Crisp lager and a fragrant herb-and-walnut topper give sweet butternut squash a refreshing makeover. This dish is a yummy Thanksgiving or other holiday side, and it makes a hearty plant-based main for the vegans at the table. If you’re not a heat fan, you may be tempted to ditch the hot pepper, but don’t. If you remove the seeds and ribs, it will boost the flavours of the other ingredients without ratcheting up the heat.
Ingredients for the Herbed Walnut Salsa
1/2 cup (125 mL) walnut halves (see tips)
1/2 cup (125 mL) coarsely chopped cilantro
1 tbsp (15 mL) apple cider vinegar (approx)
1 tsp (5 mL) minced red chili (seeds and ribs removed, if desired)
1/4 tsp (1 mL) salt (approx)
1 clove garlic, pressed
Ingredients for the Squash
1 butternut squash (about 1.2 kg), halved lengthwise, seeded, peeled and cut in 1/2-inch-thick slices
1 tsp (5 mL) salt
1/4 tsp (1 mL) pepper
1-1/2 tbsp (22.5 mL) olive oil, divided
1 cup (250 mL) vegetable broth
3 tbsp (45 mL) American or Canadian lager
2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
1 long red chili, halved (seeds and ribs removed, if desired)
Directions for the Herbed Walnut Salsa
Preheat oven to 350°F. Place walnuts in a single layer on a baking sheet. Bake in preheated oven until fragrant and starting to turn golden, 7 to 8 minutes. Let cool.
Coarsely chop walnuts and place in a small bowl. Add cilantro, 1 tbsp (15 mL) vinegar, chili, 1/4 tsp (1 mL) salt and garlic. Stir to combine. Taste and add more vinegar and/or salt, if desired. Set aside.
Directions for the Squash
Place squash in a medium bowl and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Toss to coat.
In a large lidded skillet, heat 1 tbsp (15 mL) oil over medium-high heat until shimmering.
In 2 batches and adding remaining 1/2 tbsp (7.5 mL) oil as necessary between batches, arrange squash in a single layer in skillet (do not overcrowd or squash will steam instead of brown). Cook until bottoms start to turn golden, 2 to 3 minutes. Flip and cook until bottoms are golden, about 2 minutes more.
Meanwhile, in a glass measuring cup or small bowl, whisk together broth, lager, garlic and chili. Set aside.
Return all browned squash to skillet. Pour broth mixture overtop and bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat to medium and simmer until squash is tender, about 10 minutes.
Transfer squash slices to a platter and spoon over some of the pan juices. Garnish with walnut salsa.
Technique: How to cut a butternut squash
Using a sharp chef’s knife, cut a 1/4-inch slice off bottom and stem ends of squash.
Using a knife or sharp vegetable peeler, slice off peel.
Cut crosswise between rounded bottom portion (with seeds) and slimmer neck portion (without seeds) to separate. Stand each on 1 flat end and cut in half lengthwise.
Using a spoon, scrape out seeds from bottom portions. Lay all pieces cut side down and cut crosswise into 1/4-inch-thick slices.
Red chilies and garlic both go into the squash and the salsa, but they’re prepped differently for each. To save time, prep them at the same time. Simply halve 1 chili and chop another, and then slice 1 clove of garlic and press another.
Whole walnut halves tend to taste better than packaged chopped walnuts. Look for them in bulk bins and stock up; store them in the freezer to keep them fresh longer.