Our “cellar” (freezer, fridge and cold basement) and pantry are still full of fresh local organic produce and preserved foodstuffs. Around here, very few fresh ingredients will emerge during the dark days of winter so we need to be mindful of what we have in store and manage the supply. No matter when harvested, whole categories seem to deteriorate at the same time. This was a great growing season for winter squash and we have a bounty of it. However, in my most recent weekly check, it was the butternut squash that needed to be cooked or squandered.
One of my favorite ways to cook butternut squash is to cube it and cook it in what I call a shallow water boil (more than a braise but less than a potful), flavored with grated or minced ginger until just tender (mine took under 5 minutes). I then remove the squash to drain, boil down the juices and pour them over the squash. If I were serving this only as a side dish, I’d cut the squash in ¾-inch cubes. Since I planned on serving it also with farro and mushrooms, I cut this squash into 1/3-inch cubes, roughly the size of the quartered mushrooms.
Farro is a healthy wheat grain of ancient origin and high nutritional value, since it still has some bran attached. Like brown rice, it takes a while to cook so you can make more than you need and freeze or refrigerate it for another day. I used organic farro and cooked it just like white rice. The ratio is 2 parts water to 1 part farro, although I watch it and sometimes have had to increase the water. Boil the water, add a little salt, add the farro grains (rinse them first to remove the dust), turn the heat to very low, cover the pot and let cook for about 25 minutes, more or less depending on the grains. I check mine partway through to make sure there’s enough water.
This particular squash, farro and mushroom medley was topped with winter savory that I picked last summer from our CSA and air-dried, which turned out to be a deep counterpoint to the savory since their pepper tones complemented each other very well. Now that was a discovery worth noting.