I know, for example, that continuing to bake salmon, no matter what sauce or marinade I throw on top of it, is not going to magically change how I feel about the taste of that fish. But earlier this month, I voluntarily included half a banana in a smoothie and still managed to enjoy the drink. (Though at that point, allergies had left me barely able to breathe, so the taste of pretty much everything I gulped down was muted.)
And thanks to a recent meal at Zuni Cafe, I’ve been introduced to a new way to eat the dreaded butternut squash: pickle it! (Yes, that’s already been turned into a Portlandia sketch, in case you’re wondering.)
Snappy and tart instead of mushy and sweet, I’m now convinced that pickled is the only way to go when eating members of the squash family. I’ve been throwing handfuls into salads alongside pickled beets for a one-two sweet-and-sour punch, tempered by radishes, cucumbers, and chickpeas; folding them with sour cream, herbs, and mayo for a quick Triscuit dip; and recreating the Zuni Cafe fish dish that inspired the whole deal.
I make mine with a small fillet of pan-roasted cod, a few slivers of caramelized fennel, and a swipe or two of fennel pesto (I omit the cheese when making pesto to accompany fish, and sometimes swap out the pine nuts for pistachios. I know, insanity!)
The crunchy cubes of squash would also be a bright addition to a coconut milk curry or folded into a whole grain pilaf with other cooked vegetables. I love enlivening meals with a little pickled tang, so I’m thrilled to have these in my repertoire for the summer months. Squash, consider yourself crossed off my list. On to the next.
Pickled Butternut Squash
Prep time: 15 minutes
Total time: 30 minutes plus 1 week pickling time
Makes 1 1-quart jar of pickles
- 1/2 pound butternut squash, peeled, de-seeded, and cut into cubes no more than 1/4 inch large
- 1 whole dried chili, roughly torn
- 1 whole bay leaf, roughly torn
- 1/2 cup apple cider vinegar or white wine vinegar
- 1/2 cup water
- 2 teaspoons kosher salt
- 1 teaspoon granulated sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon black peppercorns
- 1/2 teaspoon mustard seeds
Add the butternut squash, chili, and bay leaf to a wide-mouth quart- or liter-size canning jar.
Add the vinegar, water, salt, sugar, peppercorns, and mustard seeds to a 1-quart high-sided saucepan and bring to a simmer, stirring occasionally to dissolve the salt and sugar.
Carefully pour the simmered brine into the jar to cover the butternut squash. Let cool for 10 minutes, then screw the lid onto the jar and refrigerate for at least a week before eating.
Pickled butternut squash will keep in the fridge for at least a month; after that, it’s your call, but I’ve had other refrigerator pickles last up to a year, even though they haven’t been water bath-canned. Use your nose and your good judgment.