Category Archives: butternut squash

Squash Soufflé

squash souffle

Hello, everyone.

You may have noticed I haven’t posted in a little while. I would like to apologize but also admit to you that I do not always prioritize my little blog: after working (and I was traveling for work a great deal in January, consuming an exorbitant amount of my time), I also like to sleep, and get outside, move my body, and yes, cook. I do sometimes cook things without telling you, or even Instagram (although it is much easier to snap a photo and post than write a whole recipe out, so that does happen more frequently).

I did have a lovely little sojourn in the city of my birth, San Francisco, where you can follow my food-biking tour around the city via Instagram. Here’s how it went: bike—Tartine (best chocolate croissant I’ve ever had)—bike—Ferry building farmers’ market—walk-Chinatown (bought tea)—walk—Rancho Gordo lunch at Ferry building, and coveting everything else—bike—Pier 39 and sea lions—bike/walk (too much hill to straight bike)—Lombard Street—bike—Ghiradelli sundae + break for digestion—bike—Chrissy Field beach relaxation—bike—Golden Gate Bridge—bike through Presidio—bike through Haight-Ashbury—tea break—bike through the Castro—bike home. Next day: Tartine round two, and a Mission burrito to take on the airplane. Not bad for a quick trip!

However, all that adventure aside, I am now home, and glad to be getting back into routine. I don’t promise to always post consistently, because I never know how life will go, but know that you are still important to me. Perhaps we can relax together.

It is time to take a breath.

You may then feel inclined to hold it for a moment, however, afraid to mess up what is breathing itself in the oven (soufflé is French for breath). Don’t worry, ovens are not as finicky as they used to be. Soufflés are not terribly difficult (although it helps to know a little French for reading about the components) but they are still exciting. I found myself warning my roommates not to yell too loudly, or open the oven before it was time. A classic soufflé is just some very good cheese in the base; but you can add puréed anything (leeks? caramelized onions? spinach?) for added flavor.

What I like about soufflés: they are showy, vegetarian main courses, good for brunch or dinner, don’t take too many fancy ingredients, are light, soft, and luscious, and present the magical powers of eggs quite magnificently.

bechamel with squash for souffle

Squash soufflé
1/2 butternut squash (or another variety with similar moisture content), roasted and puréed (maybe 2 cups)
3 tablespoons butter, plus a little for greasing the pan
3 tablespoons flour (gluten-free flour works!)
1 cup milk
A dash each of sweet paprika, nutmeg, and a little more of salt and pepper
5 eggs
1/2-3/4 cup hard cheese: gruyere or some parmesan variation if you don't have anything fancy

If you haven’t already, roast, cool, and purée the squash (can be refrigerated at this point or before puréeing if you like).

Butter a soufflé dish, or large straight-sided dish of some kind (or ramekins/small dishes if you’d like to do individual ones). If you want, sprinkle a little grated cheese in to stick to the sides. Preheat oven to 400ºF.

Make the béchamel (white sauce): Heat up the milk (I usually use the microwave, but a stove works too), warm but not boiling. Make the roux (equal parts fat and flour, the thickener): melt butter over medium heat in a medium pan, gradually sprinkling in flour and whisking to form a paste. Gradually pour in the hot milk, whisking, and continue heating (and whisking) until thickened. Turn off heat and stir in the seasonings. Let cool for a moment.

Separate the eggs into two different bowls, the whites in a large mixing bowl (you can put the yolks right in with the puréed squash, if it isn’t hot—you don’t want to cook them prematurely). When the béchamel has cooled slightly, whisk in the yolks, squash, and cheese. It will be fairly thick.

Whip the whites until they form soft peaks, but are still shiny. Fold about 1/4 of the whites into the yolk mixture to lighten it, then gently add it back to the rest of the whites folding it all together (gently!) until no obvious streaks remain.

Pour into the baking dish and place in the oven. Turn oven down to 375ºF, and set your timer for 20 minutes. Don’t open the oven to look, since temperature variation can cause it to fall, but use your oven light (if you have one) to watch it puff up and brown on top. After 20 minutes (although it will probably take closer to 30, so try not to be too excited), you may open your oven briefly to check. It is done when it is all puffed, golden brown, and doesn’t jiggle anymore when delicately tapped.

Remove, and serve immediately. It will fall as it sits, but remain delicious.

 

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Brown Butter Squash Pine Nut Pasta

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Wondering what to make for dinner? Look no further. This is from NYTimes Cooking Newsletter (so, #NYTCooking and all that), one of their no-recipe Wednesday non-recipes. Well, most of my recipes are non-recipes anyway so I’m going to give you one.

I keep telling you to roast squash, so if you get bored of just eating it straight (how could you?), this is a fabulous dish to put it in. Sweet, just a little tangy, tastes nice and toasty. And assuming you have pre-roasted squash and toasted pine nuts on hand (you should), it takes exactly the time for boiling a pot of noodles.

Lemons are one of the few perishable ingredients that I keep around even though I haven’t yet seen them growing in Maine (particularly during the winter). They honestly make everything better. Modernity is good for some things.

I was in a hurry the last couple times I made this (it’s so good I made it one week and then again the next—which I guess makes sense in terms of habit, because most dishes I eat as leftovers for at least one meal and this you just cook what you need), so I’m going to pretend that you are too. (Actually I was in so much of a hurry that I didn’t take a proper photo, I just stuffed it into a jar from the pan to take and eat post-frisbee. Both times.)

Brown butter squash pine nut pasta
Your favorite pasta
3-4 tablespoons butter
A few sage leaves, ripped apart gently
A handful of toasted pine nuts (keep them in the fridge)
Maybe 1/2 roasted squash, in vague chunks (any variety—I think kobocha might be my favorite, but delicata is featured here, nice because you can eat the skin)
Juice from about 1/4 lemon

Start by putting a pot of water on to boil, since this will take the most time. If you have an electric kettle, often that will heat up water faster than a stove, so I like to put both on at the same time and then pour the kettle water into the pot when the kettle boils. Make sure to salt the water—I’ve read varying accounts as to the affect this has on the temperature of the water (not everyone is convinced that a minimal amount of salt will increase the boiling point of the water), but it makes the pasta taste way better, so do it anyway. When boiling, add the pasta to the pot.

Melt the butter in a medium pan with the sage. Carefully keep it over the heat until it begins to brown, swirling gently, then stir in pine nuts and squash, take it off the heat, and swirl in the lemon juice, stopping the cooking process (browning will happen quickly, so be prepared to act). Check the pasta, and drain when done (reserve some cooking liquid to thin the sauce if necessary—I may have told you already but apparently the starch in pasta water helps sauce adhere to pasta, and is a very useful addition to thick sauces). Throw however much pasta you want to eat into the pan with the sauce and mix around, then plate and serve. Top with a little pepper and a little parmesan (or similar) if you feel so inclined. Yuum.

Kale, Butternut Squash, and Red Onion Pizza

Making pizza by oneself is not difficult, but it always takes a little more time than I want it to. Don’t let that dissuade you, though, because pizza makes the best lunch at the office ever, and you’ll have enough for the whole week. Most of the time-sink comes from prepping all the ingredients before you start, and the crust. Once you have everything mise en place (put in place), the fun of putting it together begins.

This pizza (which is inspired by an asiago-squash-kale pizza served in my college dining hall) is great because you can pretty much make it from local ingredients most of the year. Kale is very hardy and can grow in unheated greenhouses through late fall and in spring in Maine (probably one of the reasons for the Eat More Kale trend). And winter squash keeps for a long time in cold storage, so although it is a fall crop, you might still have some through early spring. The red onion I bought at the grocery store, but onions also keep well for a long time.

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The crust requires the most planning, meaning that you can’t just decide an hour before dinner to make pizza. I have a sourdough starter I’ve been using (more on this in a future post on bread), so I made a sourdough pizza dough from King Arthur Flour’s website, but they also have a regular crust recipe. I like King Arthur Flour a lot – it’s a good product, they have nice recipes, and the company is also a Benefit or B-Corporation, which means that they accept social and environmental responsibility even as a for-profit corporation (other B-Corps include Ben & Jerry’s, Method soap, and Cabot cheese). Although I’ve also been trying to include Maine flour, which comes to the store through the Crown O’ Maine cooperative, who are trying to better distribute Maine products around the region.

You can also often buy pizza crust at the grocery store, which is good if you are short on time. Since there are good recipes linked here, I won’t restate  them, and if I work on my own pizza crust recipe, I’ll put that in a future post (my Italian uncle says use bread flour and a cold rise overnight).

The hard part about pizza crusts is rolling them out properly. I’ve had fairly good luck just rolling them out with a rolling pin (or an empty, washed wine bottle if you don’t have a rolling pin), but if you roll it too much it can get tough. So, my recommended method thus far in my pizza-making experience is based off of King Arthur’s: to make is as flat as possible with your hands in the air first, then put it on a cornmeal-dusted sheet and push out to the sides. Take a break halfway through and then continue, it will be stretchier. This takes a fair bit of time but it gets the crust nice and thin, which is what I like (I’ve tried waving it around in the air like a Fancy Pizza Man but I inevitably end up with a bunch of holes in the dough and a very uneven height. Oh well, keep practicing). King Arthur recommends pre-baking the crust a bit, and I did do that for this pizza mostly because I don’t have a pizza stone to make the bottom of the crust all crispy. Something else to add to the Kitchen Wishlist.

Kale, Squash, and Red Onion Pizza
Pizza crust (see above)
1 small winter squash (or about 1 1/2 cups of squash, cubed in 1/2 inch pieces)
Olive oil
2-3 garlic cloves, minced
About 2 cups kale, washed and chopped
1/2 red onion, minced
1/2 cup mozzarella cheese, grated
1/2 cup tomme or asiago
Salt and pepper and other herbs

The squash will take the longest, but can be made ahead and kept in the refrigerator for a few days if you want to prepare it early. Or maybe you have extra squash from something else and you need something to do with it. Anyway, cut it in half, scoop out the guts and seeds (which can be washed and roasted like pumpkin seeds if you like) and then into wide slices (maybe 8 pieces per half). This will require a sharp knife and some elbow grease. Roast in the oven at 400ºF for at least 30 minutes, probably longer, until soft (so you can poke it with a knife), but not squishy. Remove, let cool, and then peel the skin off. Cut into about 1/2 inch chunks. You will have extra, so just put it in a container in your fridge to eat by itself or add to something like kale pesto (coming soon).

Once the crust is rolled out (don’t forget the cornmeal so it doesn’t stick) and pre-baked if you like (see above), you are ready! I made two medium pizzas from the dough. Drizzle olive oil on the crust and spread the garlic on top (this is a very light sauce. If you want more, you could make a béchamel sauce by melting butter, mixing in flour, adding a little milk and cooking it down before spreading it on the crust). Top with red onion, kale, squash, mozzarella, then the tomme/asiago and some salt and pepper (I left this out of the first one and it makes a big difference). I also threw on some fresh oregano from my fridge. I like that order because the kale can cook a little more under the other toppings and the cheese gets all crispy on top, but if you prefer crispy kale and softer cheese, reverse it.

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Ugh, blurry again. Sorry.

Bake in an oven that is as hot as you can make it (real pizza ovens get up to 800ºF or higher but mine only gets to 500ºF) for about 10 minutes, until the cheese is melted and crispy and the crust is nice and brown, even on the bottom.

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Slice and enjoy! Best hot. Slice up the leftovers (it is rather easier to cut when cold) and wrap them up to take to work or put in your fridge for another dinner (I recommend a toaster oven for warm-up rather than a microwave, to keep it crispy). Careful when taking them out because the toppings might slide off the crust.