Conscious Cook: Naturally November

“But there is always a November space after the leaves have fallen when she felt it was almost indecent. To intrude on the woods … for their glory terrestrial had departed and their glossy celestial of spirit and whiteness has not yet come upon them.” — L.M. Montgomery

In November, nature takes a brilliant turn, presenting conscious cooks with an array of seasonal ingredients filled with rich, full flavors. Gleaming sugar pumpkins, buckskin-hued butternut squash, forest green kale, rainbow-colored carrots, fat, fleshy figs and lush, curvaceous pears are all welcome at the table this time of year.

Butternut squash are wonderfully versatile and can be made into delectable dishes that both soothe and nurture the system. Sweet, as well as savory recipes will benefit from the addition of butternut squash. Adding squash to baked goods such as breads, muffins, cakes, pancakes, waffles and cookies adds a healthy twist to seasonal sweets. Remember to be generous with spices that complement baking with squash, including cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, allspice and cloves. Spices deliver an extra boost of health benefits, making moderate indulgences just a bit more virtuous. Ginger, in particular, may help alleviate certain joint and muscle aches, while cinnamon can potentially improve blood sugar management. Nutmeg contains certain anti-aging compounds, and allspice and cloves are thought to be both anti-inflammatory and detoxifying.

Butternut squash can be roasted whole in the oven. Place the squash on a parchment paper lined baking sheet, pierce the squash a few times and roast at 400 degrees until completely soft. Test the roasting squash with a fork every 20 minutes or so, until it yields completely when prodded. Remove the squash from the oven and when completely cool, the outer flesh can be easily removed. Scoop out the seeds (or save these for roasting if desired) and discard, then scoop the soft flesh into a bowl.

Now you have the base for an array of spectacular soups. Squash marries well with pears or apples for a burst of fall-like flavor. Or prepare a butternut bisque, combining squash with caramelized onions with a bit of maple syrup and cayenne pepper for a spicy sweet sensation. Once made, this bisque freezes beautifully and can be gently reheated for an easy, yet elegant dinner party, or first course for your Thanksgiving feast.

Try peeling and cubing butternut squash, toss in oil, then roast in a 400 degree oven, tossing often, until nicely browned on all sides. Then combine with baby spinach leaves, pomegranate seeds, feta cheese and a pumpkin spice vinaigrette for a delightful accompaniment to the bisque!

With plenty of fiber, eating a generous amount of butternut squash may promote regularity. Loaded with vitamin A, eating more squash may help improve eyesight, and the vitamin C, iron, folate and zinc found in butternut squash may help keep bones strong, as well as boosting immune function and healthy skin.

Enjoy the nature of November as you prepare your delicious life.

Beautiful Butternut Bisque

Serves at least 8

6 pounds butternut squash

3 cups milk (skim is ok)

3 cans (13 ¾ ounces each of chicken or vegetable broth)

3 large sweet onions, thinly sliced

½ stick unsalted butter

2 tablespoons grapeseed or canola oil

1 ½ tablespoons Trader Joe’s 21 Seasoning Salute (optional)

½ cup all purpose flour

½ teaspoon cayenne pepper

½ teaspoon salt

¼ cup pure maple syrup

1 cup toasted, chopped pecans

 

Prepare roasted squash as directed above. Once you have the flesh ready, melt butter in a large pot over low heat and add oil. Add onions and cook, stirring often, until very golden brown. Sprinkle flour over the onions, increase heat to medium and stir, for several minutes to make a roux. Mixture will be somewhat pasty. Whisk in the milk and chicken broth. Bring to a boil, stirring often. Add cayenne pepper and salt. Remove from heat. When cooled a bit, puree the mixture in batches, in a food processor or blender, until very smooth. Return all of the puree to the pot and add maple syrup. Taste and re-season with salt and cayenne pepper, if desired. Serve hot, garnished with a few toasted pecans.

For more on Robin Glowa, HHC, AADP, The Conscious Cook, go to theconsciouscook.net.

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