Squash can be steamed, sautéed or oven-roasted–the latter creates the best flavor. If steaming or sautéing, just toss a few bay leaves–fresh or dried–into the pan.
• About 2 pounds winter squash 8 bay leaves, preferably fresh
1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
2. Cut squash into quarters. Carefully cut a 2- to 3-inch slit in each quarter of squash and insert a bay leaf into the slit.
3. Place squash cut-side down in a baking dish with about an inch of water (to cook more quickly, cut squash into eighths or sixteenths) and place a few bay leaves under the squash.
4. Smaller pieces bake in about 30 minutes; for large pieces, bake 30 minutes, turn over and bake 30 minutes more. Pierce with fork to test for softness. Add more water as needed–don’t let the pan get dry.
5. Remove squash and let cool a bit; remove skins while squash is still warm. Peel skin off with knife or lay squash on cutting board, skin-side down, and scrape pulp off with a spoon. The squash can now be chopped, mashed or pureed, depending on your recipe.
In the last 15 minutes or so of roasting, turn the squash cut-side up and drizzle a little olive oil over each quarter; season with salt and pepper. Serve hot as a vegetable side dish.
In the last 15 minutes or so of roasting, turn squash cut-side up and drizzle a little maple syrup (or brown sugar) and coarse-chopped pecans, pumpkin seeds or walnuts in the cavity. A dash of cinnamon or nutmeg and/or a pat of unsweetened butter also are tasty. Serve warm out of the oven or at room temperature, with a meal or as dessert.