A couple of Saturdays ago, I was at the Union Square Greenmarket and spotted the stand for Cayuga Pure Organics, which is usually at the market on Wednesdays. One of the items I noticed that they had on the table was farro (or emmer), about which I'd just posted in my recipe for Farro Risotto with Roasted Butternut Squash and Thyme-Roasted Mushrooms. While we were talking, a vendor from another stand paid a visit and picked up some bread from them.
Interested in our conversation, he and I started talking about squash and recipes. "Have you ever had a buttercup squash?" he said.
"No," I replied, "I don't think I've ever seen one."
"Come with me," he said.
This was my first introduction to the buttercup squash. I've since been trying to describe it to folks as something that sort of looks like a small, dark green pumpkin with a pumpkin bubble on top. As the vendor from Windfall Farms (aka the guy in the conversation above) promised, it is very easy to cook, becoming soft and sweet when roasted in the oven for 35-45 minutes at about 375 degrees Fahrenheit. The aroma of it baking will fill your whole home with the wonderful, heart-warming scent of autumn. It seems as though I am not the only person newly enamored of this gourd, as it was also the subject of a whole separate discussion with another Greenmarket regular while I was eating at a communal table at the New Amsterdam Market Smørrebrød Festival this Sunday.
If you can find one, I definitely invite you to try it to see what we're all fussing about, as it is super simple to make: just put it in the oven, let it bake, and then cut it open and scrape out the insides. It would be perfect for a creamy, cheesy risotto to balance out the sweetness. It would also make a wonderful side dish mashed or puréed and topped with a bit of butter. Another idea, which is what I immediately thought to do with it, was to turn it into a muffins. With the Thanksgiving holiday coming up, these treats would be a great item to tide over hungry tummies until the main meal. They would also be good as a post-holiday brunch side served with fluffy scrambled eggs and plenty of orange juice and coffee. Although I made them with the buttercup squash, they can also be made with regular, un-sweetened pumpkin.
Spiced Pumpkin-Pecan Muffins with Maple Butter
Serving Size: Makes 12
Prep Time: 40 minutes, minus time to cook squash (if using)
1 1/2 c. flour
1 c. white sugar
1/2 c. light brown sugar
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp. ground nutmeg
1/4 tsp. ground ginger
1/4 tsp. ground cloves
1 cup pumpkin or cooked buttercup squash*
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1/2 c. canola oil
1/3 c. water
1/2 c. chopped pecans (optional)
1 Tbsp. softened salted butter
2 tsp. high-quality maple syrup
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Grease and flour muffin tins (alternatively, you can use muffin cups). Sift together the first nine ingredients (the dry ones). Whisk together the pumpkin, eggs, oil, and water ingredients (the wet ones) until smooth.
Pour the dry ingredients into the wet ones and combine until mixed together thoroughly. If using, stir in pecans. Spoon mixture into prepared muffin tins about 3/4 the way up the side. Put the pan in the oven to bake for 30 minutes, until a toothpick or knife inserted into the center of the muffins comes out cleanly.
Let the muffins sit for a few minutes to cool. While the muffins are cooling, beat together the butter and the maple syrup. Serve the muffins warm with the maple butter.
*If cooking buttercup squash to use in this dish, place it on a tray and put into a 350 degree Fahrenheit oven for 35-45 minutes, until cooked all the way through. Then, cut open the squash, discard the seeds, scrape out and mash the flesh to use in this recipe.
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