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Roasted Acorn Squash As You Like It

Vary the toppings to please everyone with this easy-to-make side dish

Fine Cooking Issue 49
Photos: Scott Phillips
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Sometimes the simplest flavor combinations can be the most comforting. Take winter squash, maple syrup, and butter for example. Whoever first put these three ingredients into a hot oven on a cold winter night hundreds of years ago knew how to make someone happy. The sweet, earthy smell of squash slowly caramelizing in the oven is enough to get even finicky eaters to the table, spoon in hand.  

Acorn squash is one of the best-shaped winter squashes for capturing those delicious flavors. Cut in half, seeds scooped out with a spoon, an acorn squash yields two pretty cup-shaped halves. With the ends trimmed slightly, the halves stand up straight and double as their own serving vessels. Each cup acts like a little pot for bubbling butter and sugar—and any other seasonings that happen to be along for the ride.  

The “other seasonings” part is where the mood of the cook comes in. While a basic roasted squash with butter and maple syrup (or brown sugar) is hard to beat, there are a few variations and embellishments that make roasting an acorn squash or two as much fun for the cook as for the eaters. Try adding chopped pecans or chopped fresh ginger, or use orange juice or apple cider and honey in place of the maple syrup. Whatever combination you choose, just be sure to serve every squash with a spoon—half the fun is digging for gold.

Use a sharp knife to trim acorn squash safely

Hold it steady. Grip the squash at one end and use swift, deliberate, forceful strokes to cut the tip off the opposite end.
Trim just enough to remove the stem (about 3/4 inch); any more and you’ll create a hole in the bottom of the “cup.”
Scoop and scrape. After cutting the trimmed squash in half, remove the seeds and any extra fibers with a sturdy spoon.

Flavorings for acorn squash

The measurements below are the total amount of seasonings needed for two acorn squash halves, so be sure to spread the ingredients evenly between the two.

Maple Squash:
1-1/2 Tbs. unsalted butter, softened
2 Tbs. maple syrup
2 Tbs. chopped pecans (optional; add during last 10 min. of cooking) or 1 1/2 tsp. minced fresh ginger

Brown Sugar Squash:
1-1/2 Tbs. unsalted butter, softened
1-1/2 Tbs. brown sugar

Apple Cider Squash:
1-1/2 Tbs. unsalted butter, softened
2 Tbs. apple cider mixed with 1 Tbs. honey and a pinch of ground-cinnamon

Orange Curry Squash:
1-1/2 Tbs. unsalted butter, softened
2 Tbs. orange juice mixed with 1 Tbs. honey, 1 tsp. minced fresh ginger, and a big pinch of curry powder

Parmesan Thyme Squash:
2 Tbs. olive oil
1-Tbs. freshly grated Parmesan
1/4 tsp. chopped fresh thyme


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