Frozen foods have been making home cooks’ lives easier for decades. People who have gardens have the option to freeze the summer’s bounty rather than undertaking the more laborious job of canning it. Shoppers can make the most of frozen foods sales, filling their freezers to feed their families for weeks or months. Frozen butternut squash freezes well with little loss of flavor or nutrients, and it can be used in soups, simple side dishes, casseroles and even in baked goods. It is best used after being thawed and drained so that the dish won’t be watery.
The only downside to frozen butternut squash is that baked or roasted squash halves won’t retain their firm texture upon thawing; that’s not really much of a problem, because squashes of all kinds are so versatile. A quick cold summer soup can be whipped up with thawed squash, a little buttermilk, some minced ginger and garlic and perhaps a little sautéed onion. These ingredients can be cooked on a stove top and chilled for a chunkier soup or tossed into a blender and puréed for a smooth treat.
A heartier winter soup is easy to construct out of whatever is at hand. Vegetarian soups can incorporate quinoa, rice, barley or other grains along with sliced carrots, potato, green beans or other available vegetables. Tofu or tempeh are great protein additions. Carnivores will find that butternut squash goes well with red meat, pork and poultry. Ham or bacon and butternut squash also go well together, especially with some onion sautéed until it’s translucent.
Cooking with frozen butternut squash also offers lots of main-dish options. A simple, filling casserole can be whipped together with squash, meat or a non-meat protein, some sautéed onions and garlic, topped by a layer of buttered bread or cracker crumbs. It’s up to the cook how elaborate to make the casserole; the addition of navy beans or chickpeas and other vegetables adds body and flavor. Flavor enhancers such as a splash of orange juice, a squeeze of lemon or some curry can take the dish in a whole new direction.
Drained and thawed frozen butternut squash can be a great addition to baked goods such as sweet bread, cakes and muffins. It adds a dense, velvety texture and natural sweetness, and it eliminates the need for all of that fat. Some cooks like to supplement the squash with applesauce as well, and others slip in minced carrot or zucchini.