Friday, March 8, 2013
BUTTERNUT SQUASH HASHBROWNS
Warning: this post may change your life.
If you've been journeying with me for any amount of time now, you have probably picked up on my minor infatuation [borderline obsession?] with winter squash. Obvious, I know. It may seem silly but if you live anywhere north of the Mason-Dixon line and try to eat as local as possible, you know what I know - winter months can be tough. Enter winter squash.
Not only are the varieties endless, but what really gets me is: they're delicious, can be prepared a zillion different ways, are packed with nutrients [can you say beta carotene, Vitamins A and C, potassium, magnesium, carotenoids, and good complex carbs], can be stored for months, are super easy to freeze, one can make a meal for a family, and are so plentiful come fall they are cheap, cheap, cheap. Need I say more?
I realize not everyone shares my enthusiasm for this particular breed of veggie. I actually have a few mishapen, multi-colored orb-aphobes in my life [the horror, I know!]. Yes we're still friends and yes I'm still married to him. Fortunately for them, I've made it a personal goal to get these certain people to love at least one dish [and not one that I've deviously placed squash in].
Insert hashbrowns. I would bet at least 99% of the people I know have an affinity for shredded, fried potatoes. I mean, what's not to love? Potatoes, oil, salt, and pepper - simple and delicious. The problem is, the variety of potatoes available to the average consumer have significantly decreased over the years. Like from thousands to less than a dozen varieties [think grocery store - redskin, Idaho, and yukon]. Yikes. What was once a very nutritious and diverse food has been dumbed down to starch, simple carbs, sugars, and a whole lot of genetic modification. A bit less than the best [sarcasm intended]. Don't get me wrong, I love potatoes as much as the next person and try my hardest to find and plant a host of organic, heirloom varieties [check out heirloom seed catalogs like Seed Savers and Annie's Heirloom Seeds among many others] and support farmers who do the same. But variety and change rarely hurts a person, especially in the way of food.
In a spurt of creative brilliance [ie. complete lack of the necessary items in the house] I decided to julienne* some squash instead. The result? I may never go back to the potato version. Yes, I'm serious.
So, here's to you squash-avoiding, orange orb-wary, crookneck cautious husband [or friend] of mine. May this change your mind!
1 winter squash of choice [I used butternut here but any will do]
extra virgin olive oil
Celtic sea salt
freshly ground pepper
any other seasoning of choice
Cut off stem and butt end of the squash. Using a vegetable peeler, carefully remove skin of squash [it's super easy]. Cut squash in half, length-wise. Scoop out seeds and innards, saving seeds for sauce. Begin to julienne squash, working away from the hand you are using to hold the squash [I'm not into kitchen casualties - safety first people!]. If you are doing a single serving, simply julienne a quarter to half of the whole squash. The entire squash should feed about four to five people depending on serving size.
Pour enough oil in cast iron skillet to coat the bottom of the pan. Heat oil to hot but not smoking. Carefully dump in shredded squash, spreading evenly. Toss a time or two and allow to cook for a couple of minutes or until the bottom starts to brown. Flip/stir and repeat until all of the squash is lightly browned and a little crispy. Sprinkle with salt, pepper, and pumpkin seed dressing to taste and enjoy!
I love serving this over a bed of black rice or adjacent to a spinach and baby greens salad. A local farm with a greenhouse may have baby greens and spinach this time of year and many with hoop houses are beginning to plant. It's worth scouting out the fresh, local stuff!
[FOR THE DRESSING]
seeds from one winter squash
extra virgin olive oil
white wine vinegar
freshly ground pepper
Rinse seeds in a fine mesh strainer. Spread on baking sheet, sprinkle with a little salt and pepper, and either lightly toast in a toaster oven or bake at 400 degrees in oven until dry and crisp [check often so they don't burn].
Place toasted seeds in food processor with enough oil to cover and a splash of vinegar. Blend until smooth. Taste and season with salt and pepper if needed.
*A side note about julienne. This particular kitchen tool may be the most useful gift I've ever received [thanks Mom!] and it cost 25 cents. Okay, mine came from a garage sale but this little baby is used almost as much as my VitaMix which means I use it a lot. I highly recommend you go out immediately and find yourself one. I'm sure some uninformed, sorry someone donated one to a local thrift store, has for purchase at a garage sale, on Craig's List or Amazon. You may be able to find one through Freecycle or facebook.