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Try butternut squash for Thanksgiving appetizer dish

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Updated: January 13, 2013 1:29AM



If it’s noon on a Thanksgiving, there won’t be a lunch bell ringing. Hunger might kick in, but holiday feasts offer no sympathy.

Hours of food preparation, fire stoking and last-minute cleaning demand a late afternoon celebration. Eating a regularly scheduled lunch would just spoil everyone’s appetite for the big event.

Rather than sneaking a slice of the turkey before it makes it to the table, munch on an appetizer that is a planned part of your Thanksgiving meal. Appetizers, albeit an obvious necessity to any dinner party with guests, don’t get a lot of Thanksgiving hype.

Cheese spreads and baked bries may make appearances on TV trays and cocktail tables, but as for autumn-inspired hors d’oeuvres, they’ll never take a starring role when there are plenty of variations of stuffings, casseroles, sauces and pies on the menu.

Butternut squash is no stranger to the Thanksgiving table.

Drowned in soups and squashed into salads, it has become an integral component to the holiday solely for its representation of colonial Americana.

Taking it off the Thanksgiving table is a whole other story. Little bites of butternut squash are packed with autumn flavor and perfect to serve as a pre-meal snack.

With this recipe for a crusty bruschetta, butternut squash is chopped and roasted. Tossed with sage and olive oil, salty shards of fresh Asiago and crumbles of bacon, this timeless Italian classic is reborn with rustic American flavors.

A quick construction, butternut squash bruschetta can be prepared hours before serving. Served toasty hot, chilled or even at room temperature, these tasty bites won’t go ignored — especially with their unmatched autumn flavor.

When hunger kicks in next Thursday, skip the forced meal before the real deal.

A roasted butternut squash bruschetta appetizer washed down with a refreshing highball will not only hold off those hunger pangs until the feast begins, but it will also tease the palate with a little taste of the autumn-inspired flavors to come.

Butternut Squash
Bruschetta

1 baguette, sliced into thin slices

11/2 tablespoons olive oil

4 cups finely diced (1/2-inch cubes) butternut squash

11/2 tablespoons olive oil, divided

Kosher salt and pepper

1/4 cup finely chopped fresh sage

3 strips bacon, fried and crumbled

1 shallot, minced

1 tablespoon sugar

1/2 cup shaved asiago, parmigiano or pecorino cheese

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Brush the bread slices with olive oil and place on a baking sheet. Bake for 3 to 5 minutes, just until the edges begin to turn slightly brown and the bread is crisp .

Remove from the oven and set aside, but do not turn off oven.

Toss the butternut squash cubes with 1 tablespoon olive oil, Kosher salt and pepper in a bowl. Spread onto a baking sheet greased with olive oil or baking spray. Bake for 10 minutes, toss and return to oven for another 10 minutes, or until the squash is tender. Return to bowl.

Saute 1/2 tablespoon olive oil, sage and shallot over medium heat. When shallot begins to soften, add sugar and saute until sugar is dissolved and caramelizes over sage and shallot. Remove from heat. Stir into butternut squash cubes until they are evenly coated.

Arrange slices of baguette on a serving platter. Scoop squash mixture onto each bread slice. Top with cheese shavings and bacon crumbles.



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