Monday, November 21, 2011

November Spice Rack Challenge: Cinnamon

Mom's Kitchen said: "Surely you've got cinnamon in your spice rack."

Of course I do. It's one of those things---along with thyme and chili powder---that my spice collection never lacks. We think of cinnamon primarily as a baking spice. Not so! It is very versatile.

Let's face it: butternut squash by itself is...lacking. It's not the most exciting vegetable around. I've found creative ways around its blandness, and the one that has captured my taste buds right now is this method of preparation. The "let it sit" method for browning I picked up from Cook's Illustrated, but I never would have thought to add cinnamon to squash were it not for my friend Holly at Rust Belt Runner.

Sauteed Butternut Squash with Cinnamon

Butternut squash
Olive oil (and/or butter)

Peel, halve and de-seed the butternut squash, then cut it into chunks. I find that 1-inch chunks are just too "chunky," and fail to yield bite-size pieces, so half-inch chunks are more mouth-friendly (and take less time to cook).

Note: I used the other half of one squash in a stew recipe I made last week, so what was left over was perfect for just me to use in this recipe. Depending on how many people you wish to feed, you may have to adjust accordingly.

Heat oil or butter in a nonstick pan over medium heat. Butter does provide a richness of flavor that is missing with just oil, but it's your call. I lean towards the healthier fats, so I tend to cook exclusively with olive oil, but when I made this tonight I threw a blob of butter in with the olive oil. I was feeling frisky! As for how much...well, I'm a big fan of "liberal drizzling." A tablespoon? Two? Who knows...I pour oil into the pan until it looks like it's enough to sustain whatever it is I'm cooking.

Once the oil is warm, dump the squash into the pan. Shuffle it around a little so the pieces lie down, but then BACK OFF and leave it alone for a good ten minutes. Resist the temptation to stir it. This is important, as the point here is to allow the squash to caramelize. After 10 minutes, flip a couple of pieces. If the underside is browned, go ahead and stir the heck out of the rest of it! Let it sizzle for another five minutes. Sprinkle some salt over it and stir it some more. Sprinkle cinnamon on it, stir it around, and it's done. That's what I had for dinner. Oh, and some white wine. YUM!


Holly said...

Glad you liked it! If you need a spice challenge for nutmeg, make some mulled wine! I can't wait to make a batch. So good in the winter!

Tricia said...

That looks really tasty!


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