Saturday, May 12, 2012

Butternut squash with salted pinto beans

Years ago, I ate a butternut squash soup that I liked so much I researched how to make a similar one from scratch. The key: roasting the squash with apples and onion in the oven first, before blending. Eventually, I decided I liked it even better if I skipped making it into soup and just ate it roasted. When serving it as a full meal instead of just a side dish, I recently started adding a layer of salted mashed pinto beans mixed with bacon pieces as a contrasting element. It's a nice blend sweet and savory, refreshing and hearty.

2 pounds butternut squash, chunked
2 medium granny smith apples, peeled and chunked
1/2 of a large sweet onion, chunked
1/4 cup olive oil
1 tsp tarragon
1/2 tsp thyme
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1/4 tsp pepper
1 cup Irish cheddar cheese
1 15 oz can pinto beans
1/2 cup crumbled bacon
salt to taste

1) Preheat the oven to 450°. In a 9x13-inch glass pan, add the squash, apples, and onion. Drizzle the olive oil over the chunks evenly. Sprinkle the tarragon, thyme, salt, and pepper evenly, then stir.

2) You'll bake the dish 35 minutes total. At 20 minutes, stir once. At 30 minutes, stir again and add the Irish cheddar on top. Bake 5 additional minutes and it will be ready.

3) While the squash is cooking, open the can of pinto beans, pour off most of the salty liquid, and – without rinsing the beans – pour the rest of the can's contents into a pot. Gently mash the beans with a fork to break the skins and let in some of the liquid. Warm over medium heat, adding the bacon and stirring gently. Taste and salt additionally if needed.

4) When both components are finished, spoon some of the beans onto a plate and top with squash mixture. Serves 4.

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