Tag Archives: butternut squash

Practice makes … Pasta?

As you might have noticed, once an idea gets planted in my head – it’s hard to shake it free. For example, take this butternut squash:

Doesn’t it just scream autumn? I had been waiting eight months for this butternut squash. Last winter I went to visit my friend Jenny in Chicago to help her find a wedding dress and to learn how to make chocolates. While I was there, we went to Cafe Spiaggia (the restaurant where the wedding will be) and I had the most delicious butternut squash ravioli. Seriously – I am still thinking about it nearly a year later.

Previously, I had tried to make ravioli using wonton wrappers and it’s just not the same as fresh pasta. I knew this time I wanted to make them right – no shortcuts. I scoured the Uptown area for some fresh pasta sheets and then searched some more with no luck. Out of options, I decided to try my hand at pasta making, I mean, how hard could it be? Apparently no shortcuts means no shortcuts. So I announced my pasta-making intentions over lunch and was immediately offered the use of a pasta roller (Thanks Pete!). I was good to go.

Here’s what I found out: pasta dough is amazingly simple but in no way easy.

Two ingredients, that’s all, two ingredients! Flour, eggs (and I suppose a little water) and a LOT of elbow grease. Only pennies to make, which is kind of absurd.

I most anticipated the rolling part. After the first pass through the roller, I thought I had failed miserably. The dough was dry and somewhat crumbly. Not a pretty sight and did nothing to boost my kitchen ego.

But I kept going (if graduate school teaches you anything – it’s perseverance). Rolling the dough, folding the dough and re-rolling the dough. And at some point, something magical happens and the dough becomes soft and silky and recognizable as pasta.

I was completely enchanted.

Look Ma at what I can do!

That moment – that magical moment when the pasta dough becomes pasta – is utterly addicting and makes the whole process worth it. That is, if it is a Sunday afternoon and you are in no rush to make dinner…

Now, back to the butternut squash. I roasted it, added some ginger, parmesan cheese and finely ground hazelnuts and wrapped it in a ~3 inch square of pasta. First folding the dough in half to make a triangle and then bringing two points together to make a little “hats” (or cappellacci).

Add a little browned butter, sage and toasted hazelnuts … not bad for a Sunday afternoon.

Butternut Squash Cappellacci with Browned Butter, Sage and Hazelnuts
**********
Pasta Dough
2 cups flour
2 large eggs
water
 
Butternut Squash Filling
1 medium butternut squash
1 tablespoon olive oil
salt and pepper to taste
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 cup grated parmesan
1/2 cup finely ground hazelnuts
 
3 tablespoons butter
1/3 cups sage leaves, chopped
1/4 cup toasted hazelnuts
**********

1. Mound flour on countertop with a well in the middle. Add eggs to well. With a fork, break up the eggs and start to incorporate the flour. Add water as needed to bring dough together.

2. Once dough is formed, wrap in a kitchen towel and let sit for about an hour.

3. Divide dough in fourths. Flatten dough into a rectangle and feed it through a pasta roller, set at the widest setting. (My dough was very piece-y after the first pass through). Gather dough together and repeat until a sheet forms. Fold pasta sheet in half and continue rolling it until it becomes soft and silky, occasionally adjusting the roller setting to narrower setting. Keep pasta sheets wrapped in a kitchen towel to prevent them from drying out.

4. Halve the butternut squash and remove the seeds. Sprinkle with olive oil, salt and pepper and roast at 350º for about an hour. Scoop flesh into a medium bowl.

5. Stir in ginger, parmesan cheese and ground hazelnuts.

6. Cut pasta dough into 3-inch squares. Scoop about a tablespoon of filling into the center of each square. Fold dough in half to make a triangle, pinching edges together. Bring two points of the triangle together to form the “hat.”

7. Bring a pot of salted water to a boil. Cook pasta for about 6-8 minutes and very carefully remove/drain.

8. Cook butter in a skillet over medium heat until it starts to brown, 3-4 minutes. Add sage, toasted hazelnuts and cook for an additional minute or two. Add pasta and toss to coat.

Winters last(?) laugh

I thought we were in the clear. I got back from California Sunday evening and was pleasantly surprised by the near lack of snow in the city. By Monday afternoon they had even called off the “Winter Parking Restrictions” (which basically meant that I could only park on one side of the street because the snow pretty much takes up the width of an entire lane). I was looking forward to taking my bike out around the lakes over the weekend and just being able to walk down the sidewalk without having my eyes permanently downward, looking out for ice or puddles. I was dreaming of flower gardens and finding a CSA (community supported agriculture).

But then I woke up to this.

Snow. Again. Multiple inches of it. In fact it snowed for most of the day.

WTF?

I ask myself (once again) “Why does anybody, and more importantly, why do I live here?”

In order to deal with this completely unwelcome development I made a giant pot of soup.

Roasted butternut squash soup topped with croutons and apple cider cream.

I love this soup. And, like most soups, it is pretty easy to assemble with relatively few ingredients.

Roasted Butternut Squash Soup

Start by rough chopping:

1 small butternut squash

2 small apples

4-5 small carrots

1 large onion

Season with salt and pepper. Roast in a 450 degree oven for 45 minutes or so.

Meanwhile, heat some butter in your soup pot and add some chopped celery. Cook until soft, about 15 minutes.

Add a few pinches of dried thyme.

And a dash of cayenne pepper.

Take the vegetables out of the oven.

And transfer them to the soup pot.

Add 4 cups of stock (vegetable or chicken).

And 1 cup of apple cider.

Bring to a boil and cook for about 15 minutes.

Working in batches, transfer to a blender and puree until smooth.

Return to the soup pot, bring to a simmer and add 1/2 cup of cream.

Now for the apple cider cream.

Cook 1/2 cup of apple cider until reduced by half.

Mix into 2/3 cup of sour cream.

That’s it.

Now that my belly is full, I am going to go back to dreaming about California and ignore all the snow that is currently outside.

Food Porn I

Roasted cayenne spiced butternut squash , candied walnuts, gorganzola cheese atop arugula dressed with a red wine vinaigrette.

‘Nuff said.

A Fall Favorite

Tonight I indulged in one of my favorite fall meals.  Butternut squash risotto.  The richness and creaminess of it is pure luxury.  The starchiness of the rice, the nuttiness of parmesan, the sweetness of the butternut squash and the saltiness of the bacon can warm the coldest of fall evenings.  I’ve spent the last several years perfecting my recipe and I think I am pretty close and felt the need to share with you what I’ve learned while I sit and enjoy the fruits of my labor and watch my not-so-secret pleasure, Dancing with the Stars. (Though, it may also be in part due to the glass (and a half) of wine I’ve consumed while cooking.)

Butternut Squash Risotto

1 small-medium butternut squash, peeled and diced

6-8 slices of bacon, chopped

1 small onion, diced

1 1/2 cups aborio rice

1/2 cup white wine

5 cups chicken stock

3/4 cup parmesan cheese, freshly grated

3-4 tablespoons butter

Roast the butternut squash, drizzled in olive oil, salt and pepper, in a 450 degree oven for ~30 minutes.

Simmer chicken broth to keep warm.  Meanwhile, cook bacon in a large stockpot until crispy.  Remove bacon and add onion, cooking over medium heat until soft, about 3 minutes.  Add aborio rice and cook for 2 minutes.  Add 1/2 cup wine and cook until the liquid evaporates (DO NOT OMIT, however, white wine is not necessary.  All I had was a Rose in the fridge and that worked just as well).  Add chicken broth, 1 cup at a time until, stirring until all of the liquid is absorbed, about 20-25 minutes total (or ~5 minutes/cup chicken stock).

Remove from heat.  Add butter and parmesan and stir until melted.  (If you have been drinking the wine that you just opened, be careful while grating the cheese, we don’t want any kitchen injuries).

Fold in roasted butternut squash and top with bacon pieces.  I would recommend keeping the bacon separate from the risotto, but then again, I prefer crispy bacon.  Enjoy!

Now to turn my attention back to Dancing with the Stars … and perhaps another glass of wine.