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Butternut Squash Tarte Tatin

Butternut Squash Tarte Tatin

 If you’re like me, you’ve had your share of killing time waiting in a doctor’s reception room. Sometimes however, there are magazines to read that don’t date back to the Nixon era and from which I can glean some good recipes. 

Since butternut squash is one of my favorite vegetables, and the season is upon us, this twist on the classic tarte tatin made with butternut squash, rather than the traditional apples, caught my eye while I waited for my name to be called during a recent appointment.
It starts out with roasting half moons of butternut squash, seasoned with herbs, salt and pepper.
The roasted squash is delicious as is, just out of the oven as a side dish, but this recipe, with a hint of honey, transforms it into something special.
Layer the slices in an oven-proof skillet (cast iron is best), overlapping the edges slightly.
Fill in the center with another piece of squash.

Place a piece of puff pastry on top, and pierce holes into it with a fork.

Bake in the oven until golden,then carefully flip onto a plate.

It’s a side dish fit for your Thanksgiving meal – or your family’s everyday dinner table.
Now if only I could find a recipe this good each time I’m sitting in the doctor’s reception room, I might not complain about that last one hour wait!

 Want more Ciao Chow Linda? Check out my Instagram page here to see more of what I’m cooking up each day.
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Butternut Squash Tarte Tatin
from Shape.com
1 (1 1/2 pounds) butternut squash, peeled, halved, seeded, and cut into 1/4 inch-thick half moons
1 T. extra virgin olive oil
salt
fresh rosemary, finely minced
1 sheet frozen puff pastry, thawed
3 T. unsalted butter (I used two)
1 t. lemon zest
1 T. lemon juice
1/3 cup honey
-Preheat the oven to 400 degree. Line a half-sheet pan with parchment. On the prepared pan, toss squash with oil, a pinch of salt, and about 3/4 of the rosemary. Spread in an even layer and roast until browned and tender, about 25 minutes. Let cool slightly on a plate.
-Meanwhile, cut the pastry into a round the same size as the top of a 9 to 10-inch cast iron skillet. Place on parchment paper and refrigerate.
-Melt butter in the cast iron skillet over medium heat. Stir in lemon zest and juice, honey and remaining rosemary. Remove from heat and when squash is done, drizzle most of it over the squash, leaving a thick layer in the bottom of the skillet.
-Arrange squash in concentric circle in the skillet over the remaining butter mixture. Scrape any juices from the plate into the skillet. Place the pastry over the squash, and prick with a fork all around.
-Bake until the crust is golden brown, about 35 minutes. Let pan cool on a wire rack for 10 minutes. (I omitted this step because I was impatient.) Wearing oven mitts, center a serving dish over the skillet and carefully flip both together, then lift the skillet off the taste. Garnish with rosemary, if desired.
Roasted Butternut Squash And Red Onions

Roasted Butternut Squash and Red Onions

 Although Italian food is my food of choice, and my cookbook shelves are lined predominantly with books from authors like Marcella Hazan, Lidia Bastianich and Domenica Marchetti, I am also a big fan of other types of cuisine – including Middle Eastern.

Cookbooks from Yotam Ottenlenghi and Sami Tamimi also feature predominantly on my shelves for their flavor combinations that are so distant, yet so wonderful, from what I grew up eating.
Someone brought this dish to a dinner party I attended a few months ago, and I found myself going back for seconds (I would have gone back for thirds, but didn’t want to appear greedy!)
When I asked for the recipe, I was told it was from Ottolenghi’s book, Jerusalem, one of my favorite cookbooks, and one that was sitting on my bookshelf all along.
I’ve since made it several times, with a slight variation. Instead of using the pine nuts called for in the original recipe, I used hazelnuts – a less expensive alternative to the costly pine nuts from the Mediterranean (for those of us who won’t buy Chinese pine nuts for various reasons – see here). Gustiamo.com sells wonderful pine nuts from Tuscany, but fair warning – they don’t come cheap.
The sweetness of the onions and squash is hard to resist after they’ve emerged from the oven, but wait until you drizzle the sauce, the nuts and herbs all over it to get the full effect. Zatar, a middle Eastern herb blend, features predominately at the end. I can find it locally at a shop in my town called Savory Spice, or at Williams Sonoma, but they’ll also sell by mail order.
The first time I made this dish, the tahini in the sauce was overwhelming to my palate, so I toned it down by adding some yogurt. In fact, I made it subsequently using only Greek yogurt and lemon juice, giving the sauce a nice tang.
It may well become your go-to vegetable dish for holidays or dinner parties.

 

Roasted Butternut Squash and Red Onions
from Jerusalem, by Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi
1 large butternut squash (around 1.1kg), cut into 2cm x 6cm wedges 
2 red onions, cut into 3cm wedges 
50ml olive oil
Maldon sea salt and black pepper (don’t worry if you don’t have Maldon sea salt – use kosher salt instead)

3½ tbsp tahini paste (or 1/2 cup Greek yogurt)
1½ tbsp lemon juice 
3 tbsp water 
1 small garlic clove, crushed 
30g pine nuts (I used about 1/2 cup hazelnuts, chopped)
1 tbsp za’atar
1 tbsp roughly chopped parsley
Heat the oven to to 220C/425F/gas mark 7. Put the squash and onions in a large bowl, add three tablespoons of oil, a teaspoon of salt and some black pepper, and toss well. Spread, skin down, on a baking sheet and roast for 40 minutes until the vegetables have taken on some colour and are cooked through. Keep an eye on the onions: they may cook faster than the squash, so may need to be removed earlier. Remove from the oven and leave to cool.

Put the tahini in a small bowl with the lemon juice, water, garlic and a quarter-teaspoon of salt. Whisk to the consistency of honey, adding more water or tahini as necessary. (I prefer a smaller amount of tahini, or sometimes eliminate it, adding about 1/2 cup of Greek yogurt to the mix)

Pour the remaining oil into a small frying pan on a medium-low heat. Add the pine nuts and half a teaspoon of salt, cook for two minutes, stirring, until the nuts are golden brown, then tip the nuts and oil into a small bowl.

To serve, spread the vegetables on a platter and drizzle over the sauce. Scatter the pine nuts and oil on top, followed by the za’atar and parsley.
Mac N’ Cheese With Butternut Squash

Mac N’ Cheese with Butternut Squash

 There’s nothing like the intense flavor of summer vegetables – juicy, red tomatoes, crunchy, sweet Jersey corn and more … but when autumn comes, I’m in love all over again with squash. This fall, I came back from Europe to a plethora of ripe butternut squash in the garden. 

They were used for roasting, for soups and before they were all gone, for this pasta dish that I saw on my friend Stacey’s blog, originally from Cooking Light magazine.
If you’ve got vegetarians sharing the table at Thanksgiving, you could eliminate the bacon, and they’d never miss the turkey if you present this dish. The only problem is that the vegetarians will be fighting off the rest of the meat eaters who want a second helping of this mac n’ cheese.
Instead of the traditional elbow macaroni, I wanted something a little more festive, so I used torcinelli, from an artisanal pasta maker, found at a local Italian grocery store.
The vegetables and the bacon were roasted together. I used another pan to roast the onions and mushrooms that were cut in half. Make the sauce while the pasta is cooking, then mix everything together, sprinkle with breadcrumbs and parmesan cheese and pop it in the oven.
To see more of what I’m cooking up everyday, pop on over to Ciao Chow Linda’s Instagram feed:
https://www.instagram.com/ciaochowlinda/

Butternut Squash Mac N’Cheese
Serves 6-8

1 lb. Brussels sprouts, halved
1 red onion, sliced 
3 large garlic cloves, unpeeled
1/2 lb. mushrooms, halved
1 butternut squash, peeled and cut up into cubes
about six slices of bacon 
olive oil
kosher salt 
hot pepper flakes 
12 oz. pasta
1/4 cup Parmigiano Reggiano cheese
1/4 cup bread crumbs
2 T. butter
fresh sage leaves for garnish, optional

Sauce:

1 cup milk
2 cups of chicken stock
2 tbsp butter
1 cup of grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese (or your favorite cheese)
small bunch of sage leaves, chopped

Using 2 baking sheets, lay out the squash cubes, the brussels sprouts and the bacon. 
Drizzle the veggies with olive oil and kosher salt.
Roast in a 425F oven for 20-25 minutes, until the bacon is crispy.
If the bacon is crispy before the vegetables are tender, remove from the pan first.

On another pan, lay out the red onion slices and the 3 large unpeeled garlic cloves and the halved mushrooms. Drizzle w/ some olive oil and place the in the oven for about 15-20 minutes. 

Crumble the bacon and set aside. 
Remove the garlic cloves to a cutting board and set aside.
Using an 8″ x 10″ casserole pan, lay out the sprouts and cooked squash.
Using a fork or potato masher, mash down on the squash cubes to create a puree or mash. I like to leave some texture so I didn’t make it a really smooth puree.

Add in the cooked onions, mushrooms and bacon pieces. Mix the vegetables together in the baking dish.
While your pasta is boiling, make the cheese sauce.

Smash the roasted garlic cloves with the back of a knife to remove the skins. Cut the garlic into pieces.

In a heavy saucepan, add the milk, roasted garlic cloves, cheese, butter, sage leaves and chicken stock and bring to a boil.
Reduce to a simmer and whisk until it is a nice even consistency, only a few minutes. It won’t be really thick, but don’t worry, once it’s in the casserole, the other ingredients will absorb the sauce and thicken it.

Season the sauce with a pinch of salt, black pepper and hot pepper flakes.

When the pasta is done, drain and add to the casserole pan with the vegetables. Mix together.

Pour the cheese sauce over the pasta and vegetables and mix together.
Melt the 2 T. butter and mix in the bread crumbs and parmesan cheese. Sprinkle on top of the casserole.
Lower the oven temperature to 375F.

Place casserole back into the oven for 20 more minutes, until everything is blended and melted and bread crumbs are browned.
Garnish with sage leaves, if desired.

 

Puff Pastry Bites, Uncommon Goods And A Giveaway

Puff Pastry Bites, Uncommon Goods and a Giveaway

 With the holidays approaching, you might want to have a few recipes for appetizers at the ready. These puff pastry bites couldn’t be easier. They freeze well too. You use packaged puff pastry dough, and in my case, leftover vegetables. I already had some roasted butternut squash, swiss chard, mushrooms and caramelized onions for the gnocchi dish I posted here. But I had more than I needed, so I transformed the leftovers into these appetizers. Use any vegetables you like – artichoke hearts, broccoli bits or spinach also come to mind. Add some cheese too, for a richer taste. For the ones below, I just cut the pastry into little squares and popped them into a mini muffin tin, then filled them with the squash and caramelized onions before baking.

For these spirals, I rolled out a sheet of the puff pastry and spread it with a mixture of the chopped Swiss chard and mushrooms. Then I added a layer of asiago cheese and rolled it up like a jelly roll, sliced it and baked it.
I served them on these handsome slate boards that were sent to me by Uncommon Goods. The company sells a variety of high quality gifts, for men, women and children. You’ll find a plethora of holiday shopping ideas on their website, including these beautiful slate boards.They’re made by Brooklynites whose family has owned a quarry in upstate New York for three generations. They’re available in both a grey slate and a terra cotta color too and they look great when serving all sorts of food.

They’re perfect for serving cheeses too, and arrive with pieces of chalk, especially useful if you’re offering different kinds of cheeses.

The company has a variety of other gifts available too, for both home entertaining or appropriate for gifting to men, women and children. Check out their site here.
Wouldn’t you like to have one of these slateboards to use for your holiday entertaining? Just leave a message in the comments on the blog (NOT on email) saying whether you’d like the grey or terra cotta colored slate, and be sure to leave a way for me to contact you – email is best. I’ll have the computer generate one lucky winner and the company will mail you the slate board a short time later. You’ll love it!

Puff Pastry Bites
printable recipe here
1 package puff pastry, completely thawed
(I used leftover vegetable for the filling, but if you want to start from scratch use the following:)
2 T. olive oil
1/2 large onion, sliced thinly
1 cup butternut squash, diced into small pieces
2 T. olive oil
salt, pepper
fresh herbs, finely chopped (rosemary, thyme)

Sauté the onions in the olive oil until golden. Remove from the pan, set aside, but cut into small bits. Add 2 T. more olive oil and sauté the squash, adding a bit of water if the squash starts to stick to the pan. Season with salt, pepper and herbs, and when the squash is cooked through, add the onions back to the pan.
Spray a small muffin pan with non-stick spray. Cut the puff pastry in small squares and push them down into the spaces in the muffin pan. Fill with a mixture of the vegetables and bake in a 400 degree oven about 20 minutes or longer, or until the pastry is golden.

For the spirals, spread the puff pastry out flat then spread with the following:
chopped spinach that’s been sautéed with minced onion, salt and pepper, mixed with sautéed, minced mushrooms (mine were leftovers). Spread some grated asiago cheese over the vegetables, then roll like a jelly roll. Cut into slices about 1/4 inch thick, then place on a cookie sheet and bake in a 400 degree oven about 20 minutes or longer, until pastry is golden.

Butternut Squash And Greens

Butternut squash and greens

If you haven’t already noticed from all the butternut squash recipes I’ve posted lately, it’s one of my favorite vegetables – winter or summer. It makes a great soup, filling for lasagna, or even a delicious base for ice cream. It’s also wonderful just as a vegetable side dish, as pictured here. My friend Dede made this dish a while ago for a luncheon of our Italian chit-chat group, and I wanted to eat the whole plateful. But I played nice and left some for others. Then  I went home and made more just for me. I used kale in my version, since that’s what I had at home, but I much prefer it with swiss chard or spinach, as Dede made it.

You could even add some chick peas or cannellini beans to make this a vegetarian dish with complete proteins, or serve it as a side dish with a piece of grilled meat, as I did.

 

Butternut Squash and Greens
Note: Dede cooked her squash in a skillet, but I tossed the pieces with olive oil and roasted them in a 400 degree oven for 30 minutes.
2 T. olive oil
1 3/4 lb. peeled and diced butternut squash, sprinkled with salt and pepper
a couple of large handfuls of greens, chopped – spinach, swiss chard or kale
1/4 cup onions, diced
1/4 cup raisins or dried cranberries
grated parmigiano reggiano sprinkled on top (I omitted it)
pine nuts
Heat 2 T oil in skillet and cook 1 ¾ lb peeled and ¾’ diced squash sprinkled with S & P
Partially cover with lid…heat on med to low and cook until squash begins  to brown…
Add onions and raisins (I used cranberries and raisins)…cook until tender and browned
Add spinach or other greens until wilted.
Remove and add Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, or pine nuts to taste

 

Risotto With Squash, Chestnuts And Prosecco

Risotto with Squash, Chestnuts and Prosecco

 Have you got any half-full bottles of prosecco or champagne left over from New Year’s festivities? OK, don’t scoff — there are some of us who don’t quaff down a whole bottle in one sitting. In addition to the leftover prosecco, there were a dozen chestnuts and a small hunk of butternut squash in the fridge still uncooked and in search of a recipe. Hence the amalgam of these ingredients and birth of this risotto dish.

You can also use already-peeled chestnuts from France that come in a glass jar, but since I had these fresh ones, I cut them in half and plunked them into a pot of boiling water – not long enough to cook them through, but long enough to loosen the shell and pry out the interior. Click here for a more thorough explanation of how to do it.
I thought I’d finally inaugurate this heavy copper pot with the risotto – a pot I bought in the town of Guardiagrele, Italy last summer, but still hadn’t used.  It reminded to me that I’ve got a lot of kitchen tools that sit around unused because they’re in cabinets where I don’t often see them. So I’m taking it upon myself to pull out some of these pots, pans, and other gadgets more frequently in my attempt to “use it or lose it.”
After cooking the risotto in this copper pot, I may never make risotto again in any other vessel. The heavy-gauge pan ensures really even cooking without any hot spots. And it’s beautiful to look at as well.
Make sure you have all the necessary ingredients at the ready before starting to cook. Missing, but vital, to the dish, is the prosecco (use dry white wine if you haven’t got prosecco), as well as butter and extra virgin olive oil. Dice the squash into small pieces because the squash needs to be small enough to cook while you’re stirring it into the risotto. That should take only about 20 minutes. Make sure you make a little extra risotto, because my next post is a truly irresistible treat using leftover risotto.
First thing you do is soften the shallots in a mixture of butter and olive oil, then stir the grains of risotto about for a bit — a process called “tostatura.” You don’t want the grains to turn brown, so just quickly heat the exterior for three or four minutes or until the grains are opaque. This will allow the rice to soak up the liquids without becoming soggy. By the way, make sure to use carnaroli, vialone nano or arborio rice, short grain varieties that release a lot of starch, adding a creaminess to the dish.
Then it’s time for the prosecco (or dry white wine). Don’t forget the cook needs a sample!
Add the vegetables and chestnuts, and a bit of chicken broth, a ladle full at a time. When the rice is cooked (about 20 minutes or so), it’s time for the “mantecatura.”  Take it off the heat, add some dollops of cold butter …
and the parmesan cheese. Dig in.

Risotto with squash, chestnuts and prosecco


printable recipe here


1 cup rice – arborio, carnaroli or vialone nano
1 large shallot
2 T. butter
2 T. extra virgin olive oil
1 cup butternut squash, diced in small pieces
1/2 cup chestnuts, cut into small pieces
1/4 cup dry white wine or prosecco
2 cups (or more) hot chicken broth
a couple more tablespoons butter and parmesan cheese to taste (1/4 cup) for the mantecatura

Place the olive oil and butter in a saucepan and add the rice. Toss the rice for a few minutes to coat, but don’t let the grains brown. Pour in the prosecco and stir, then add the squash and chestnuts and a ladleful of the broth. Continue stirring and continue adding broth, one ladle at a time, until the rice is cooked and tender to the bite. Season with salt and white pepper. Remove from the heat and add the cold butter and parmesan cheese.

 

Easy Acorn Squash And Thanksgiving Side Dishes

Easy Acorn Squash and Thanksgiving Side Dishes

Still looking for Thanksgiving side dish ideas? Here’s one that won’t take more than five minutes to prepare and tastes great. No peeling involved – you can eat the skin on acorn squash.

The recipe is so embarrassingly simple, it’s hardly a recipe. Just wash the squash, cut in half lengthwise, remove the seeds and cut into slices about 1/2 inch think. Smear with a little melted butter on both sides, then sprinkle each side with salt and pepper, and a mixture of equal parts bread crumbs and parmesan cheese. Bake at 400 degrees for 30 to 40 minutes or until you can easily pierce the flesh with a fork.Here are a few more ideas if you still are undecided about side dishes for your Thanksgiving table:

Fennel Gratinée or Roasted Fennel 

Insalata di Rinforza

Stuffed onions

Squash and Couscous casserole

And as a relief for the digestive system: Citrus salad 

If you’re looking for a primer on how to brine and cook a turkey, click here to see how I do it.

Happy Thanksgiving!

 
Acorn Squash with Parmesan Coating
Wash the squash, cut in half lengthwise, then remove the seeds and cut into slices about 1/2 inch thick. Smear with a little melted butter on both sides, then sprinkle each side with salt and pepper, and a mixture of equal parts bread crumbs and parmesan cheese. Bake at 400 degrees for 30 to 40 minutes or until you can easily pierce the flesh with a fork.
Domenica Marchetti At Le Virtù

Domenica Marchetti at Le Virtù

 Sometimes there is a confluence of all things good and right in the universe and one of those things happened last week, when Le Virtù, my favorite Philadelphia restaurant organized a special evening featuring foods from Domenica Marchetti’s latest cookbook, “The Glorious Vegetables of Italy.” 

Each course was accompanied by wines that complemented the food perfectly – mostly from Abruzzo, but also from the regions of Le Marche and Puglia. The bread service included a cherry tomato and red onion focaccia; pizza bianca with roasted fennel and assorted grilled flatbreads (sorry, I forgot to take a photo.) The breads were terrific alongside this chicory salad, made more savory with the addition of anchovies in the dressing – similar to the flavor in a Caesar salad.
On a cold winter’s night, Domenica’s ribollita satisfies both body and soul.
The winter risotto was a perfect blend of sweet butternut squash and bitter Tuscan kale, held together with a swirl of Parmesan cheese.
Chef Joe Cicala deviated from Domenica’s recipes for the main course – whole roasted suckling pig. The crackling outer skin was irresistible, along with the tender meat flavored with garlic and rosemary.
Vegetables followed, including my favorite, broccoli romano –  hard to find in my neck of the woods. It  too, was prepared with anchovy sauce, but as with many recipes that include anchovies, you’d never know it. The anchovies just heighten the flavors without overpowering the vegetable.
 Served at room temperature, a winter salad of cauliflower had a fiery kick to it.
 Fennel with sultana raisins and chili pepper offered a balance of sweet and spicy.
And speaking of sweet, the evening ended on a high note with a pumpkin semifreddo and sweet potato fritelle resting atop a mocha sauce, with toasted pumpkin seeds, prepared by pastry chef Angela Ranalli Cicala.
If you missed the evening with Domenica, there are still plenty of reasons to come down to this gem of a Philly restaurant.  The restaurant, owned by Francis Cratil and Cathy Lee, offers one of the most authentic and delicious menus featuring the food of Abruzzo. Their new fall menu is now available here.

Winter Risotto with butternut squash and Tuscan kale
from “The Glorious Vegetables of Italy” by Domenica Marchetti
printable recipe here

Ingredients
  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 cup diced yellow onion
  • 1 pound butternut squash, peeled, seeded and cut into 1/2-inch dice
  • 8 ounces Tuscan kale, coarsely shredded
  • 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 2 cups Arborio rice
  • 1 cup dry white wine
  • 5 to 6 cups vegetable or chicken broth, heated
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, plus more for serving
  • Freshly ground black pepper
Instructions

 

Warm the olive oil and the onion in a large Dutch oven or other heavy-bottomed pot over medium-low heat. Cook, stirring often, for 7 to 8 minutes, or until the onion is softened and translucent. Add the squash and kale and toss to coat them with the oil. Sprinkle in the salt. Cover the pot and cook, stirring occasionally, for 15 to 20 minutes, or until the kale is completely wilted and the cubes of squash are just tender.
Pour in the rice and cook, stirring, for 2 to 3 minutes, until the grains are shiny and glassy-looking. Raise the heat to medium-high and pour in the wine. Let it bubble for a minute or so, until it is almost absorbed. Reduce the heat to medium-low and begin to add the broth, a ladleful at a time, stirring frequently, until the liquid is almost absorbed. You do not need to stir the risotto constantly, but be sure that you do stir it often, and take care that the rice grains do not stick to the bottom of the pot.
Continue to cook the risotto and add broth, 1 or 2 ladlefuls at a time, for 20 to 25 minutes, until the rice is almost but not completely cooked. It should be al dente–still rather firm and chalky at the center. Check by tasting a few grains. Stir in the butter and cheese. Then stir in a final ladleful of broth to achieve a creamy texture. The risotto should not be stiff or runny; it should mound softly on a spoon. Taste and season with salt and pepper, if you like.
Spoon the risotto into shallow rimmed bowls and serve immediately, with additional Parmigiano cheese on the side.

 

Butternut Squash Bread Pudding

Butternut Squash Bread Pudding

 The headline is a misnomer. I should have called it Butternut Squash, Mushroom, Sausage and Kale Bread Pudding. But that was a mouthful – granted, it’s a good mouthful, but too long for a title of this recipe. Anyway, it’s that time of year when butternut squash is abundant — a vegetable that just screams “fall.” I love it in soups, simply baked with olive oil and salt, or gussied up in lasagna or casseroles like this one. I served this as a main course, with a salad alongside, but you could leave out the sausage and serve it as a side dish. Thanksgiving will be here before you know it and it would be perfect on the table alongside Tom turkey.

There are a number of steps, but it’s easy to make ahead of time if you want. Keep the bread and the squash cubes in sizable chunks when you cut them – not too teensy so they don’t disintegrate into unrecognizable pieces after baking.
After all the ingredients are sautéed, sliced, etc. place them in a bowl.
Add the eggs and cheeses and mix everything together with a spoon.
This is what you end up with – a large casserole that feeds lots of people – at least a dozen if it’s a side dish or six if it’s a main course.
Or bake it in a lot of smaller dishes if you want individual portions.
Either way, it’s delicious, so get busy. And dig in.

Butternut Squash Bread Pudding
printable recipe here

In the photos, I used 1 cup kale, but I’d use more next time I make it. You can add or subtract any of the vegetables, and even leave out the sausage to make it completely vegetarian.

3 cups butternut squash, cut into cubes
2 T. olive oil
salt, pepper
ground sage or seasoned sage salt* or herbs de provence
4 cups sturdy Italian or French bread (preferably a day old)
2 T. butter
2 T. olive oil
3/4 cup minced shallots
3 garlic cloves
1/2 pound Italian sausage
1/2 pound mushrooms, sliced
1 1/2 cup kale, chopped

1 cup half and half
2 cups milk
4 eggs
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
1 cup mozzarella or fontina cheese, shredded

*I make seasoned salt at the end of the summer, by harvesting a lot of herbs and blending them with kosher salt. Use any combination you have – rosemary, thyme, sage, lemon balm, etc. I went heavy on the sage last year and it makes a great seasoning for the Thanksgiving turkey as well as recipes like this.
Spread the mixture on a cookie sheet and let it air dry for a day or two. When the herbs are completely dried, place the mixture into the blender or food processor and blend finely before placing into jars.

For the bread pudding:

Cut the squash into cubes – not wimpy ones, but about 1 inch cubes. Oil a cookie sheet and toss the squash cubes in the oil. Season with salt, pepper and the dried sage or sage salt or herbs de provence. Go easy on the salt if using the sage salt. Bake at 375 degrees for about 40 – 45 minutes.

Cut the bread into large cubes and put it in the oven for about five minutes while the squash is cooking. Remove to a large bowl.

Meanwhile, saute the minced shallot in the olive oil and butter until wilted. Add the minced garlic and saute briefly until soft, then add the mushrooms and cook them through. When the mushrooms are browned and nearly done cooking, add the chopped kale and saute for a few minutes. If necessary, add a little more oil. Season all with salt and pepper, then remove from the pan and place all the cooked vegetables in the bowl with the bread.

Use the same pan to cook the sausage. Remove the casing from the sausage and break up the meat in the pan, cooking it through. Add a little more olive oil if there’s not enough in the pan to keep the meat from sticking. Add the cooked sausage to the bowl with the vegetables, along with the squash when it is cooked through.

Whisk the eggs, then add the half and half and milk and stir in the cheeses. Pour the mixture into the bowl with the bread, the sausage and the vegetables and mix it all together with a wooden spoon. Let it sit for at least 10 minutes for the bread to absorb some of the liquid. You can even make everything to this stage and let it sit in the refrigerator overnight. Pour it into a greased casserole dish – mine was oval but it measures roughly 9 x 13 inches. Bake it at 375 for about 35 to 40 minutes. I also turned on the broiler near the end to achieve a little more browning. This also reheats very well as leftovers.

 

Squash And The Columbian Exchange

Squash and The Columbian Exchange

OK, you may be wondering “What’s The Columbian Exchange?” And what’s it got to do with this recipe of couscous and butternut squash? Well, for those of you in the U.S., it’s Columbus Day today. Now I know there’s a huge controversy surrounding the Italian explorer’s trips to the Western hemisphere and the “discovery” of America. But this is a blog about food and travel, so I steer clear of geopolitics here. What I will tell you though, is that his travels to the New World starting in 1492 opened the gateway to exchange between Europe and the Americas — some good, like foods, crops and livestock — and some not so good, like communicable diseases and slavery.

We’ll stick to the food exchange on this post.
Can you imagine Italy without tomatoes; Ireland without potatoes or Switzerland without chocolate? No, me either. But the Columbian Exchange, as it has come to be known, introduced those foods to other lands that hundreds of years later have nearly become icons of those nations’ cuisine. In addition to the above examples, for instance, you can thank the Columbian exchange for oranges in Florida and bananas in Ecuador.
Squash made its way from the New World to Europe, which is why I thought this recipe would be perfect to present for Columbus Day. It combines flavors from the west (squash) with spices from the East (cinnamon, saffron). It’s also a recipe from Yotam Ottolenghi, an Israeli-born chef whose recipes are enjoyed around the world. Columbus might have missed his goal of finding a sea route to Asia, but his travels kicked off an international exchange that was to alter world cuisine forever.
For those of you living anywhere near New York City, the statue in Columbus Circle pays tribute to the sailor from Genoa. It has stood on a granite column about 70 feet off the ground since 1892, visible to cars and passersby in this busy neighborhood of Manhattan next to the Time-Warner Center.
But if you travel to Columbus Circle now, you won’t see the statue from the street. Instead, climb six stories of stairs, amid scaffolding, and witness Columbus close up in a conceptual art installation by the Japanese artist, Tatzu Nishi. Until Nov. 18, he’s the centerpiece of what looks like a living room in a New York City apartment.
Here’s the big guy himself – all 13 feet of marble. Until now, only the birds had such an intimate view.

 

His feet appear to be resting on a coffee table, surrounded by magazines and newspapers.

 

Have a seat and catch up with the news while Christopher surveys the living room.
The apartment’s wallpaper is designed with iconic American scenes.

 

Want to watch a little TV or read a book? No problem.

 

You’ll have a great view of the Trump Tower apartment building across the street.
While you’re there, savor the view of Central Park from your perch in the sky with Columbus.
Then come home and make this vegetarian dish of couscous with butternut squash and apricots from Ottolenghi – a legacy, if you will, from Columbus.
If you’re in New York and want to visit, you’ll need a ticket. It’s free. Click here to find out more about the artist and the art installation.

Couscous with dried apricots and butternut squash
From “Ottolenghi, The Cookbook”
Printable recipe here
Serves four
(I increased the ingredients by half and made 1 1/2 times the recipe and it served way more than six as a side dish. I would count on at least six servings or more from the base recipe.

1 large (red) onion, thinly sliced
6 tbs olive oil
50g dried apricots – (1/2 cup)
1 small butternut squash, peeled, seeded and cut into 2 cm dice
250g couscous (1 1/2 cups)
400ml chicken or vegetable stock (1 1/2 cups)
a pinch of saffron strands
3 tbs roughly chopped tarragon
3 tbs roughly chopped mint
3 tbs roughly chopped flat-leaf parsley
1 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon (go easy on the cinnamon – it’s very assertive – I made 1 1/2 times this recipe and used this amount, but next time I’d use only 1 tsp.)
grated zest of 1 lemon
coarse sea salt and black pepper
(I also added 1/2 cup toasted pecans.)

Preheat the oven to 180d Celsius. (I set it at 400 degrees F.)
Place onion in a large frying pan with 2 tbs oil and a pinch of salt. Sauté over high heat, stirring constantly for about 10 mins (I used less time), until golden brown. Set aside.
Pour hot water from the tap over the apricots just to cover them. Soak for 5 mins then drain and cut them into 5mm dice.
Mix the diced squash in 1 tbs olive oil and spread out on a baking tray to roast. Place in oven for 25 mins, until lightly colored and quite soft. (I cooked it for closer to 45 minutes)
While waiting for the butternut squash to cook, cook the couscous. Bring the stock to the boil with the saffron. Place the couscous in a large heatproof bowl and pour the boiling stock over it, plus the remaining olive oil (3 tbs). Cover with clingfilm and leave for about 10 mins for all of the liquid to be absorbed. When done, fluff with up with a fork. Then add the onions, squash, apricots, herbs, cinnamon and lemon zest. Mix well with hands, trying not to mash the squash to bits.
Taste and add salt and pepper if necessary. Serve warmish or cold.