Recipe: Spiced Winter Squash Puree with Roasted Garlic

This fragrant puree makes a delicious departure from the usual sweet potato and pumpkin side dishes. Roasting concentrates the flavor of winter squashes like butternut or kabocha and renders their flesh creamy when pureed. The squash-and-roasted-garlic puree is delicious as is, or flavored with exotic spice mixtures such as garam masala or the Tunisian Spice Mix, below.

Makes 4 servings, about 2 cups

    • 2 ½ pounds winter squash, such as kabocha or butternut
    • ½ teaspoon olive oil
    • 1 head garlic
    • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter or 2 tablespoons heavy cream or to taste
    • ¾ teaspoon salt

Tunisian Spice Mix (optional)

    • 1 teaspoon ground coriander
    • 1 teaspoon sweet paprika
    • ½ teaspoon ground cumin seed
    • ¼ teaspoon ground caraway seed
    • pinch cayenne
    • 1 to 2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice

Preheat the oven to 350'. Cut the squash in half and scoop out the seeds. Brush lightly with olive oil and place cut-side-down on a heavy baking sheet. Sprinkle two tablespoons of water onto the pan. Pull the loose papery skin off the garlic, keeping the head intact, and wrap it in a sheet of foil. Place the baking sheet and the foil packet in the oven and bake 40 to 50 minutes, until the squash is puree tender and the garlic gives when the package is pressed. Set aside until cool enough to handle, about 20 minutes.

With a spoon, scoop the flesh out of the squash into the bowl of a food processor. Separate the garlic cloves and squeeze the soft pulp into the work bowl. Process the mixture to a fine puree, then add the butter or cream and salt to taste.

Make the Tunisian Spice Mix, if desired. Combine the spices in a small bowl. Add half the spice mix to the puree, then taste, adding more spice if desired and fresh lemon juice to lift the flavors. Adjust the seasoning.

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Sally Schneider writes The Improvised Life, a lifestyle blog about improvising as a daily practice. Her cookbook The Improvisational Cook is now out in paperback. More

Sally Schneider is the founder of The Improvised Life, a lifestyle blog that inspires you to devise, invent, create, make it up as you go along, from design and cooking to cultivating the creative spirit. It's been called a "zeitgeist-perfect website." She is a regular contributor to public radio's The Splendid Table and the author of the best-selling cookbooks The Improvisational Cook and A New Way to Cook, which was recently named one of the best books of the decade by The Guardian. She has won numerous awards, including four James Beard awards, for her books and magazine writing.

Sally has worked as a journalist, editor, stylist, lecturer, restaurant chef, teacher, and small-space consultant, and once wrangled 600 live snails for the photographer Irving Penn. Her varied work has been the laboratory for the themes she writes and lectures about: improvising as an essential operating principle; cultivating resourcefulness and your inner artist; design, style, and food; and anything that is cost-effective, resourceful, and outside the box.

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