Butternut Squash Ribbons: Just About Instant Lunch (or Dinner)

 Butternut Squash Ribbons

Butternut Squash Ribbons

You can probably write the captions for this set of photos yourself. The idea is too obvious, once one thinks of it: use a sturdy vegetable peeler to make slender ribbons of peeled butternut squash, and then quick-cook them. I didn't think of it for, oh, quite a few decades, even though I revere butternut squash and its cousins, acorn, buttercup, and Kabocha. Who doesn't love the clean, firm-fleshed, lightly sweet, pleasingly textured vegetable that's the color of the first fires in the fall fireplace?

In real life, though, the butternut squash I so look forward to eating usually rests patiently on the counter for days weeks, waiting for me to think about baking it in time to be ready for dinner -- easy, but usually at least a one-hour process. Since many dinners I cook happen in 30 minutes or less, it's a good thing butternuts are good keepers.

Recently I had a small "aha" when two things happened on the same day. First, some young zucchini landed in our kitchen, a gift from a neighbor, and I made some zucchini ribbons, sauteed in olive oil and garlic, for lunch. Second, later that day I read Mark Bittman's piece for the New York Times,The Food Processor: A Virtuoso One-Man Band. I came to this paragraph:

I use it [his food processor] to grate a single sweet potato or a piece of butternut squash,  which I then toss  in a pan with garlic, other seasonings and some  grated onion , done in the food processor, of course.  I cook this for  five minutes and have a better-than-average little meal. When guests  come, I gussy the mixture up with a slightly more aggressive seasoning  and serve it as a side dish.

So you see where this is going, perhaps. It had never occurred to me to grate butternut squash so it would cook in five minutes, but having just made a five minute meal with an entirely different type of squash ribbons, I wondered whether Butternut Squash Ribbons might refresh my lunch vegetable routine and get more butternuts into service more quickly in my kitchen.

Answer? Yes. In fact, I imagine the flavor options are just about infinite.

I chose butter and salt for my first trial run, and I could stop right there and be content. About 1/2 Tablespoon butter in a small cast iron skillet, a handful of butternut squash ribbons, the teeniest pinch of good salt, and about four minutes cooking over medium high heat while moving the ribbons around with two wooden spoons  -- I liked it. The squash flavor is clear and delicious.

 Cooking Butternut Squash Ribbons in a black iron skillet

Cooking Butternut Squash Ribbons in a black iron skillet

Next I tried cooking the ribbons just a tad longer, so some edges start to caramelize. Caramel always, always adds happiness to my kitchen. I sprinkled on a few snips of chives from the side garden: Also excellent.

 Butternut Squash Ribbons with Chives

Butternut Squash Ribbons with Chives

Curious about going even herbier, I added tiny slivers of sage -- a time-honored butternut squash companion -- and a few bits of our stalwart herbal friend, flat parsley.

 Butternut Squash Ribbons with Chives, Sage, and Parsley

Butternut Squash Ribbons with Chives, Sage, and Parsley

Verdict? All good. I liked the chive only version best, but I am eager to try many more iterations. Going bolder with actual onion dice or finely chopped garlic in the skillet could work. Olive oil surely would be as delicious as butter. For my next batch, after cooking, I may squeeze on a splash of citrus or add some finely grated orange or lemon peel. Many spices also come to mind, including (not all at once) cumin, curry, cayenne, coriander, cardamom, nutmeg, cinnamon, allspice, and smoked paprika.

Fall just got more flavorful and colorful. Let me know if you experiment with Butternut Squash Ribbons, and what flavors please you.

You don't get Savoring Kentucky posts by email, but you would like to, free? Here is our 110 percent no spam guarantee and email subscription information.

The world is coming to visit central Kentucky this year for the Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games. To help our visitors know more about Kentucky's food and food ways, Savoring Kentucky is rolling out 116 Savory Kentucky Bites, one for each of the 100 days before WEG begins, and 16 for the days during WEG, September 25 - October 10. Today's Savory Bite is number 110.