Tag Archive: parmesan


[Winter Squash, Part 1]

And just like that, it’s fall.

winter squash

I’m loving the cooler weather, changing leaves, and most of all the availability of winter squash!  Last night’s successful spaghetti squash experiment marked the first new dish I’ve created since June, when I made a mayonnaise-free, vinegar-free potato salad that I will definitely share with you at some point.  Why the lack of cooking, you ask?  Well, a certain new addition to the family is due to arrive in late December, and as it turns out, he seems to hate most vegetables (particularly the green, nutritious ones!), and he has somehow scrambled my brain such that I have become terrible at figuring out which flavors go together.  (I maintain that peanut butter, jelly, and cottage cheese is a perfectly normal and delicious sandwich combination!)  But since squash is sweet (and isn’t green!), it seemed like a perfect way to start eating vegetables again in a way the baby would let me tolerate, and sage was the obvious herb to combine with it.

sage

There are different schools of thought about the optimal way to cook spaghetti squash–whole or halved, seeds in or out, microwave or oven, covered or uncovered, steamed or roasted with oil and herbs–in the end, since I wanted the “noodles” to be all the same consistency, and since the half hour baking time would give me just enough time to make the sauce, I went with halved, seeded, face down in a baking dish with a bit of water, covered tightly with aluminum foil so it would steam.

The sauce was really easy to throw together–essentially it’s a basic white sauce (roux + milk) combined with shallots, sage, nutmeg, salt, pepper, and Parmesan cheese.  For a richer sauce, you could definitely use half and half or cream, but if you don’t have them, milk works just fine.  Definitely be prepared to add more salt after you toss it with the squash “noodles” — they will dilute the flavor of your sauce more than you expect.

If you want to get a bit more elaborate than just squash + sauce, this dish would definitely be enhanced by the addition of some toasted hazelnuts or perhaps a bit of crispy pancetta–I was too hungry by the time I was done with the squash and sauce to bother, but if you have the time, you should definitely try it out.

spaghetti

So without further ado:

Spaghetti Squash with Sage and Nutmeg Cream Sauce
(Serves 2-3)

  • a small spaghetti squash (approx. 2.5lbs)
  • 3 tbsp butter, divided
  • 1 large shallot, finely diced
  • 2 tbsp all purpose flour
  • 1.5 cups milk
  • a handful of fresh sage leaves, finely chopped
  • freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • salt
  • pepper

Preheat your oven to 375 degrees.  While it’s heating, cut the squash in half lengthwise, scoop out the seeds, and put the halves face down in a baking dish.  Add enough water to go up the sides of the squash about 1/4 inch.  (It took me about a cup and a half of water for my 9×13 pan).  Cover tightly with aluminum foil, and bake for 30-40 minutes or until a sharp knife slides easily into the squash.

Meanwhile, melt a tablespoon of butter over medium heat, and saute the shallots until they soften and just start to get a bit of color.  Remove them from the pan and set aside.  Add the remaining two tablespoons of butter to the pan, and when it’s melted, add the flour, whisking constantly until you have a nice, even roux and it darkens a bit.  Then add the milk, and continue to whisk until the sauce starts to thicken.  Reduce the heat to low and add the shallots back to the pan, along with the sage, freshly grated nutmeg, and pepper.  Taste, and adjust the amounts of nutmeg and pepper accordingly.

Remove the sauce from the heat, stir in the Parmesan cheese, and then add salt to taste.  Cover, and keep warm, stirring occasionally to keep it from thickening too much; the longer it sits, the thicker it will become.  When the squash is ready, carefully remove it from the baking dish and use a fork to separate the flesh into “noodles”.  Put your squash noodles into a serving bowl and toss with the sauce until well-coated.  Taste, and adjust seasonings as needed.

Enjoy!

P.S. If you can, wash the sauce pan right away–we let it sit a bit too long, and so even after an overnight soak it was hard to get clean!

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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!