Winter Squash with Caramelized Goodies

Apples, nuts and squash - it's like a winter wonderland! Any way you put these together it's gonna be good. There are so many different winter squashes, this one uses an acorn squash but butternut or other similar squash will do just as well. And there are different goodies you can caramelize, different nuts and different veggies. This recipe shares one version I made recently, but feel free to make your own substitions!

One suggestion: To make the squash easier to work with, microwave it for about 3- 5 minutes on medium heat and allow to cool. It is easier to cut or peel after that.

Acorn squash, halved, cored and ready for baking.

Acorn squash, halved, cored and ready for baking.

The first step is to bake the squash. An easy way is to cut it in half, remove the seeds, place it in a baking dish face down with about 1/2 inch of water and cover it with foil. Bake in a 400 degree oven about 45 minutes or until soft when pierced with a  fork.

While my squash was baking, I made my heavenly caramelized saute using the following:

  • One large apple, diced (any kind will do!)
  • One small white onion, diced (a yellow onion would also work and you could add other veggies too like diced brussel sprouts or celery)
  • Raw walnuts diced to produce about 1/2 cup (pecans or even pine nuts would also work)
Apples, Onion, and Walnuts ready to slow cook in a heavy pan.

Apples, Onion, and Walnuts ready to slow cook in a heavy pan.

To caramelize, you need a heavy baking pan. My absolute favorite is "All Clad" but any heavy pan will do. The trick is to cook slowly and allow the caramelization to happen. I usually use a technique called "sweating" the veggies which gets the juices out and softens them . 

I put the pan on low heat and liberally coated it with extra virgin olive oil and then added just a pat of butter for extra flavor. Once the butter melted, I added the veggies, a few pinches of kosher salt, turned on some music, and watched and occasionally stirred until everything started to get nice and soft.

Then I did an important step: once the veggies started to soften and get translucent, I added 1/2 cup of Apple Cinnamon Balsamic Vinegar and let it cook down with the veggies as I occasionally stirred. That really finished it off to create create sticky, sweet, yummy goodness full of flavor. When you are done it should look like this ...

The finished product of the caramelized apples, onions and walnuts with Apple Cinnamon Balsamic Vinegar

The finished product of the caramelized apples, onions and walnuts with Apple Cinnamon Balsamic Vinegar

When your squash is baked, scoop it out of the rind (an ice cream scooper works great!) into a large bowl. I mashed my squash with a potato masher and ... surprise! some garlic olive oil. The garlic and sweet apple made a surprising contrast that just finished off the recipe perfectly.

Cooked squash mashed with Garlic Olive Oil

Cooked squash mashed with Garlic Olive Oil

And last step, mix it all together .... and eat!

Winter squash final

Happy winter wonderland.