Sunday, October 15, 2006

Fall Food

Recently (last weekend, and last night) I got to do something I adore doing. In my newly renovated kitchen, I got to cook some delightful food, fall food, for guests. I usually steer away from recipes which take a little time during the week, usually due to the child requiring this or that, which takes me away from anything that calls for stirring frequently. But, since I had the husband around, I was able to make two delicious recipes, that I thought I would share.

Butternut Squash Lasagna
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 butternut squash (1 1/2 - 2 lbs) - peeled, seeded, cut into cubes
salt and pepper (I used sea salt and fresh ground white pepper)
1/2 c water
3 amaretti cookies, crumbled (hard to find these at a standard grocery - we have an Italian market nearby where I got mine, but anywhere with some sort of gourmet food works
1/4 c butter
1/4 c all-purpose flour (I used whole wheat flour and that tasted just fine)
3 1/2 c whole milk
Pinch of nutmeg
3/4 c lightly packed fresh basil leaves
12 no-boil lasagna noodles
2 1/2 c shredded mozzarella cheese
1/3 c grated Parmesan cheese

Heat oil in large skillet on med-high. When warmed up, add squash and toss. Sprinkle salt and pepper and toss. Add water, cover, simmer until tender, about 20 minutes. Cool, transfer squash to food processor. Add cookies and blend until smooth.
Melt butter in medium saucepan, medium heat. Add flour a bit at a time, whisk 1 minute, making a nice roux. Gradually add milk, whisking constantly. Boil over med-high heat. Reduce to medium and simmer until thicker, about 5 minutes. Whisk in nutmeg. Cool a bit, put 1/2 sauce in a blender. Add basil and blend smooth. Return sauce to sauce in pan and stir. Season with S&P.
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Rack in center. Lightly butter or spray 9x13 glass dish. Spread about 3/4 c sauce, and arrange 3 lasagna noodles. Spreadh 1/3 of the squash puree over noodles, sprinkle with 1/2 c mozzarella. Drizzle 1/2 c sauce over noodles and cheese. Repeat layers until out of noodles and sauce. Cover dish with foil, bake 40 minutes. Sprinkle rest of cheese and parmesan over the top. Continue baking uncovered until sauce is bubbly and top is golden brown, about 15 minutes. Let stand about 10 minutes before serving.

Butternut Squash Risotto
7 Tbsp unsalted butter
2 Tbsp minced fresh sage
6 c vegetable or chicken stock
2 c butternut squash puree (cube it, simmer with 1/2 c stock 20 minutes first)
2 Tbsp olive oil
2/3 c caramelized onions
2 c Arborio rice
1 tsp minced fresh rosemary
1/2 c dry white wine
1/2 c grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste

In a small saucepan over medium heat, melt 4 Tbsp of the butter. Add 1 Tbsp of the sage and heat until the butter browns. Strain the butter into a small bowl and discard the sage. Cover the bowl to keep the butter warm. In a large saucepan over medium-high heat, whisk together the stock and squash puree. Bring just to a simmer, 8 to 10 minutes; maintain over low heat. In a large saucepan or risotto pan (if you have it; I don't) over medium heat, warm the olive oil. Add the caramelized onions and rice and stir until the grains are well coated with the oil and are nearly translucent with a white dot in the center, about 3 minutes. Stir in the remaining 1 Tbsp sage and the rosemary. Add the wine and stir until it is absorbed. Add the simmering stock mixture a ladleful at a time, stirring frequently after each addition. Wait until the stock is almost completely absorbed before adding more. When the rice is tender to the bite but slightly firm in the center and looks creamy, after about 30 minutes, stir in the remaining 3 Tbsp butter, the cheese, salt and pepper. Add more stock if needed so the rice is thick and creamy. Let stand for 2 minutes. Drizzle with the reserved sage butter and serve immediately. Serves 6-8.

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