My husband Tad treats grocery shopping like a general maps out a battle plan. Grocery shopping is an act that must be executed with extreme efficiency and laser-like focus. Your moves must be plotted in a clear and detailed list form, and there is no room for whim, no mercy for the hard-to-find ingredient.
As part of his battle plan, Tad does not like to switch up the shopping list and instead buys the same 17 items week after week. Which is why our kitchen was nearly overrun by butternut squash this winter. They arrived every week, on cue, and immediately got redirected to the holding pen (aka our mantle). We roasted the squash, and we added it to stews, but mostly they were relegated to mantle still lifes.
So on a recent Sunday evening, when there was barely a scrap of food to feed my kids for dinner, the butternut squash finally came in handy. I wanted a puree, but dinner was already late, so I winged an easier method. Inspired by Alice Waters's technique of braising fennel in olive oil over aggressive heat, I cooked butternut squash cubes the same way, piling them in a pan, drenching them in oil and cooking them covered until very tender. As the squash fried, it also steamed, concentrating the flavor and cooking off the liquid. Once it was tender, I simply crushed the squash directly in the pan with a potato masher. There's something about cooking the squash in the oil that makes the puree so much silkier. Add a splash of cream at the end and you'll be happily fed. And when your husband isn't looking, give away the rest of the squashes.
Butternut Squash Puree
- 6 cups cubed (1/2-inch) butternut squash (from about 1 medium squash)
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 3 tablespoons heavy cream