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Roasted Butternut Bruschetta

Squash on bread…what?!? While it sounds heavy or weird, this bruschetta is neither. Sure it’s different but the flavor profile is complex in that it’s crunchy, toasty, subtly sweet, caramelized, creamy, and spicy. But it’s also simple because all of the components just work well together.

Plus, the bruschetta is garnished with butternut squash seeds. If you’ve never had roasted squash seeds before, they put pumpkin seeds to shame!

1 small butternut squash

1 – 2 TBS olive oil

Salt, black pepper, garlic powder

8 slices of ciabatta or baguette cut on the diagonal

1 – 2 TBS olive oil

Salt and pepper to taste

8 slices of pepper jack cheese

½ small onion, peeled and sliced thin

Zest of 1 lemon

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

With a vegetable peeler, peel the skin off the squash. Trim off the ends and discard. Cut the squash at the point where the long end widens—it’ll be easier to manage. Cut the long end in half lengthwise and then cut into ½” sized cubes. Set aside. Cut the wide end in half lengthwise. Scoop out the seeds and set aside. Cut the wide end into ½” sized cubes.

Pat any moisture from the squash with a paper towel or lint-free kitchen towel.

Place the butternut squash in a single layer on a large sheet pan. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with ½ tsp salt, ¼ tsp pepper, and ½ tsp garlic powder. Using your hands, massage the oil and seasonings into the squash. Place the pan on the middle shelf of the oven and roast the squash for 20 to 30 minutes or until it is golden brown and fork tender. Remove the squash from the oven and set aside.

Meanwhile, remove the seeds from the squash pulp and place in a sieve. Rinse the seeds with cold water to remove the rest of the pulp. Drain the seeds and pat dry with a paper towel or lint-free kitchen towel. Place the seeds on a smaller sheet pan. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with ¼ tsp salt, 1/8 tsp black pepper, and 1/8 tsp garlic powder. Place the pan on the lower shelf of the oven. Roast for 10 minutes or until the seeds are golden brown. Some of the seeds will actually pop up from the pan. Carefully remove the seeds from the oven and set aside.

Lightly brush the bread on each side with olive oil. Place the bread on a small sheet pan. Place the pan in the oven and toast the bread on one side for 3 minutes. Turn the bread over and toast for another 3 minutes. Remove the bread from the oven.

Sprinkle the toasted bread with a pinch of salt and pepper. Cover the bread evenly with the roasted squash and top that with the pepper jack cheese. Return the pan to the oven for 5 minutes or until the cheese is melted and golden brown.

Remove the bread from the oven. Sprinkle the lemon zest over the bruschetta. With tongs or a spatula, carefully remove the bruschetta to a serving plate. Place the onion slices over the bruschetta, sprinkle with the squash seeds, and serve. You can drizzle with olive oil if you like.

Don’t Freak Out!

1) Even if you use the smallest butternut squash you can find, you may have leftover roasted squash. To reheat the squash, place a damp paper towel over it and microwave for a minute or two, or place in a nonstick pan, add a splash of water, cover with a lid, and heat on low. Serve the leftover squash alongside roast chicken or pork; mix it with cooked pasta and smoked cheese; throw it into a stew; or blend it with broth and cream for a quick squash soup.

2) You can substitute frozen butternut squash for the fresh. Defrost it completely, drain, and pat dry. Heat a large skillet on medium heat, add 1 – 2 tablespoons of olive oil, add the squash, salt, pepper and garlic powder, and cook the squash for 5 – 10 minutes or until golden brown.

3) You can also substitute any kind of mashed winter squash, mashed sweet potatoes, or canned pumpkin. Or if you like more sweet with your savory, spread the toasted bread with prepared pumpkin butter. Top it with the cheese and follow the rest of the recipe.

4) You can always top the bruschetta with store-bought toasted pumpkin seeds (they tend to be salty so you may want to reduce the amount of salt you use in the rest of the recipe) or raw, hulled pumpkin or squash seeds (usually sold as pepitas). I toast the raw seeds in a hot, dry pan for a minute or two until golden brown and then sprinkle them with a little salt, pepper, and garlic powder.

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