Sometimes the best meals come from digging around in the refrigerator to clear things out just before a trip. A few days before leaving on a recent trip to London, I roasted a piece of butternut squash that had been hanging out in my fridge for a while, and combined it with some other flotsam and jetsam on the shelves, including a leftover piece of fontina cheese, half a container of ricotta and a bit of heavy cream. The combination of ingredients turned out to be an inspired match, and I won’t be waiting for leftovers to make this again. Start out by cubing the squash and roasting in the oven with olive oil and seasoned salt at 400 degrees for about 20 minutes or until softened. Note: I used only about half of this in the tart.
Make sure you blind bake (prebake) the crust so you don’t end up with a soggy bottom.
Mix all the ingredients in a bowl and gently pour into the tart shell, then bake it for almost a half hour.
The results are creamy, cheesy and wickedly good. It’s nearly the same as a quiche, but the ricotta brings it some extra oomph. Serve with a salad on the side for a complete meal.
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I know Thanksgiving is all about the turkey here in the U.S., but if you serve this squash sformato to your guests, the turkey might develop an inferiority complex. Everyone will want seconds of this intensely flavored dish that just melts in your mouth. It also makes a nice first course for a dinner party too, since you can make practically all of it ahead of time and just reheat in the microwave.
You can make a sformato from nearly any vegetable, including cauliflower, which I posted about here way back in 2009, served with a tomato sauce. But you can make it with carrots, spinach, broccoli, and even ricotta can be used to make this unctuous dish that is almost like eating glamorized baby food.
It’s good all on its own, but if you dress it up with a creamy parmesan sauce and drizzle with balsamic, it’ll take you to Nirvana. Now is the time to bring out that aged balsamic vinegar that’s been saved for special occasions. But even if you don’t want to spring for the expensive stuff, just take some supermarket balsamic and reduce it to a syrupy liquid, or alternatively, buy some balsamic glaze.
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I love carefree summer days at the beach, but when autumn rolls around, and some of my favorite foods are at their peak — like butternut squash — I enjoy spending more time in the kitchen. Pumpkins and squash are so redolent of crisp fall days, of Halloween, heartier cooking and family time. Unfortunately, Covid has severely limited family time, although we were all tested recently so we could gather for my granddaughter’s second birthday – YEA!!! I decided to make gnocchi for the occasion, one of my husband’s all-time favorite meals, and I knew it would be equally welcomed by my son, daughter-in-law, and granddaughter. The recipe is included below, but if you want a photographic step-by-step tutorial on making potato gnocchi, click here. If you haven’t got a gnocchi paddle, a little wooden implement that makes these ridged impressions, you can easily use a fork to roll them, as my mom always did when I was growing up — or even the rough edges of a cheese grater.
Getting the right consistency is the key to successful gnocchi, and it helps to have a “feel” that comes after you’ve made them a number of times. Too much flour and they’re leaden. Too little flour and they disintegrate in the water. So after you’ve mixed the dough, make a few gnocchi and test them out by boiling them in water. You’ll know right away if you need to add more flour. It’s so much easier to add more flour, but if you’ve already added too much, then you’ve got a problem. You can make these ahead of time, but refrigerate them on floured dishcloths if you’re making them the day before you serve them. You can freeze them too, but in my experience, they sometimes attract too much water from the freezer and fall apart when later boiled in water. Instead, I boil them to start with, drain them on paper towels or dishcloths, then lay them on cookie sheets and put the cookie sheets in the freezer. After the gnocchi have individually frozen, you can pull them off the paper towels or dishcloths, and pop them in plastic bags, ready to be reboiled again whenever you want to serve them. They seem to retain their consistency better, at least for me.
I wanted to showcase some fall flavors with the gnocchi, so I cut up some butternut squash (I’ve used honeynut squash too, which I love) and some mushrooms. Roast at high temperature after you’ve drizzled with olive oil, salt and pepper. You can do this ahead of time too, even the day before, and just set it all aside in the refrigerator until you need it.
Fry up some sage leaves in olive oil, drain on a paper towel, and sprinkle with salt. They’re hard to resist as a crunchy snack, so make a bunch if you have enough sage to spare.
Melt the butter in a large pan, add some fresh sage leaves and let the butter absorb the sage flavor for a couple of minutes. Then add the roasted squash and mushrooms, and scoop the cooked gnocchi directly from the boiling water into the pan with the butter and vegetables. Don’t worry if some water comes along with it. In fact, reserve a bit of water to add in order to get a little more “sauce.” Toss everything gently, and remove the sage leaves, which have become soggy. Serve with grated parmesan cheese sprinkled on top, and some crispy sage leaves on the side.
It’s a family favorite, as you can see from my little granddaughter. They was worth making just to see her sweet little smile.
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Gnocchi with Butternut squash, Mushrooms and crispy sage
Author: Ciao Chow Linda
FOR THE GNOCCHI:
5 large brown-skinned baking potatoes
2 large eggs
1 t. salt
¼ t. white pepper
pinch of grated nutmeg
½ c. parmesan cheese
2 cups flour (or more if needed)
FOR THE ROASTED SQUASH AND MUSHROOMS:
1½ cups honeynut or butternut squash
a handful of mushrooms (cremini, baby portobello or button mushrooms)
2 tablespoons olive oil
seasoned salt, pepper to taste
FOR THE SAUCE:
8-12 tablespoons unsalted butter
a dozen sage leaves
some water from boiling the gnocchi
grated parmesan cheese
FOR THE CRISPY SAGE LEAVES:
FOR THE SQUASH AND MUSHROOMS:
Cut the squash into small pieces, cut the mushrooms into halves, or quarters if large, and toss with the olive oil and seasonings.
Roast in a 475 degree oven for 10 minutes, or until the pieces are tender.
FOR THE CRISPY SAGE LEAVES:
Place a little olive oil in a shallow saucepan and when it's hot, add the sage leaves.
Fry for a minute or two and flip, removing to a paper lined plate.
Sprinkle salt on them immediately and set aside.
FOR THE GNOCCHI:
Bake the potatoes uncovered in a 375 degree oven for about an hour or until done.
Remove from oven and when you can handle them, peel them.
Put chunks of the potato through a ricer and spread on a cookie sheet.
Let it cool completely, then mix with the eggs, salt, pepper and nutmeg and cheese.
Add flour, ¼ cup at a time.
You may not need all 2 cups flour, or you may need more.
Just add enough until the dough comes together and you can easily roll it into a big “log.”
Cut the log into four or five pieces, then take each piece and roll it out like a snake, about ½ inch to ¾ inch thick.
Using a knife, cut off some pieces of the roll, maybe about ½" each.
Take each ½" gnocco and make an imprint on it, using either a fork or a gnocchi paddle.
At this point, you can refrigerate if not using immediately -- even overnight.
Bring water to a rolling boil, add salt and the gnocchi and let simmer gently until they rise to the top.
The recipe makes about 225 gnocchi so freeze half if you like.
If I'm planning to freeze some, I actually cook them all in the water, then drain them on paper towels, place half on a cookie sheet and put those in the freezer. When they have frozen hard, I move them to a plastic bag and keep them in the freezer until I need them.)
FOR THE SAUCE AND TO ASSEMBLE:
Melt the butter in a saucepan, then add the sage leaves, letting them simmer a few minutes to impart their flavor.
Then using a slotted spoon, remove the gnocchi from the water and place them directly into the pan with the melted butter and sage leaves.
Don't worry if a little water comes along when you ladle out the gnocchi, in fact, it's good to add a little of the water to the sauce.
Add the roasted squash and mushroom pieces, and gently stir everything together.
Place everything into a serving bowl, sprinkle with parmesan cheese and scatter the crispy sage leaves on top.
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!
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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
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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
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.
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.
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 …
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.
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:
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.