I love the look of this dish, but the taste is a stunner too. Placing a whole roasted squash on the table for everyone to dig into is always a conversation starter, with the interesting little twist of spreading the velvety squash flesh onto toasted bread. It’s the essence of autumn. And as a bonus it’s healthy. A great appetizer that is not all rich cheese and heavy cream (not that there’s anything wrong with that). Honestly, when I have serve this, there are always oohs and aahs.
A squash with as straight a neck as you can find id best for this, and if you can find one with a long, straight neck, that’s perfect. Don’t choose a huge squash as it will brown too much on the top before the flesh is spreadably soft. I promise, when you are standing in front of the squash at the farmers market or grocery, you’ll know the one! Sturdy toasted bread is the best vehicle for this spread. I frequently use the purchased toasted baguette rounds, but a darker brown bread adds a particularly earthy touch. You could cut those little pumpernickel cocktail toasts in half and toast them.
Butternut Squash Spread
2 Tablespoons olive oil
2 Tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 Tablespoon finely minced fresh rosemary
1 garlic clove, finely minced
½ teaspoon celery seed
½ teaspoon flaky sea salt
¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
1 – 1 ½ pound butternut squash (see note)
½ cup crumbled feta cheese
Toasted baguette slices or toasted brown bread
- Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Line a small rimmed sheet pan or baking dish with nonstick foil or parchment paper.
- In a small bowl whish together the olive oil and vinegar. Add the minced rosemary, minced garlic, celery seed, salt and pepper and whisk together.
- Carefully cut the squash lengthwise into two even halves with a sturdy knife. Use a spoon to scoop out the fibrous seeds from the cavity, scraping to remove any fibers. Set the seeds in a small colander. Use a thin bladed knife to score a crosshatch pattern in the flesh of the squash, but do not cut through the skin. This will help the squash cook through and become soft. Set the squash halves in the prepared dish, then spoon over the seasoned oil mixture, leaving 2 teaspoons behind in the bowl. Spread the oil to cover the entire surface, including the cavity. Place the dish in the oven and bake the squash until it is soft and tender, about 2 hours.
- Rinse the fibrous orange flesh from the seeds, until the seeds are clean, then pat the seeds dry on paper towels. Toss the seeds with the remaining oil mixture in the bowl. About 20 minutes before the squash is cooked through, spread the seeds on the baking sheet to toast.
- When the squash is nicely soft throughout, remove the pan from the oven and use the thin knife to loosen the squash flesh – just poke it all over so a it can be spread more easily. Sprinkle over the feta cheese and the toasted seeds and cook a further 5 minutes, just until the cheese is warmed through. You can transfer the squash halves to a clean baking dish, or serve as is. Serve with spreading knifes.