I don’t subscribe to the “disguise the vegetables so the kids don’t know what they’re eating” philosophy of cooking. Vegetables were front and center when I was growing up, often eclipsing the main dish — including the Thanksgiving turkey.
And that’s how I treat them at my house. “Hiding” vegetables, especially from picky eaters, just seems (to me, anyway) to send the wrong message.
So it is a complete coincidence that these sweet, tender muffins also harbor a generous helping of winter squash. The squash makes them moist and contributes a golden color, plus it adds an appealingly familiar, subtly sweet and nutty squash flavor.
For baking, I am partial to buttercup squash. Note that I did not write butternut squash, probably the most popular of the winter squashes because it is among the easier of squashes to peel and it tastes pretty good. Buttercup squash is in a different league. It is round and squat and has a hard, dark green striped rind. The flesh is bright orange, dense and sweet. It lacks the water of other winter squashes, and when baked it yields a beautiful, thick, smooth puree.
See the recipe on the next page.
Domenica Marchetti is the author of “The Glorious Pasta of Italy” (Chronicle, June 2011) as well as “The Glorious Soups and Stews of Italy” (Chronicle, 2006) and “Big Night In: More Than 100 Wonderful Recipes for Feeding Family and Friends Italian-Style” (Chronicle 2008). She blogs at DomenicaCooks.com.
Makes 12 muffins
Serve with butter and apple butter.
MAKE AHEAD: If you use a buttercup squash, you’ll have some left over, which can be frozen for future use. Or you can serve it as a side dish with a little butter or olive oil, salt and pepper.
Adapted from “The Victory Garden Cookbook,” by Marian Morash (Knopf, 1987).
2 cups flour
1 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
1/2 cup sunflower oil or other lightly flavored vegetable oil
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
3/4 cup pureed buttercup squash (see NOTE: may substitute canned pure pumpkin)
1 medium sweet-tart apple, peeled, cored and shredded on the large holes of a box grater
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Use nonstick cooking oil spray to grease the wells of one 12-cup or two 6-cup muffin pans.
Whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon and allspice in a mixing bowl.
Whisk together the oil, eggs, squash and shredded apple in a separate mixing bowl. Gently fold the dry ingredients into the wet mixture, taking care not to overmix. Divide the batter evenly among the muffin wells. Bake for 25 minutes, or until a cake tester inserted into the center of one of the muffins comes out clean.
Transfer the muffin pan(s) to a wire rack to cool for 10 minutes before dislodging the muffins. Serve warm or at room temperature.
NOTE: To cook buttercup squash, use a large, sturdy chef’s knife to split the squash in half. Scoop out the seeds. Rub the flesh with a small amount of vegetable oil and place the halves, cut sides down, on a rimmed baking sheet. Bake at 375 degrees for 45 to 60 minutes or until you can easily pierce through the rind with a fork. Cool, then scoop out the flesh and measure out 3/4 cup for this recipe.