November 18, 2017 Curried Butternut Squash Soup

 

A reluctant fall has finally settled in and made itself at home in Bucks County. We have experienced our first killing frost, officially ending the growing season. One of the last survivors of the garden is the kale. Cold weather just seems to make it sweeter. I have a sinkful soaking right now, reviving it for tonight’s dinner. We also have a wheelbarrow full of butternut squash in the garage that was harvested before the frost.

Fortunately butternut squash stores well in a cool basement, so I will be able to use it through to next spring. I cube and roast it to add to our green salads, butternut squash lasagna is a new favorite, and of course, soup. Smooth and silky butternut squash soup is a cold weather favorite. I have shared several recipes for butternut squash on this blog but this is the original, the recipe I have been making for over thirty years.

When I first discovered my love for cooking one of the first cookbooks in my library was The Silver Palate cookbook. Silver Palate’s recipe for curried butternut squash soup was a constant on our Thanksgiving table for many years. This velvety rich soup has just the right combination of sweet, tart and spicy and was met with rave reviews from friends and family alike.

Begin the recipe by sautéing chopped onions and curry powder in sweet (unsalted) butter. If your curry powder has been sitting in the back of your spice cabinet for longer than you can remember, it’s time to invest in a new jar. There is no one formulation for curry powder and each variety can have different component spices in differing amounts. For this soup the best choice is sweet curry powder. It will give you a wide range of flavors without too much heat. One large onion yielded the two cups I needed. The covered pan will allow the onions to cook slowly,  give them a stir every five minutes or so to keep them from sticking to the pan.

While the onion is cooking, peel and cube the butternut squash. The medium-large squash I used weighed in at 3.3 lbs and yielded about 6 cups of peeled, cubed squash. Add squash cubes, apple and chicken stock, bring to a boil and cook until squash and apples are tender. Purée the soup in a food processor or blender. Return the soup to the pot, add apple juice or cider and season with salt and pepper. Serve piping hot with a garnish of a tangy freshly grated green apple.

Over the years this recipe this soup has become less of a project for the home cook. Don’t feel like chopping a large unwieldy squash? You can buy peeled and chopped squash at most grocery stores. Does the thought of straining and pouring hot soup into a blender make you just a little nervous? An immersion blender eliminates this step. If you make this soup ahead of time, cool it and store in the fridge.  When you reheat the soup you may thin to thin it out a bit with a little more stock.

The most amazing thing about this recipe is you have made a rich, creamy soup without a drop of cream or milk. Perfect for the holidays or great alongside a sandwich of leftover turkey.

The primary players.
A three pound squash yielded about 6 cups of cubes.
Simmering on the stove top.
I pureed my soup in the food processor but a blender or immersion blender works too.

Curried Butternut Squash Soup

Serves six

Ingredients

  • 4 T unsalted butter
  • 2 c finely chopped onions
  • 4-5 t sweet curry powder
  • 3 lb butternut squash
  • 2 tart apples, peeled, cored and chopped
  • 3 c chicken stock
  • 1 c apple juice or cider.
  • kosher salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
  • 1 shredded unpeeled tart apple (garnish)

Directions

  1.  Melt the butter in a 5 quart Dutch oven. Add chopped onions and curry powder and cook, covered, over low heat until onions are tender, about 25 minutes.
  2. While the onions are cooking peel the squash, scrape out the seeds and chop the flesh into 1″ cubes.
  3. When the onions are tender, pour in the stock, add squash and apples, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer, partially covered, until squash and apples are very tender, about 25 minutes.
  4. Pour the soup through a strainer, reserving the liquid, and transfer the solids to a bowl of a food processor. Add 1 cup of the cooking stock and process until smooth.
  5. Return the puréed soup to the pot and apple juice and the remaining cooking liquid, about 2 cups, until the soup is of the desired consistency.
  6. Season to taste with salt and pepper, simmer briefly to heat through, and serve immediately, garnished with shredded apple.

May 17, 2017 Spinach and Butternut Squash Salad

Spinach and butternut squash salad certainly isn’t the first thing that comes to mind when you think of a spring dish, but right now it makes perfect sense to me. I still have a few squash to use from last fall’s harvest and spinach plants that still have some nice leaves to offer before they go to seed.

Begin the recipe with a medium-sized squash, 2 to 2 ½ lbs, using a sharp knife, cut off a half-inch piece at the stem and base ends. Cut the squash in half where the neck meets the bulb. I find it easiest to use my Kuhn Rikon peeler to remove not only the skin but also the white flesh and green fibers below the surface, the peeled squash should be completely orange. Scoop out the seeds, I like to toast mine for snacking and can also be used to garnish salads and soups. Cut the squash into 1 inch cubes, they will shrink during the roasting process. Toss the cubes with olive oil and spread them out evenly on a lined baking sheet and season with salt and freshly ground pepper.

While the squash cubes are roasting, make the warm bacon dressing. Fry four slices of bacon in a large skillet until crispy. Place the cooked bacon on a paper towel lined plated to drain. Pour off the bacon fat into a metal bowl, the hot oil might melt a plastic bowl.  In the residual fat that is left in the skillet, saute a medium chopped shallot until soft. Stir in the other dressing ingredients along with some of the warm bacon fat, keep over very low heat.

Place the spinach leaves in a large bowl and toss with the warm dressing. I prefer to place the other ingredients on top of the individual salads rather than tossed with the spinach, since they are heavier and inevitably sink to the bottom. Rather than the traditional fall version of this salad that would include dried cranberries or pomegranate arils, I added some thin strips of roasted pepper. I used toasted pecan halves, some creamy feta, and some of the bacon crumbled on top to complete the salad. Make it your own with toasted walnuts or butternut squash seeds and crumbled Roquefort instead of the feta.

 

Spinach and Butternut Squash Salad

Serves two

Ingredients for the Salad

  • 5-6 cups of spinach
  • 1 medium butternut squash
  • 1 T or more of extra virgin olive oil
  • ½ c toasted pecan halves
  • ¼ c roasted red pepper slivers
  • 1/3 c crumbled feta
Spinach that is going to seed but perfectly good enough for a salad.
Peeled whole butternut squash.

Ingredients for the Dressing

  • 4 slices of bacon
  • 1 medium shallot
  • ¼ c apple cider vinegar
  • 1 t Dijon mustard
  • 1 T or more honey
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper

Directions for the Salad and Dressing

  1. Preheat oven to 400°F convection or 425°F standard. Line a large baking sheet with parchment or aluminum foil.
  2. Peel and seed the squash, cut it into 1 inch cubes. In a large bowl toss the squash with olive oil and place evenly on the prepared baking sheet. Season with salt and pepper. Roast until golden brown, about 20 minutes, at the halfway point carefully move the cubes around on the sheet to ensure even browning. Set cubes aside to cool. You will have enough for several days worth of salads.
  3. In a large frying pan, cook bacon over medium high heat until crisp, about 5 minutes. Transfer to a paper towel lined plate and pour the bacon fat into a small metal bowl.
  4. Cook the shallot in the same pan until soft, 4 minutes. Stir in vinegar, mustard and honey and mix well. Whisk in two tablespoons of the bacon fat and stir to combine. Season with salt and pepper.
  5. Place the spinach leaves in a large bowl and toss with the warm dressing. Divide the salad onto two plates. Top each with about a half cup of butternut squash cubes, pecan halves, pepper strips, feta and some of the crumbled bacon. Season to taste with freshly ground pepper.

April 22, 2017 Butternut Squash Bread and Rolls

You might expect a recipe like this to be posted around Thanksgiving, but delicious homemade butternut squash rolls were the accompaniment to asparagus soup for Easter dinner. Usually the squash of choice in both sweet and savory breads is pumpkin, since I am still chipping away at my stash of butternut squash, it was an easy substitution.

I cut the squash in half lengthwise and baked it on a parchment lined baking sheet, cut side down at 375°F until it was very soft, about 45 minutes. I scooped out the squash then cooked it down a bit to get rid of any additional moisture to make a nice thick puree.

I slightly adapted a recipe from the King Arthur Flour site, with encouragement from a rating of 4.8 out of 5 stars and 106 positive reviews. The only problem was that the ingredients were a bit too much for my Kitchen Aid mixer. Once the initial ingredients were mixed together I separated them into two smaller pieces so they could be kneaded in the mixer without taxing it too much. I cut back on the sugar called for in the original recipe, since I was not attempting to make a sweet bread recipe and unlike pumpkin, butternut squash puree has some natural sweetness.
The bread and rolls turned out great, I served the rolls with the soup, the bread is well wrapped, well labeled and frozen for future use. I’m thinking bread pudding sometime soon.

Butternut Squash Bread and Rolls

Makes two loaves or 1 loaf and a dozen rolls

Ingredients

  • 2 T active dry yeast
  • ½ c lukewarm milk
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 ½ c butternut squash puree
  • 2 T vegetable oil
  • 6 ½ c unbleached all-purpose flour (I prefer King Arthur)
  • ¼ c brown sugar
  • 2 ½ t salt
  • ½ t ground ginger
  • ½ t ground cardamom

Directions

  1. Place all the ingredients into a large bowl of a stand mixer and combine ingredients using the flat beater. Alternately, this could be done by hand or in a bread machine.
  2. Once the ingredients are thoroughly combined, replace the flat beater with the dough hook and knead the dough until it is smooth and soft. I needed to do this in two batches.
  3. Put the dough into a lightly greased bowl. Cover and let dough rise until doubled, 60 to 75 minutes.
  4. Gently deflate the dough and turn it out onto a lightly oiled work surface. Divide it in half.
  5. Shape the dough into loaves or rolls. The loaves can be placed into lightly greased 9″ x 5″ loaf pans or rolls placed on parchment lined baking sheets.
  6. Cover the pans/baking sheets and let loaves/rolls rise until doubled, about 45 minutes. Toward the end of the rising time, preheat the oven to 350°F.
  7. Bake the bread for 30 to 35 minutes. The crust will be a deep golden brown and a digital thermometer inserted into the center will register 190°F. Bake rolls for about 20 minutes until golden brown.
  8. Remove bread and rolls from oven and turn out onto a wire rack to cool.  Cool completely and store, well wrapped at room temperature for several days. Freeze for longer storage.

April 9, 2017 Butternut Squash, Bacon and Black Bean Chili

I am well aware that butternut squash is typically a sign that the cool crisp days of fall are approaching. But since I still have a large supply from last year’s garden, I will be looking for ways to use them into the summer. And why not, butternut squash has a sweet nutty  flavor and creamy texture that pairs well with many ingredients and is loaded with vitamin A, C, potassium and fiber. Joe’s opinion on the last variety I made, butternut squash soup with cannellini beans and sage pesto was,”I really like it, but bacon would make it even better”. Since there are many who would concur that bacon makes just about anything better, I was up for the challenge.

Butternut squash, bacon and black bean chili is a delicious, hearty and slightly spicy chili that’s great any time of the year. The sweetness of the butternut squash contrasts nicely against the salty bacon and the savory richness of the black beans.

It all begins with bacon, cooked over medium heat to render out the fat.  Restrain yourself from eating the bacon pieces, they will be added to the finished soup. Place the cooked bacon on a paper towel lined plate to absorb excess grease. Pour the fat through a fine strainer into a metal bowl. Don’t use plastic, if the fat is hot, it could melt the container, I know from experience. Add 2 tablespoons of the strained bacon fat back to the pan and saute the chopped onion. The garlic, butternut squash and red pepper are added and cooked until soft. Chili powders, herbs, a can of tomatoes with chilis, and cook for one minute. Stir in the chicken broth and drained black beans and simmer until the butternut squash is tender.

I made this recipe with fridge and pantry ingredients. I think the chipotle chili powder adds a complexity with its smoky flavor. Other additions to the soup could include a finely chopped chili en adobo, cooked corn, avocado slices and tortilla strips. If desired, top with a dollop of sour cream.The flavors get even more complex over the course a few days and makes great leftovers and lunches.

 

 

Butternut Squash, Bacon and Black Bean Chili

Serves 4-6

Ingredients

  • 3-4 slices of thick cut bacon, cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 1 medium onion, finely diced
  • 3 cloves of garlic, minced or pressed
  • 4 c cubed butternut squash
  • 1 c minced red pepper
  • 1 t chili powder
  • ½ t chipotle chili powder
  • 1 t ground cumin
  • 1 t oregano (preferably Mexican)
  • 1-15 oz can tomatoes with green chilis, I used Rotel
  • 1-15 oz can of black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 3-4 c chicken broth
  • kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
  • cilantro leaves
  • sour cream

Directions

  1. Cook the bacon in a Dutch oven over medium high heat. Remove bacon pieces to a towel lined plate to drain, strain the fat into a metal bowl. Add about 2 T bacon fat back to the pan and add onion and cook until soft, 5 to 8 minutes. Stir in the garlic, butternut squash and red pepper and cook until the vegetables are tender and the onion begins to brown, 12-15 minutes. Add more fat to the pan if needed.
  2. Add chili powders, herbs and tomatoes with green chilis and cook for 1 minute. Stir in chicken broth and drained black beans. Simmer until the butternut squash is tender, 20 minutes or more. Add more broth as needed.
  3. Stir in the bacon pieces, serve with sour cream and cilantro leaves.

March 26, 2017 Butternut Squash Soup with Sage Pesto

Is there really a need for another recipe for butternut squash soup when there are already three other butternut squash soup recipes on the blog? Well, when you have a metal locker in the basement still half full of last year’s harvest, (in excellent condition I will add) there’s always room for one more soup. This time the squash isn’t blended into a silky purée resulting in a soup that’s perfect as a starter for an elegant meal, here the squash pulls double duty. The fat bulbous end becomes part of a squash “stock” and the neck is cut into chunks that are simmered in the stock to make this hearty main dish soup.

Start with a medium-sized squash, 2 to 2 1/2 lb, use a sharp knife to cut off a half inch piece at both ends.  You can either cut the squash in half (approximately) where the neck meets the bulb or leave it whole for peeling. The next part I find easiest to do using a vegetable peeler, the inexpensive Kuhn Rikon ones are my favorite. A well sharpened chef’s knife works well too. Place the squash on its side and run the peeler down the length. This part goes quicker with the neck, the curved bottom takes a little more time, but with practice the whole process shouldn’t take more than ten minutes. Be sure to remove the white flesh and green fibers that are right below the skin’s surface. The squash should be completely orange after peeling. Scoop out the seeds and the fibrous pulp from the bulb end. I save the seeds for roasting as a garnish for soups and salads.

The bulb halves are cut into four chunks and combined in a saucepan with stock, water, butter and soy sauce or tamari. The soy brings a savory umami note to the natural sweetness of the squash and the butter adds richness. Cook until the squash is very soft and mash in the pan until broken down.

While the stock is cooking, cut the neck end into 1/3 inch cubes. Sauté leeks and tomato paste in a Dutch oven. The mild sweet onion flavor of the leeks complements the squash and the tomato paste adds a little umami to the mix. Add the garlic and squash pieces and cook, stirring occasionally. Pour in the squash stock, bring to a simmer, partially cover and cook for ten minutes. Canned cannellini beans are the last addition and add a hearty creaminess and some substance to the soup. Simmer until the squash is tender. You can serve it now or if you have the time, make the soup, cool, refrigerate and reheat and serve the next day. As with many soups and stews, the flavors have time to meld together and it even tastes better.

Don’t skip making the pesto, it is a wonderful addition to the soup. Sage and parsley replace the typical basil in this recipe. I’m glad that sage is one of the first herbs to perk up in the garden, in spite of the cold temperatures of late. I truly despise paying several dollars for a handful of less than perfect leaves when I can pick them fresh.

Butternut Squash Soup with Sage Pesto

Serves 6-8

Ingredients for soup

  • 1- 2½ lb butternut squash
  • 4 c broth, chicken or vegetable
  • 3 c water
  • 4  T unsalted butter
  • 1 T soy sauce or tamari
  • 1 T vegetable oil
  • 1 lb leeks, white and light green parts only, washed thoroughly, sliced thin
  • 1 T tomato paste
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced finely
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 3-15 oz can cannellini beans
  • White wine vinegar to taste

Peeled whole butternut squash.

Cut the bottom into large chunks, they will become part of the squash stock.

Directions for soup

  1. Using a vegetable peeler, remove the skin and the fibrous threads just below the skin, the squash should look completely orange, no white spots remaining.
  2. Cut the squash in half where the neck and bulb meet. Cut the bulb section in half and remove the seeds and any strings. Save seeds for toasting if desired.
  3. Cut each half into four sections. Place the squash sections, broth, water, butter and soy or tamari in a medium saucepan and bring to a boil over medium high heat. Reduce heat to a simmer, partially cover and cook for about 25 minutes or until squash is very soft.
  4. Using a potato masher, mash the squash, still in the broth until it is broken down. Cover pan to keep warm and set aside.
  5.  While the broth is cooking, cut the neck of the squash into 1/3 inch pieces. Heat oil in a large Dutch oven over medium heat until shimmering. Add the chopped leeks and tomato paste and cook until the leeks are softened and the tomato paste darkens, about 5 minutes. Add garlic and cook until fragrant, 30 seconds. Add squash pieces, some salt and pepper and cook, stirring occasionally for 5 minutes.
  6. Add squash broth and bring to a simmer. Partially cover and cook for 10 minutes. Add beans and their liquid, partially cover and cook, stirring occasionally, until the squash is tender 15 to 20 minutes.
  7. Ladle soup into individual bowl, add a splash of white wine vinegar and dollop of pesto and an additional sprinkle of Parmesan cheese.

 

Sage Parsley Pesto

Ingredients for the Sage Parsley Pesto

  • ½ c toasted walnuts
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 c fresh parsley leaves
  • ½ c fresh sage leaves
  • ¾ c extra virgin olive oil
  • ½ c grated Parmesan cheese
  • Salt and pepper to taste
Sage is one of the first perennial herbs to emerge in the herb garden.
By the end of April, the sage will look more like this.

Directions for the Sage Parsley Pesto

  1. Pulse walnuts and garlic in food processor until coarsely chopped, about 5-6 pulses.
  2. Add parsley and sage to the bowl, with the processor running, slowly add oil and process until smooth, about 1 minute.
  3. Transfer to a bowl, stir in Parmesan and add salt and pepper to taste.
Parsley mellows out the sage in this pesto, a combination I will definitely try again.

 

 

December 27, 2016 Butternut Squash and Spinach Lasagna

 

In this unique lasagna, perfect for the fall and winter months, a ricotta enriched butternut squash purée takes the place of a marinara sauce. A cheesy spinach filling complements the creamy squash for this satisfying and healthy vegetarian main dish.

You will need a medium size butternut squash, weighing two and a half to three pounds. Cut the stem end off the butternut squash then cut the squash in half where the bulb end meets the neck. Cut both pieces in half lengthwise. scoop the seeds and fiber out of the bulb end, save seeds for later use. I  rinse the seeds off and dry them between layers of paper towels. Toss with a little bit of olive oil and sprinkle with salt. Bake in a 375°F oven until they pop and become toasty brown. They are great for topping salads and for snacking.

Cover a large baking tray with parchment paper. Brush the squash pieces lightly with olive oil and place the four sections of squash cut side down on the baking sheet. Bake in a 375° oven for about 50 to 55 minutes, until the squash pierces easily with the tip of the knife. Let cool for 10 minutes, the skin should come off easily. Place the squash pieces in the bowl of a food processor fitted with the metal blade. If necessary, add a little additional liquid, purée until smooth, you will have about 2½ cups. Add 1 cup of ricotta cheese and purée again, season to taste with salt and pepper and a little freshly grated nutmeg.

Place the spinach in a large bowl. Lightly rinse the spinach and toss in the bowl. The moisture will help wilt the spinach quickly. I used a 1 pound container of organic triple washed spinach.  Finely chop two garlic cloves.  Heat a large sauté pan over high heat and add the olive oil and swirl it around. Saute the garlic for a few minutes then add the spinach by the handfuls, adding more each time as it wilts down.  After squeezing out any additional liquid, the end result will be one generous cup of spinach.

You can make this version with regular lasagna noodles or if you are following a gluten-free diet, I would recommend  brown rice pasta noodles from Tinkyada, easily found in large grocery stores. They are actually good and have a nutty brown rice flavor. Follow package instructions with regular noodles, I would suggest cooking brown rice noodles for about 10 minutes, no longer. Drain them in a colander, rinse with cold water and dry on parchment lined baking sheets. I haven’t tried this recipe with no bake noodles, my suggestion would be just be certain that the ingredients in your lasagna are moist enough to cook the noodles properly. There are 14 noodles in the package of brown rice noodles, I cook them all in case of breakage. You can always make a lasagna roll up with any leftover purée and cheese.

In a medium bowl mix the well-drained garlic spinach with one and a quarter cups of ricotta cheese and a cup of mozzarella cheese or a cheese blend that you prefer. Season to taste with salt and freshly ground pepper.

To assemble the lasagna, spray the bottom of your baking tray with nonstick spray.I used a disposable pan with dimensions of 11 x 8 x 2 . Spread one-third of the butternut squash mixture over the bottom of the tray. Top with three lasagna noodles. Dollop one half of the spinach cheese mixture over the noodles. Continue to layer and finish with the remaining butternut squash, sprinkle with a generous amount of cheese, and a sprinkle of dried basil and oregano. Cover with aluminum foil and bake for a half hour. After the half hour take off the foil reattach any cheese that has attached to the foil and bake uncovered for another 10 to 15 minutes.

Since lasagna is a time-consuming dish you could do this in stages, make the butternut squash puree one day, the spinach filling the next and assemble and cook on the third day. You could substitute frozen spinach rather than cooking down your own. Possible additions to the dish include sautéed onions, sage leaves, even toasted walnuts. Serve with a crisp salad of arugula, fennel and apples. As it is with all lasagna, it’s even better the next day.

One of our very own butternut squash.
After baking, the skin pops off easily.
Skin off, ready to puree.
A large container of spinach cooks down to about a cup.
First layer of butternut squash ricotta puree .
Just a sprinkling of mozzarella cheese on top.
Lasagna noodles next, these are the brown rice noodles.
Next is the spinach and ricotta filling.
Repeat layers and finish with squash puree, a generous sprinkling of cheese, dried basil and oregano.
Out of the oven..

 

Delicious!!

Butternut Squash and Spinach Lasagna

Serves 6-8

Ingredients for butternut squash filling

  • 1-3 lb butternut squash
  • Olive oil
  • 1¼ c regular or low-fat ricotta cheese
  • ½ t salt
  • ¼ t freshly ground nutmeg

Ingredients for spinach layer

  • 1 lb fresh spinach
  • 1 t olive oil
  • 2 t minced garlic
  • 1 c regular or low-fat ricotta cheese
  • 1¼ c mozzarella cheese
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

To assemble the lasagna

  • 1 lb lasagna noodles (regular or gluten-free)
  • Shredded mozzarella cheese
  • Shredded Parmesan cheese
  • Dried basil and oregano

Directions for making the squash puree

  1. Preheat oven to 375°F.
  2. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper and spray lightly with nonstick spray.
  3. With a sharp knife cut the squash in half where the neck meets the bulbous end. Cut both of these pieces in half lengthwise. Scoop out the seeds and reserve for toasting if desired.
  4. Brush the cut sides lightly with olive oil and place the four squash pieces on a baking sheet cut side down. Bake in preheated oven 25 minutes, rotate and bake another 25 minutes. The squash should be easily pierced with the tip of a knife.
  5. Cool the squash for about ten minutes, until it can be handled. Scoop out the flesh and place in the bowl of a food processor fitted with the metal blade. Puree squash until smooth.  Add the ricotta cheese, nutmeg and salt and puree again. Taste and adjust seasonings. Add a little more ricotta if necessary, the puree should have the consistency of a thick marinara sauce. Set puree aside for the assembly. Leave oven on at 375° if you will be finishing the lasagna.

Directions for the spinach filling

  1. Place the fresh spinach in a large colander that is set inside a large bowl. Sprinkle the spinach lightly with water and toss spinach lightly.
  2. Heat olive oil in a 12″ saute pan. Add garlic and saute until light golden brown. Add the spinach by the handful, adding more as it wilts down. After draining the spinach of excess liquid, you will have a generous cup.
  3. In a medium bowl combine spinach and garlic along with ricotta, mozzarella, salt and freshly ground pepper. Taste and adjust seasonings.

Directions for assembling the lasagna

  1. Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil over high heat. Add  lasagna noodles and cook according to package directions. Stir noodles occasionally to prevent them from sticking. Drain well and rinse with cool water.
  2. To assemble the lasagna, spray the bottom of the baking dish with nonstick spray. I used a disposable tray with dimensions of 8″ x 11″ x 2″.
  3. Spread one-third of the butternut squash puree over the bottom of the pan. Sprinkle lightly with mozzarella cheese. Top with three lasagna noodles. Dollop one half of the spinach cheese mixture over the noodles, sprinkle lightly with mozzarella cheese. Top this layer with the second layer of noodles.
  4. Spread your second layer of butternut squash over the noodles. Sprinkle with mozzarella cheese, then top with the third layer of lasagna noodles.
  5. Top this with the remaining spinach cheese mixture and sprinkle with mozzarella cheese.
  6. Top with the remaining butternut squash puree and spread evenly over the noodles. Sprinkle this layer generously with shredded mozzarella and Parmesan cheese. Sprinkle lightly with dried basil and oregano.
  7. Cover the baking dish tightly with foil and bake for 30 minutes. After 30 minutes remove the foil, reattach any cheese clinging to the foil and continue to bake uncover for another 10 to 15 minutes. You can turn the broiler on for a few minutes if you want to brown the cheese.

October 13, 2016 Chicken and Butternut Squash Soup

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Joe begins planning the vegetable garden right after the Christmas holidays. As always, he asked me if there was anything I wanted to add this year. I knew right away I wanted him to grow butternut squash. They were never planted before because the vines need considerable room to grow. Since the ever-expanding garden now includes an area near the orchard and the berry bushes, there would be some more room available. Last year he grew some loofah and bird house gourds in that area but since they were not going to be repeated, butternut squash got the okay.

Butternut is a variety of winter squash. The name is a bit of a misnomer however,  since all winter squashes are frost tender (the plants will die with the first frost) warm season (seeds must be planted when the soil temperature is above 65°) annuals (plants that complete their life cycle in one growing season). With a growing season of 110-120 days for full maturation, they are harvested in the fall and can be kept well through the cold winter months, hence the name. Summer squash like zucchini and yellow crookneck are harvested all summer long while the fruit is still immature and the skin is still tender. Not counting the ones that “get away” and could fill in for baseball bats. And yes, botanically speaking, both winter and summer squash are fruit since they develop from a flower and are the part of the plant that contains the seeds. Winter squash should only be harvested when fully mature. When winter squash is mature, the stem end will turn from green to brown and will appear that the stem is beginning to dry out. The skin should look dull, not shiny and it should be difficult to dent the squash skin with your fingernail. Winter squash do not require refrigeration but should be stored in a cool dark area.

Last weekend the harvest was finally ready and Joe brought them in by the wheelbarrows full, 60 in all. Some of the squash were slightly damaged and they will be the ones I use first. Some I will give away to friends and the rest we are storing on shelves in our basement.

Low in fat and rich in vitamins A, C, fiber and antioxidants, butternut squash is a great addition to many recipes. I like to roast cubes of butternut squash to add to my fall salads.The butternut squash seeds can be tossed with olive oil and salt and roasted for a crunchy snack or a salad topper.

The creamy texture of butternut squash makes a wonderful soup and I have recipes for two on the blog from years past, butternut squash soup with cider cream and butternut squash soup with Asian pear and ginger, both unique and delicious.

Because of fall’s chilly temperatures, I wanted to make a more substantial main course soup. I liked the idea of roasting the vegetables on the baking sheet to bring out their natural sweetness. For easy clean up, I lined the baking sheet with parchment paper. The leek, pepper and squash should be cut into pieces all relatively the same size so they cook evenly. A medium dice works best here, about 1 to 1 ½ inches. Toss the vegetables with olive oil and spread out evenly on a baking sheet, don’t overcrowd. Arrange the chicken thighs on top of the vegetables and season everything with salt and pepper. I think chicken thighs are the best choice for this recipe, the skin keeps the meat moist during the roasting process. Rotate the pan halfway during the cooking process to ensure even cooking.

Transfer the chicken thighs to a plate to cool and add the roasted vegetables to a pot along with the chicken broth and spices. Simmer over medium heat and use a potato masher or the back of a wooden spoon to mash-up some of the vegetables to give the soup a thick, chunky texture. Shred the chicken into bite sized pieces, discarding the skin and bones. Add to the soup and stir in fresh lemon juice, salt and pepper to taste. When the soup is almost done stir in the kale ribbons and cook until they are wilted, an additional five minutes. Additional add ins for this soup could include cannellini beans and fire roasted diced tomatoes. The soup can be frozen or stored in the fridge for several days.

Roasted Chicken and Butternut Squash Soup

Serves four to six

Ingredients

  • 6 bone-in skin-on chicken thighs
  • 1 medium butternut squash, (2½ to 3 lbs) peeled, seeded and diced medium
  • 1 medium leek, sliced medium
  • 1 small red pepper, diced medium  (I added a red poblano too for a little kick)
  • 2 T extra virgin olive oil
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 4 c low sodium chicken broth
  • ¼ t ground cumin
  • ¼ t ground coriander
  • ¼ t smoked paprika
  • 2-3 cups of thinly chopped kale (avoid thick stems)
  • 2 T fresh lemon juice
  • Fresh parsley or coriander (optional)

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Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 425°F. In a large bowl toss the squash, red pepper and onion with the olive oil. Spread evenly on a large baking sheet. Arrange the chicken thighs on top, spacing out evenly. Season everything with salt and pepper.
  2. Roast until the squash and chicken are cooked through, rotating pan halfway through the cooking process.
  3.  Transfer the chicken to a plate, loosely cover and let cool. Transfer squash and onions to a medium pot and broth, cumin, coriander and smoked paprika. Simmer over medium high heat.
  4. With a potato masher or the back of a  wooden spoon, mash some of the vegetables until soup is thick and chunky.
  5. Discard the skin and bones from the chicken, cut meat into small pieces and add to the soup. Stir in lemon juice and season with salt and pepper.
  6. Stir in the thinly chopped kale and cook for five minutes more, until the kale is wilted. Taste and adjust seasonings, To serve, top with fresh parsley or cilantro.
Preparing the butternut squash.
Preparing the butternut squash.

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I used a leek from the garden but an onion will work as well.
I used a leek from the garden but an onion will work as well.
Lining the baking sheet with parchment makes for easy clean up.
Lining the baking sheet with parchment makes for easy clean up.
The "after" picture.
The “after” picture.
Kale ribbons only need about five minutes to wilt into the soup.
Kale ribbons only need about five minutes to wilt into the soup.

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