Fall into winter with this appetizer that celebrates a fall favorite, butternut squash, and enhances it with winter citrus and a host of spices and herbs. This light dish has bold flavor from aromatic whole spices like cardamom, star anise, nutmeg, and a cinnamon stick. The butternut squash base makes it the perfect appetizer to bring along for Thanksgiving, and it’s so light that no one’s appetite will be spoiled for the main show. If you are fortunate enough to have been invited to someone else’s home for Thanksgiving, this is a perfect dish to bring along. It’s incredibly easy to make. You simply roast the butternut squash with orange sections and spices, and then puree it and stir in some freshly chopped sage. I’m hosting a Friendsgiving Birthday Party tomorrow, so I whipped up a batch of this to help us get the party started. I’m going to serve it with sliced apples, carrot and celery sticks, and toasted pita. Another great thing about this dish is that you can make it up to three days in advance by storing it in the refrigerator in a sealed container. When you are ready to serve it, bring it to room temperature and stir in the sage.
I’m not sure how to emphasize how satisfying and versatile this dish is. After I snapped a few photos, I decided to take an apple wedge for a dunk. It was as if I had lost all control, and I kept dunking until there was no apple left. I took one break, and that was to chop more sage and mix it in. When I first tasted it, I thought it was a little sweet–which isn’t surprising because roasted butternut squash is naturally sweet. But, that was before I added the sage. The minced sage elevates this dish by effectively tempering the sweetness of the orange-y squash and tying in all of the fragrant spices. Even the Star Anise shines. I’m not a fan of anise due to its licorice flavor, but all of the spices in this dish play off of each other, the butternut squash and the orange citrus like different instruments in an orchestra, creating beautiful music.
This recipe is adapted from Food&Wine.
- 2 pounds butternut squash, peeled and cut into 1-inch chunks*
- 1 teaspoon orange citrus zest**
- 1 med. orange citrus OR 2 small orange citruses
- 2 tablespoons butter, cubed
- 1 tablespoon honey
- 1 cinnamon stick
- 1 star anise pod
- ¼ teaspoon ground cardamom
- ⅛ teaspoon ground nutmeg
- ½ cup water
- 2 tablespoons fresh orange citrus juice
- 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 2 tablespoons minced sage
- *You can purchase butternut squash already peeled and diced. This will save you so much time!
- **I didn't specify what type of orange citrus because you should use whatever is readily available! I used clementines, and because they were small, I used two.
- Preheat the oven to 400F. Toss the first nine ingredients together in a baking dish (I used my Le Creuset dutch oven). Add the ½ cup of water, and bake, covered, for one hour. The squash should be tender and have brown spots.
- Transfer the squash, orange citrus sections, and pan juices to a food processor or blender and let cool. Discard the whole spices. Add the fresh orange citrus juice and olive oil. Pulse until nearly smooth.
- Correct seasoning. Stir in the sage just before serving, and sprinkle with olive oil and paprika.