Zucca con la menta (Butternut squash marinated with garlic and mint)

This is the time of the year when I have to buy some vegetables at the market. (My family lives off what we grow in our backyard until November.) All the summer vegetables are winding down in my garden, and I can start buying my favorite fall vegetable, butternut squash. The easiest way to use butternut squash is to peel it, cut it in small cubes, and toss with salt, pepper and olive oil.  Then roast the cubes at 375 degrees for about 30 minutes until soft.

How do I love butternut squash? Let me count the ways: tossed in pasta or farro, added to a risotto, as a filling for stuffed pasta, tossed with arugula for a salad,  pureed  as side dish, or on top of pizza. Another of my favorite ways to use it is to make a simple roasted butternut squash soup for Thanksgiving. I will share this recipe with you next week in time for you to make it for the holidays.

Two of my most favorite methods of preparing butternut squash are the Calabrian, as zucca con la menta, and the Sicilian, as zucca in agrodolce. They can be served as a side dish or part of an appetizer buffet. I can’t give you the recipe for the Calabrian version word for word as it will be included in my upcoming cookbook, but I can show you with pictures and, it being a simple dish, you can make it right now rather than wait until next year!

Peel the butternut squash, cut it in half, scoop out the seeds from the lower half, and slice it into ¼ inch slices. You will get half moon slices from the upper section and C shapes from the lower section.

The slices are fried in olive oil until golden.

As you fry them, place them on a platter and sprinkle them with salt. Drizzle with red wine vinegar, and add some sliced garlic and fresh mint.  Continue this layering process until done.  Drizzle with additional olive oil if it seems dry. Let it marinate for at least a couple of hours.

If you want to make the Sicilian version, zucca in agrodolce,  meaning a dish that is sweet and sour, which my mother-in-law makes,  do the same layering processing by adding the garlic and the mint, but skip the vinegar on each layer and do the following instead:  keep two tablespoon of olive oil in the pan in which you fried the squash, and add 1/3 cup of red wine vinegar and three tablespoons of sugar.  Heat until the sugar is dissolved.  Pour over the fried pumpkin slices.