Thursday, December 1, 2011

Roasted Butternut Squash and the first day of December...

Driving home last night I was admiring all the Christmas lights outside - where we live they decorate the trees so beautifully.  It's getting colder out and we have a pretty blanket of freshly fallen snow to welcome December.

We're going to roast a duck this weekend - a first for both of us - so on my way home from work I stopped at Tony's Meat Market.  Of course, while I was there, I had to look at much more than just the duck since they have all kinds of specialty ingredients, baked goods, seasonings, meat, cheese...

Tony's is where I bought my bottle of vanilla bean paste a few months ago, which I try to use sparingly but would love to add to all my baking.  Last night I pondered a cranberry chipotle cheese but ended up buying a small wedge of applewood-smoked cheddar and nibbled on that with some crackers, olives and pickles.  Curious about the whole bacon-chocolate thing, I got a ridiculously over-priced chocolate bacon bar to share with Jamie later.  And the duck, which I'm looking forward to cooking this weekend.

Soon we'll put up our tree, ornaments and stockings and then it will really feel like Christmas.  I so love the holidays.

I've been cooking various recipes with butternut squash this winter and am enjoying how versatile it is.  What's not to love a vegetable that when pureed tastes so smooth and sweet and creamy?  The first dish I made was inspired by a butternut squash lasagna I saw in a magazine recently, but that one contained crazy amounts of butter and cream with a very heavy beschamel sauce, which I just thought was unnecessary.  So I came up with my own recipe for Roasted Butternut Squash Lasagna with Sage and Caramelized Onions and Pears.  It's a really delicious version of a lasagna, with the layers of pasta, low-fat cottage cheese and Parmesan cheese, and creamy squash, with nice little bites here and there of the onion and pear.

The roasted butternut squash puree on its own was so yummy, that it could easily be eaten as a soup, thinned out with a little milk.  We had a little leftover from making the lasagna, and ate that a few nights later with a piece of Macadamia Crusted Sea Bass.  The slightly sweet squash puree was wonderful with the flavor of the sea bass.

And for one more dish, after Thanksgiving I used some of our leftover turkey and the turkey stock I'd made for Turkey and Roasted Butternut Squash Pot Pies.  The pot pies were the perfect finale to our butternut squash series of dishes.  Not to mention, perfectly comforting on a cold night.

Roasted Butternut Squash Lasagna with Sage and Caramelized Onions and Pears

Squash filling:
·         4-5 pounds butternut squash, halved lengthwise and seeded (1 very large or 2 medium squashes)  (Note: Canned pumpkin puree can also be substituted for  or used in addition to the squash puree in this recipe for a pumpkin lasagna.)
·         4 tablespoons olive oil
·         4 tablespoons brown sugar
·         Salt and pepper
·         2 tablespoons unsalted butter at room temperature, cut into pieces
·         1 egg, lightly beaten
·         1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
·         2 tablespoons chopped fresh sage, plus more sage leaves for garnish
·         ½ teaspoon ground nutmeg

Cheese mixture:
·         1 container (16 ounces) low-fat, small curd cottage cheese
·         2 cups part-skim grated mozzarella cheese, divided
·         2 cups freshly grated Parmesan cheese, divided
·         2 eggs, lightly beaten

Caramelized pears and onions:
·         2 tablespoons unsalted butter
·         2 pears, cored and thinly sliced
·         1 sweet yellow onion, thinly sliced
·         Salt and pepper

·         1 pound lasagna noodles (regular or no-boil)
·         Olive oil
·         Salt and pepper

Preheat the oven to 400 and line a baking sheet with foil.  Drizzle the squash halves with olive oil and season with brown sugar, salt and pepper.  Roast squashes, cut side up, for 1 to 1 ½ hours, until tender.  Set aside to cool slightly.

Scoop the squash flesh from the skins and puree in a food processor until smooth.  Transfer to a large bowl.  Add the butter, egg, parmesan cheese, sage and nutmeg, and whisk until smooth.  Season with more salt and pepper if needed.  Set aside. (Note:  The squash puree can be made a day in advance.)

In a separate bowl, combine the cheese mixture ingredients, reserving half the mozzarella and Parmesan cheeses to sprinkle on top of the lasagna.  Set aside.

In a large skillet, melt 2 tablespoons butter over medium heat.  Add the sliced pears and onions and season with salt and pepper.  Cook until browned and caramelized, 20-30 minutes.  Set aside.

Cook the lasagna noodles according to the instructions on the package (unless you’re using no-boil noodles).  Lay a few kitchen towels on the counter and place wire racks on top of the towels.  Lightly spray the racks with non-stick spray.  Carefully transfer the cooked noodles to the wire racks.  Brush one side of the noodles with olive oil, then sprinkle lightly with salt and pepper.  Turn noodles over and repeat on the other side.

You’re ready to assemble your lasagna!  Preheat the oven to 350, and spray a 9x13 pan with non-stick spray.

Assembly steps:
1.       Spread 1 cup of the squash puree on the bottom of the pan.
2.       Add a layer of noodles, slightly overlapping, cutting them to fit as needed.  Top with 2 cups squash puree, half of the caramelized onions and pears and half of the cheese mixture.
3.       Repeat step 2.
4.       Lay down a third layer of noodles.  Spread with 1 – 1 ½ cups squash puree.  Sprinkle with the reserved 1 cup mozzarella and 1 cup Parmesan.

Thoroughly spray a piece of foil with non-stick spray (so that the cheese doesn’t stick to the foil while baking).  Bake, covered, for 45 minutes.  Uncover, garnish with sage leaves, and bake for another 10-15 minutes to brown the cheese.  Let sit for 10-15 minutes before slicing.

Yields 10-12 servings.

Macadamia-Crusted Sea Bass with Squash Puree

·         2 pounds sea bass (3-4 filets)
·         ½ cup macadamia nuts
·         ½ teaspoon tarragon
·         Salt and pepper
·         2 tablespoons olive oil
·         3 tablespoons butter

Preheat the oven to 350.  Toast the macadamia nuts for 8-10 minutes.  Place in a food processor and crush into fine crumbs, almost to a powder.

Season the sea bass with the salt, pepper and tarragon, then coat the top and bottom of the filets with the crushed macadamia nuts.

In a large skillet (one that is also oven safe) heat the oil and butter over medium high heat.  Sear the sea bass for 2-3 minutes on each side (our filets were very thick, about 2 ½ inches, so we seared them for 3 minutes each side.).  As you sear the fish, use a spoon to baste it several times with the hot oil and butter.

Place the skillet in the oven and bake the fish until it flakes easily with a fork, about 10 minutes.

Serve with warm squash puree.

Yields 4 servings.

Turkey and Roasted Butternut Squash Pot Pie
printable recipe

·         1 medium butternut squash (about 2 pounds)
·         1-2 medium potatoes (such as Yukon Gold)
·         3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
·         2 stalks celery, diced
·         ½ yellow onion, diced
·         1 cup frozen peas
·         3 ½ cups turkey stock, preferably homemade (could substitute chicken stock or broth)
·         2 cups leftover cooked turkey, diced
·         2 tablespoons unsalted butter
·         2-3 tablespoons flour
·         ¼ teaspoon tarragon
·         Salt and pepper
·         1 pie crust, unbaked (could substitute puff pastry or canned biscuits)
·         1 egg yolk
·         1 tablespoon water

Preheat the oven to 400.  Peel the squash, cut in half and scoop out and discard the seeds.  Cut the squash into bite-sized pieces.  Cut the potato into bite-sized pieces.

Place the squash and potato on a foil-lined baking sheet.  Drizzle with 2 tablespoons olive oil, and season with salt and pepper.  Roast until fork-tender, about 45 minutes.  Remove from the oven and set aside, then reduce the oven temperature to 350.

Meanwhile, heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a large skillet.  Add the celery and onions, and season with salt and pepper.  Cook for 7-10 minutes, until softened.  Add the peas and ½ cup turkey stock.  Bring to a boil, then transfer everything to a large bowl.  Add the cooked, diced turkey to the bowl of celery, onions and peas.  Set aside.

In the same skillet, melt the 2 tablespoons butter.  Sprinkle the flour over the butter and whisk together until smooth.  Gradually add the 3 cups turkey stock, whisking as you go, to incorporate the mixture.  Continue whisking until smooth.  Add the tarragon and season with salt and pepper; taste and adjust seasoning as needed.  Cook the gravy over medium to medium-low heat, whisking occasionally, until thickened , slightly reduced and the flour taste is cooked out, about 10 minutes.

Add the roasted squash and potatoes to the bowl of sautéed vegetables and turkey.  Toss to combine.  Divide the turkey and vegetables between 4 oven-safe bowls or ramekins.  Pour the gravy over the mixture.

Take the pie dough (or puff pastry or canned biscuits).  Divide into 4 equal pieces and roll out so that each piece is large enough to cover the tops of the bowls or ramekins and drape a little over the edges.  Place the pieces of dough over the bowls, and pinch against the edges of the bowl to secure.  Cut a few slits in the top of the dough to let steam escape.

Whisk together the egg yolk and water and brush the egg wash over the dough.  Bake for about 30-35 minutes, until filling is hot through and the crust is golden brown and crisp.  Serve immediately.

Yields 4 servings.