Tag Archive: fall


[Winter Squash, Part 2]

Squash!

After finishing off the last of the spaghetti squash, I decided to tackle the butternut squash that you can see lurking there in the background.  Weighing in at over 5lbs, it was an impressive specimen!  I’ve always liked butternut squash (despite the lack of recipes featuring it on this blog!), and I frequently use it in any recipe that calls for pumpkin, since it’s often more readily available than pie pumpkins.  This time, though, I wanted to do something a bit different.

5lbs+!

Inspired by Smitten Kitchen’s various squash salad applications (for example this or this), I decided to make up my own.  I contemplated various beans and grains before deciding on using red lentils because a) we had some in the pantry and b) you don’t have to soak them overnight.  Along with the squash and lentils, I decided to roast a few shallots that had been rolling around in the bottom of the fridge, and to top the whole thing off, I went with some feta, parsley, and toasted hazelnuts.  Of course the feta turned out to be the wrong kind for crumbling, but since the salad was warm, I rather liked how it melted and mingled with the squash and lentils.

Cubing a squash that big takes a while...

Parchment keeps your towel clean

So much for the main ingredients, but what about spices?  Normally I probably would have gone with a bolder spice palette, and no doubt would have added a healthy dose of cayenne pepper (or even added some fresh cayenne peppers for that matter–we had quite the haul this year from our balcony garden!) but alas, since pregnancy has given me the gift of heartburn, I had to get a bit more creative with my flavors.  In the end, I decided to roast the squash and shallots together with some whole cumin seeds and a bit of salt, and to cook the lentils with a cinnamon stick, bay leaf, and some black peppercorns, as well as a couple of tablespoons of tamari soy sauce (which is my favorite trick for imparting flavor to any sort of bean/grain/rice).  I also created a simple vinaigrette with olive oil, rice vinegar, and tamari–the acid from the vinegar definitely brightened up the dish, although in retrospect a bit of lemon juice would have been very nice too.

In the end, this dish turned out to be one of the best applications of butternut squash that I’ve ever made–it managed to be filling without being heavy, spiced without being spicy, and it was pretty easy to pull together with a fairly minimal amount of pre-planning.  It also made enough to feed a small army, and the leftovers tasted just as good cold as warm.  I think this dish is definitely going to be a permanent addition to the fall meal rotation.

squashlentils

Warm Salad with Cumin Roasted Butternut Squash and Spiced Lentils
(Serves 6-8)

For the squash:

  • 1 large butternut squash (approx. 5lbs)
  • 1-2 large shallots
  • 3 tbsp grapeseed oil
  • 2-3 tbsp whole cumin seeds
  • 1/2 tsp kosher salt

For the lentils:

  • 1.75 c red lentils
  • 3.25 c water
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 9 whole black peppercorns
  • 2 tbsp tamari soy sauce

Dressing:

  • 5 tbsp olive oil
  • 3 tbsp rice vinegar or lemon juice
  • 1 tbsp tamari soy sauce
  • a few grinds of black pepper

Toppings:

  • 1/4 c crumbled feta cheese (or finely diced if your feta doesn’t crumble)
  • 1/4 c hazelnuts, toasted and peeled
  • small handful of fresh parsley, chopped

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and spread out the hazelnuts on a parchment-lined sheet pan (the kind with edges so they don’t roll off!).  Put them on the middle rack and toast for 8-12 minutes, giving them a good stir halfway through.  You’ll be able to smell when they’re done–don’t burn them!  Remove the hazelnuts from the oven, and turn up the heat to 400 degrees in preparation for the squash.  Allow the hazelnuts to cool for a bit.  Then take the corners of the parchment and bring them together, creating a little package.  Wrap the whole thing in a towel, and rub it around until the nuts are mostly peeled (they don’t need to be perfect).

While the hazelnuts are toasting, peel your butternut squash, halve it lengthwise and scoop out the seeds, and then cut it up into 1-inch cubes.  Peel the shallot(s) and cut into large chunks.  Line the sheet pan you used for the hazelnuts with aluminum foil, and spread out the squash and shallots in a single layer.  Drizzle the grapeseed oil over everything and then sprinkle on the cumin seeds and salt.  Mix it all together with your hands, making sure that all the pieces of squash are coated in oil, spread them back out, and then put it in the oven (which should now be at 400) for 20-30 minutes or until the squash is fork tender but not disintegrating.

Once the squash is going, rinse and pick over your lentils and then add them to a pan with the water, tamari, cinnamon stick, bay leaf, and peppercorns.  Give it a good stir and bring it to a boil.  Then reduce the heat and simmer until the lentils are fully cooked–probably about 20 minutes.

While the lentils and squash are cooking, whisk together all of the dressing ingredients in a small bowl.  Taste, and adjust the ratio of vinegar/lemon juice to oil as needed.  You may end up wanting to sprinkle a bit more lemon juice or vinegar over the finished salad if the acidic flavor gets lost in the squash and lentils.

Once the lentils are done, drain off any excess water, and pull out the cinnamon stick, bay leaf, and (if you can find them) the peppercorns.  (If you can’t find them, just chew carefully!)  Put the lentils in a large serving bowl along with the squash and shallots.  Mix them together, and then pour on the dressing and add the toppings.  Give everything a good toss, add extra vinegar, lemon juice, or salt to taste, and serve immediately.

Enjoy!

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Acorn Squash Risotto

I’ve been cooking a lot lately and I have so many new posts to write!  But this one had to jump to the head of the line because, well, you need to make it.  It’s delicious.

I only recently learned how to make risotto, but it’s actually really easy to do, if a bit labor intensive.  And it’s definitely worth the work.

The first thing I did was roast the acorn squash in the oven.  It’s really unpredictable how long it takes for a squash to get soft–a tiny one the other day took over an hour.  This one was much bigger and was done in less than 45 minutes.  So put it in for half an hour, and then just make sure you check on it every 10 minutes or so thereafter (unless it’s still really hard after half an hour.  Then give it another 20 til you check it.)  Once it was done, I set it aside and got started on the risotto.  You can start your risotto while the squash is still in the oven if you’re pressed for time, but you might end up burning your fingers on the squash when you go to scoop it out!

Ready for roasting

For the risotto, I started with half an onion in a bit of butter and olive oil, and once that softened up I added the rice.  I had wanted to use 5oz of rice but our kitchen scale is, most inconveniently, out of batteries, so I had to guesstimate how much rice to use and how much broth to make.  After some quick googling and a bit of math, I decided to go with 3/4c of rice and 2c of broth.  It’s not actually a big deal if you run out of broth though…you can always use hot water towards the end.  Just make sure you taste things so they’re seasoned enough.

Another couple keys to tasty risotto which I’ve picked up from watching Jamie Oliver: use 1/2 cup of white wine in the beginning before you start adding the ladle-fulls of broth.  It makes the most amazing smell once that wine starts to cook into the rice!  Also, let the risotto rest for a while at the end before you eat it.  It makes it better!

Risotto in progress

When the risotto was almost done, I stirred in (most of) the squash and corn.  I added it a little at a time, tasting as I went, because I wasn’t sure how “squash-y” the flavor was going to be.  I ended up not using all of the squash, but I had a pretty big acorn squash that I was using.  If you have a smaller one, you might end up using all of it.

Squash and corn are added in!

And then the cheese.  You really need a good melting cheese–fresh mozzarella is good, but you can use something with a stronger flavor if you like.  And then you need freshly grated Parmesan.  I would really stay away from using the stuff in the green canister if at all possible–it’ll do in a pinch, but it’s so salty and the flavor is really quite different from Parmesan you buy in a block and grate yourself.  So get yourself a grater and a brick of Parmesan!  You’ll thank me!

Acorn Squash Risotto
(Serves 4)

  • 1 acorn squash
  • olive oil (a drizzle and a splash)
  • 1 pat of butter 
  • 1/2 yellow onion, diced
  • 5oz or 3/4c Arborio rice
  • 1/2c white wine (I find dry works better)
  • 2c vegetable stock (I use Rapunzel cubes, but I halve what the box calls for)
  • 1/2c frozen corn, thawed
  • thyme
  • rosemary
  • oregano
  • 3 cloves of garlic, finely diced
  • 1 leek
  • salt and pepper
  • crushed red pepper flakes
  • 3oz fresh mozzarella or other melting cheese
  • a good handful of freshly grated Parmesan

Preheat your oven to 400.  Cut your acorn squash in half and scoop out the seeds, then place it face up on a baking sheet.  Drizzle it with a little olive oil and rub the oil in to the flesh.  Then cover it with aluminum foil and put it in the oven for 30 minutes.  Check it with a fork.  If it’s really hard still, set a timer for another 20 minutes.  If it’s getting soft, set the timer for another 10.  Check it again, and keep checking it at 10 minute intervals until a fork goes into it easily.  Then take it out of the oven and set it aside to cool.

Meanwhile, get out a small saucepan and pour the stock into it.  Keep it simmering on a back burner, and keep it covered so that it doesn’t boil off.  On another burner, get a medium-sized pan going on low heat (it was around 3 on my electric stove).  Add the pat of butter, a splash of olive oil, and the onion, along with a bit of salt and pepper, and a bit of thyme, finely chopped rosemary, and oregano.  I used dry herbs, but fresh herbs would make this even better.  Stir it around occasionally, and let it go for about five minutes until the onion starts to get soft.  While it’s cooking, scoop the flesh of the squash out of the skins and into a bowl.  Mix in the corn and then set it aside.

When the onions are ready, add the rice to the pan, and stir it around for about a minute or so until it’s well coated by the butter, oil and spices.

Pour in the wine, and stir it around more or less constantly until it gets absorbed by the rice.  Then you start adding your stock.  Add it one ladle at a time, stirring constantly, and wait until it’s fully absorbed before adding the next ladle.  By the time you’ve used most of your stock (maybe one or two ladle-fulls are left in the pan), your rice should be almost done.  Start adding your squash and corn to your risotto pan.  I added probably about 3/4 of the squash that I had, but if your squash was smaller, you might end up using all of it.  It all depends how “squash-y” you want the risotto to taste, so taste it periodically as you stir in more of the squash.  Then add in the leeks and garlic.

Mix it all together and let it continue to cook (while you continue to stir!)  The squash has a fair amount of liquid in it, so wait for it to thicken up a bit before continuing to add stock as before.  If you run out of stock and your rice still isn’t done, you can start adding hot water, but you probably won’t need much if any.

Once the rice is fully cooked, take your risotto off the heat.  Tear up the fresh mozzarella and toss that in, and grate in a generous amount of fresh Parmesan.  Add some crushed red pepper flakes (more or less, depending on how much of a kick you want to give it), and add salt and pepper to taste.  Then cover it up, and let it sit for several minutes to rest.

And that’s it!  Enjoy!