For many years, I completely avoided purchasing squash. It’s not that I didn’t want to purchase squash. I truly did! In fact, during the fall and winter months, I would gravitate toward the long aisle of oddly-shaped squash in the produce section of the grocery store, and try to muster-up the courage to purchase one.
The problem was that I didn’t know how to prepare squash. The hard exteriors and mystery interiors intimidated me.
That changed a few years ago, when I learned about the art of roasting.
Once I learned that pretty much any vegetable, including the mysterious squash varieties that I’d been avoiding, could be transformed from unappetizing veggies (or fruits in the case of squash) to the sweetest and most delicious creations, all thanks to this simple technique called, roasting, my fear subsided. That year, with my new found confidence, I halved, cubed, chopped, roasted, mashed, and blended my way through nearly every single squash variety available at the local grocery store and market.
Along with gaining the confidence to prepare any and every squash available, I also learned a valuable real food lesson: Learning to master basic cooking techniques, which may appear to be silly and way too simple with the plethora of fancy recipes available today, is absolutely vital to making a real food lifestyle practical, affordable, and enjoyable.
That, my friend, is why we often chat about some very simple how-to’s, like making homemade broth and roasting veggies. I truly believe that these simple how-to’s are the skills that gave our great-great-grandparents the confidence they needed to get in the kitchen and create nourishing meals with the most basic of ingredients, like squash and potatoes. I’m confident that relearning these simple skills/techniques will help us get back to our real food roots.
Speaking of squash and potatoes…
Today’s recipe, a nutrient-rich spin on classic mashed potatoes, starts by using that transformational cooking technique known as, roasting. With a bit of oil, salt and pepper, and a hot oven, the once-intimidating butternut squash is transformed from an unappetizing brick to a soft and sweet base for a mashed side dish. Potatoes boil away as the squash roasts (along with a head of garlic), and then the potatoes and squash are mashed together to create a slightly sweet, yet still 100% savory, mashed veggie dish. All thanks to one simple cooking technique: roasting!
- 1 medium-size butternut squash (about 1.5-2lbs), halved and seeds removed
- 2 TB extra virgin olive oil, divided*
- 1 head/bulb of garlic
- 5 large red potatoes, or yukon gold (about 1.75lbs), peeled
- Preheat the oven to 425F.
- Place the butternut squash halves in a large, high-rimmed baking dish (I use an 11X17 baking dish). Drizzle 1 tablespoon of olive oil over the flesh of the squash. I also like to massage the drizzled oil on the flesh of the squash. Sprinkle the squash with just a couple of pinches of salt and pepper. Flip the squash over so the flesh is facing down.
- Remove any extra papery layers from the outside of the garlic bulb. There should still be a papery layer keeping the individual cloves intact. Cut ¼ inch off the top of the garlic bulb to expose the individual cloves nestled inside. Drizzle the remaining 1 TB of olive oil over the exposed garlic bulb, and then place the bulb, with the exposed cloves facing up, in between the butternut squash halves (or any other empty space in your baking dish). Cover the pan with foil and roast for 30 minutes, then remove the foil and continue to roast the squash and garlic until soft (about 15 more minutes, depending on the size of your squash). If the garlic clove is starting to burn, flip it over so the exposed cloves are facing down for the remaining 15 minutes. The end goal is a soft squash and soft garlic cloves.
- While the butternut squash and garlic roast in the oven, place the peeled potatoes in a pot. Add just enough water to cover the potatoes. Bring to a boil, and then reduce to a lively simmer. Simmer the potatoes until soft, about 25 minutes. Drain the water from the soft potatoes.
- Now it's time to mash the ingredients. Squeeze the individual garlic cloves away from the papery outside and into the pot of (drained) potatoes. Scoop the flesh of the roasted butternut squash away from the outside skin and into the pot. Add the olive oil and butter. I recommend waiting on the broth, since the final amount needed may vary depending on the size of your potatoes and squash.
- Use a hand-mixer to cream the veggies, olive oil, and butter together. The squash and potatoes should be hot enough to melt the butter as you cream the ingredients together. Add the broth to the mashed veggies, adding as much as needed to reach your desired consistency. For me, this is ¼ cup of broth. If you're using yukon gold potatoes, which tend to be creamier, you may not need ¼ cup. Finally, stir in the salt and pepper to taste. The amount of salt added will depend on the saltiness of your broth and butter.
- Serve warm.
I prefer the texture of red potatoes in this recipe, but, as noted, yukon gold may also be used. You’ll probably need to reduce the broth if you use yukon gold potatoes.
*Avocado oil may be used instead of the olive oil, or coconut oil. Coconut oil may add a coconut flavor to the final dish.
**I’ve used salted butter to make this recipe, just because it’s what I have on hand. Feel free to use salted or unsalted butter. I recommend waiting until the veggies are mashed to add the actual salt (which is about 1/2 teaspoon for me). The final amount of salt added will depend on the saltiness of your broth (I don’t add salt when making my homemade chicken or veggie broth) and butter.
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