Ingredients – “Please, don’t measure; it ruins the fun.”
Butternut squash, peeled and cubed
Salt & pepper
If you only serve up one vegetable in October, it better be butternut squash. If you’ve never prepared it before, get ready for a challenge. The tough skin is difficult to peel, and the process of slicing the squash and scooping out its seeds is time consuming. But there’s a reason why you put in the time.
Once you’ve wrestled with your squash, pour the cubed vegetables into a large baking pan and drizzle with olive oil. Scoop brown sugar into the pan and toss until the pieces are coated. Sprinkle lightly with salt and pepper, then heavily with cinnamon. Please, don’t measure; it ruins the fun.
Now, it’s time for your secret ingredient: a few shakes of cayenne pepper. It’s just enough that your dinner guests will detect a slight kick, but not enough that your average eater will be able to guess your secret spice.
Roast in the oven at 400 degrees for about 40 minutes, until the squash is tender and the brown sugar in the bottom of the pan has started to burn. As the squash is cooking, stir it once with a spatula or wooden spoon so the pieces cook evenly.
Serve them alongside what might be one of the spookiest vegetables: white asparagus. There’s no difference in taste between this asparagus and its verdant counterpart. Sometimes nicknamed the “vampire” of vegetables, white asparagus is grown by covering the asparagus in a thick layer of mulch and dark plastic, blocking any sunlight. Without sunlight, photosynthesis doesn’t take place, and the veggies are left with their ghostly hue.
Cook the white asparagus as you would the regular variety, but with one difference. Peel the skins from the spears after washing. They tend to be thick and slightly bitter. After peeling my white asparagus, I tossed it in olive oil and sprinkled it with a generous dose of parsley, salt and pepper. Roast in the oven at 400 degrees (it can cook at the same time as the squash) until tender and starting to brown at the tips.