Fall in the Form of Butternut Squash

No matter where I have lived, Autumn/Fall has been my favorite season.  Even in places with only wet and dry as the seasons, I have always loved the months of October and November (and not just because that is my birthday month).  It is the month when temperatures start to drop — even 5 degrees makes all the difference in Guam or San Diego — and when I was in school, it was when I was getting into the groove of the new academic year.  Since moving to Boston, my love for Fall has increased ten-fold.  Not only does the weather cool down, but leaves start to change, evenings are longer, and squash.  More specifically, winter squash.  Pumpkin, acorn, kabocha, spaghetti.  All delicious.  My favorite, though, is butternut squash.

Practically all I ate my first fall here was butternut squash (or, as I lovingly address it when I see it in the store, squatter nutbash).  I made butternut squash soup every other week, and even made butternut squash ravioli, which was amazeballs, if I do say so myself.  Last weekend I bought a squash with the intention of making the ravioli again, and then posting it.  However, since it is quite time consuming, I don’t think I will be able to just yet.  Hopefully I will this year, though.

I started thinking what else I could make with it.  Since we’re going to a party this weekend that some of my lady’s classmates are throwing, I decided, what better party food than dip?  So I thought of this dip that can easily be enjoyed with a spoon — it is simultaneously sweet (the nature of the squash), savory (with the addition of parmesan cheese, roasted garlic and onions), and is the embodiment of a New England Fall (with subtle hints of cinnamon and nutmeg).

So, what are you waiting for? Get your Fall on!

Butternut squash dip, chilled

Butternut squash dip, chilled, enjoying the crisp Autumn afternoon

Butternut Squash Dip

1 small butternut (or other winter) squash, 1 to 1 1/2 lbs
1 head of garlic
1/4 c olive oil
1/4 onion, chopped
4 oz cream cheese, room temperature
3/4 c shredded parmesan
1/8 tsp cinnamon
dash of nutmeg
s&p to taste

1.  Preheat oven to 400F.

2.  Cut off top and bottom ends of squash.  Cut squash in half and, using a vegetable peeler, peel the squash.  Cut in half again and remove seeds using a spoon.  (You can reserve the seeds to roast them, like pumpkin seeds, or discard them.)  Chop into 2 inch chunks.

3.  Slice the top off the head of garlic, and wrap in foil.  Before sealing foil on the top, drizzle oilve oil over the top.  Add salt and pepper just to taste, then seal foil by twisting on top to make a little packet.

4.  On a rimmed baking sheet, spread squash chunks and drizzle olive oil over top, mixing to ensure even coating.  Sprinkle cinnamon and nutmeg over squash, along with salt and pepper.  Place garlic foil packet in a corner of the baking  sheet.  Bake for 50 minutes.

5.  About half way through, remove pan from oven and sprinkle chopped onion on pan.  Adding the onion at this stage prevents it from burning.

6.  Remove the pan from the oven and allow to cool for approximately 10 minutes.  Then remove squash and onion from the pan to a large bowl or the bowl of a food processor.   Open garlic foil packet, folding the excess foil down so that the top of the head of garlic is even with the edge of the foil.  Taking care not to burn yourself, squeeze the garlic into the bowl.  The skins should stay in the foil packet.  Squeeze as much out to ensure you do not waste any of the garlic.

7.  Add cream cheese and parmesan.  Pulse in food processor until pureed, or use an immersion blender in large bowl to puree.  Add more salt and pepper if needed.

8.  Transfer to a dish, cover, and refrigerate for about an hour.

9.  Serve  with your favorite plain cracker, bread sticks, or crostini.

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