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Posts tagged ‘butternut squash’

Butternut Squash Crumble with Goat Cheese and Sage

Of all the hypotheticals I’ve entertained in the daydream hours of spring, there’s one I return to with special frequency. If I had my own restaurant kitchen, what would be on my opening night playlist?

To say music sets the tone for an eating experience may be an understatement, but in many dining rooms the soundtrack goes woefully ignored. Neutral and instrumental seems to be the direction of choice, followed closely by a Pandora-style lineup of “Greatest Coffee Shop Hits: 80s, 90s and Today.” When a place does it right, though, the effect can be magical. Full disclosure: I loved The Little Owl on Bedford as much for their playlists as for their meatball sliders, and secretly bookmarked their website just for the pleasure of streaming Frankie Valli & the Four Seasons. (Do it! Their 3-song loop brings back many happy memories.)

At Love Apple Farms we frequently blasted music out over the garden terraces. Our garden manager had a proclivity for Phish and The Dead, but the best days were when a laptop in the tool shed was plugged into the speakers with an open playlist. “It’s not about choosing a good song, it’s about finding the song that captures your mood right now,” Ross told me earnestly one afternoon, and I took the wisdom to heart. My choices were generally scattershot, often verging on embarrassing (Sting, anyone? No, not the Police… “Desert Rose”). Fortunately my cohorts had better musical taste. When I think of the farm on late-summer afternoons I think of overripe cherry tomatoes, the clouds parting over Monterey Bay, and Ross sprinting to the laptop to play The Talking Heads’ “This Must Be the Place.”

Recently I’ve realized the same wisdom can be applied to cooking. It’s not about a perfect meal every night, but rather putting together what feels right. Sometimes I genuinely crave spaghetti with grated cheese; many afternoons I crunch on slices of raw red cabbage; other weekends I want a three-course Moroccan feast, the spices satisfying some unknown culinary desire. Some nights I need the pleasant ache of Madeleine Peyroux’s “I’m All Right” and Mayer Hawthorne’s “Just Ain’t Gonna Work Out”; other nights I slide around the kitchen to Lyle Lovett’s “Don’t Touch My Hat.” There’s a lot to be said for being true to the moment—in music and in food.

Butternut Squash Crumble with Goat Cheese and Sage

I fell in love with this savory crumble the moment I saw it on La Tartine Gourmand, and though it took me awhile to get around to making it, it didn’t disappoint. My adaptation uses goat cheese instead of tomato to make the filling smooth and creamy, and I also found that pre-roasting the butternut squash makes for a delicious, caramelized treat.

2 medium butternut squash

olive oil

salt & pepper

1 large onion

handful fresh sage leaves

1 small round goat cheese, crumbled

1/2 cup white whole wheat flour

2 Tbsp. butter, cut into small pieces

1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Peel the butternuts and cut them into small chunks; toss with olive oil, salt and pepper and arrange on a baking tray. Roast in the oven until soft and browned, about half an hour.

While the butternut is cooking, slice the onion and saute in olive oil in a medium saucepan. Roughly chop the fresh sage and add to the pan with a sprinkling of salt and pepper. Cook until the onion is translucent, then set aside to cool.

Mix the flour, butter and parmesan cheese in a bowl, rubbing the butter into the flour with your fingers until the mixture resembles course crumbs. Set aside.

Reduce oven heat to 350 degrees. Toss the warm roasted butternut with the onion mixture and the crumbled goat cheese. Spread evenly in a buttered baking dish and top with the crumble mixture. Bake until the topping is golden, about 25-30 minutes, and enjoy!

butternut squash with cauliflower and crispy edamame

Recently, in what felt like a return to my English lecture days, I was asked to write on what makes a compelling character in a book or movie. So often in novels or films we see protagonists accomplishing death-defying feats, I began, they are heroes in the face of mediocrity, extraordinary beings in an ordinary world. The authors I love are those who acknowledge that the reverse is truer to human experience: we are ordinary characters in an extraordinary world. The characters whose lives I fall into with abandon are those who make spaghetti, drink beer, and buy pantyhose at the drugstore while things of utter strangeness go on around them.

I’ve long been a fan of authors who don’t flinch from providing mundane detail. My childhood heroine Nancy Drew couldn’t so much as climb into her blue roadster without a description of her pastel-colored outfit, an authorial move both entirely unnecessary and thoroughly enjoyable. The characters in the novels of one of my current favorites, Haruki Murakami, might be in the throes of mind-altering mysteries, but they go about their lives in much the same way I do: there is lots of opening the refrigerator and boiling water for pasta, many Friday nights spent in bed reading a book.

We tend to go about our daily activities on autopilot, and recently I realized just how powerful our neurological cruise control is when I read David Eagleman’s fascinating book Incognito: The Secret Lives of the Brain. Once we learn to chop vegetables or spin lettuce for a salad, there’s no need to focus on it—the activity is seared into the brain’s wiring, and in fact it’s often impossible to describe exactly how we wield the knife the way we do. But just because we can cook and eat without focusing on what goes into our mouths, does that mean we should? Jeff Gordinier’s compelling article in the New York Times yesterday on mindful eating offers a glimpse into a world where each bite is carefully savored, a practice that doesn’t come naturally to our efficient brains.

The concept of mindful eating appeals to me for the same reason that ordinary, spaghetti-making characters do: there is something deeply meditative about daily moments spent preparing and eating food. Cooking reminds us that life has a rhythm, that no matter how exciting or dull things become we pause several times each day and eat. These times can be rushed affairs, scarfing down a banana on the fly, and sometimes they have to be. But they can also be moments of unhurried reflection, of ordinary, everyday delight that lends itself more to happiness than heroic victory does.

Butternut Squash with Cauliflower and Crispy Edamame

The key to this simple and satisfying dish is roasting until the edamame are browned and crunchy–they add wonderful texture to the sweet, soft squash and crispy florets of cauliflower.

1 medium butternut squash

1 head of cauliflower

1 cup frozen edamame

sweet Moroccan paprika

olive oil

salt & pepper

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Peel butternut and cut into cubes; spread on a baking sheet with frozen edamame. Cut cauliflower into bite-size chunks and add to the sheet, then sprinkle vegetables with sweet paprika, salt and pepper. Use your hands to coat veggies well with olive oil, then slide into the oven to cook for 30-40 minutes, or until butternut is fully roasted and edamame are browned and crispy.

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