

1 teaspoon salt

1 1/2 cups plant-based milk, such as rice milk

A pinch of freshly ground black pepper

For the pizza:

Semolina flour or rice flour, for dusting

1 dough ball (homemade or store-bought)

1/3 cup butternut squash sauce

1/3 cup caramelized onions

For the kale:

2 cups chopped lacinato kale, washed

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

1/2 garlic clove, peeled

1 tablespoon white wine

Pinch of salt

Pinch of freshly ground black pepper

For garnish:

1/2 tablespoon sunflower oil

1/8 cup pumpkin seeds

1/2 teaspoon coconut aminos

Pinch of fine pink Himalayan salt

To make the butternut squash sauce, heat the olive oil in a saucepan over low heat for 30 seconds, add the shallots and let them sweat for 1 minute. Add the butternut squash cubes and cook for 1 minute, then add the wine and stir. Cook over medium heat for 5 minutes, adding 1 cup of water to prevent the squash from burning.

Once the water has reduced, add the salt and 1 cup of the rice milk. Stir and cook for 4 to 5 minutes until the butternut squash becomes soft, then transfer it to a heatproof bowl (or food processor).

Add the remaining rice milk and blend, using a handheld blender (or food processor) until the mixture becomes creamy. Add the black pepper and mix it again. Use the sauce immediately or transfer it to an airtight container, and store in the fridge for up to 3 days. (This makes enough sauce for four pizzas.)

To make the pizza, turn the oven to the highest temperature setting, place a pizza stone on the highest shelf in the oven and leave it to heat for 30 minutes to 1 hour before baking your pizza.

To prepare the kale, remove the stalks and thickly slice the leaves. Heat the olive oil in a pan over medium heat for 30 seconds. Add the garlic and cook for 30 seconds, stirring, then discard the garlic. Add the kale and wine and cook for 1 minute, then add the salt and pepper and stir for a few seconds. Remove from the heat and set aside.

Generously dust the work surface with flour and flour your hands. Place the dough ball on the work surface and coat it with flour, then shape it by flattening and stretching it using your fingers to make your base (you are aiming for a flat base with slightly thicker, raised edges to make the crust). Pick the pizza base up and gently stretch it a little further over your fists without tearing it. Brush off any excess flour.

Sprinkle a little flour on a pizza peel and gently place the pizza base onto it. Pour the butternut squash sauce onto the center of the base and spread it evenly using the bottom of a ladle or tablespoon, then top evenly with the caramelized onions and kale.

Transfer the pizza to the hot stone in the oven and cook for 6 to 7 minutes at 450 degrees, or for 5 to 6 minutes if the oven can reach 500 degrees.

Meanwhile, prepare the garnish. Heat the sunflower oil in a small pan over medium heat for 1 minute, add the pumpkin seeds and stir until they become toasted, 1 to 2 minutes. Add the coconut aminos and stir briefly until it has reduced. Add the salt and stir for a few seconds. Turn off the heat.

Once the pizza is ready, remove it from the oven using the pizza peel. Garnish with the seed mixture, then serve. Makes 1 pizza.

- From "Vegan Pizza: Deliciously Simple Plant-based Pizza to Make at Home" by Stefania Evangelista and Tim Barclay (Kyle Books, $19.99)

Butternut Borani

Very few Persian meals are enjoyed without yogurt in some shape or form, and the most popular dishes are yogurt with cucumber, spinach or Persian wild garlic. A student once came to my cookery class and told me that the region where her family is from uses squash to make a yogurt dish, so I had to try it for myself. It is insanely delicious and always the first item to be finished whenever I serve it. People are often so surprised it's made from butternut squash.

- Sabrina Ghayour

1 butternut squash, between 2 and 3 pounds

Olive oil, for drizzling

2 garlic cloves, minced

1 1/4 cups Greek yogurt

1/2 small pack (about 1/2 ounce) of dill, very finely chopped

1 teaspoon ground Aleppo pepper

Handful of walnut pieces

Sea salt flakes and freshly ground black pepper

Flatbread, to serve

Heat the oven to 425 degrees. Line a baking pan with nonstick parchment paper.

Leaving the skin on, cut the butternut squash in half lengthwise and, using a spoon, scoop out the seeds and discard. Place the squash halves cut-side up on the prepared baking pan and rub the exposed flesh with a little drizzle of olive oil. Roast for about 45 to 50 minutes, then insert a knife into the thickest part of the flesh to check if it's soft and cooked through. If or when the squash is cooked, remove from the oven and set aside until cool enough to handle.

Using a spoon, scoop all the squash flesh out of the skins into a mixing bowl, then mash as best as you can. Add the garlic, a drizzle of olive oil, and a generous amount of salt and pepper, followed by the yogurt, and give everything a good stir. Check and adjust the seasoning, then transfer the borani to a plate. Spread it right to the edges and smooth it over with the back of the spoon. Drizzle with olive oil and scatter with the Aleppo pepper, dill weed and, finally, the walnuts before serving with flatbread. Serves 4 to 6.

- From "Simply: Easy Everyday Dishes" by Sabrina Ghayour (Hachette Australia, $34.99)

Addie Broyles writes about food for the Austin American-Statesman in Austin, Texas. She can be reached atabroyles@statesman.com, or follow her on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/broylesa