Friday, September 28, 2012

Week 15: Butternut Squash Lasagna With Basil Bechamel

I had no intention of featuring two pasta dishes in a row, let alone two pasta dishes containing winter squash. But with a CSA, you cook what you have; and last week, I had two butternut squash and a sugar pumpkin sitting on the counter. I'm hardly making a dent in my supplies.

If you are not blessed with a squash (or two) of your own, it's worth getting one just for this lasagna. The basil adds a lot of flavor to the sauce, and gives it a pretty green color.

Butternut Squash Lasagna With Basil Bechamel
(Adapted from this Giada de Laurentiis recipe. Serves 8. You can prepare the squash puree ahead of time.)

Olive oil
1 butternut squash, about 3 pounds (or 3 cups prepared squash puree)
Salt and pepper to taste
4.5 Tbsp butter
4.5 Tbsp flour
4 cups whole milk
Pinch nutmeg
3/4 cup (lightly packed) fresh basil leaves
12 no-boil lasagna noodles
2 cups shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese
1/3 cup fresh grated Parmesan

Prepare squash: Preheat your oven to 400 degrees. Slice the squash in half lengthwise and remove the seeds. Brush the cut surface lightly with olive oil and set the squash cut-side down on a baking sheet (foil-lined, if you like). Roast the squash for about 45 minutes, or until the flesh is soft (but not mush). Let the squash cool a bit, then scoop out the cooked flesh, discarding the peel. Place the cooked squash in a food processor and pulse several times to puree. Season to taste with salt and pepper, and set aside. You should have 3 to 3-1/2 cups of puree.

Prepare bechamel: Melt the butter in a saucepan over medium heat. Whisk in the flour and cook for 1 minute, then whisk in the milk gradually. Bring the liquid to a boil over medium-high heat, then reduce the heat to medium and simmer the sauce, whisking often, until the sauce thickens slightly, about 10 minutes. (This makes a thin white sauce.) Whisk in the nutmeg. Carefully transfer about half of the sauce to a blender and let it cool there for at least 5 minutes. Add the basil leaves on top, then blend until smooth. Return the basil bechamel to the sauce in the pan and stir to combine. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Assemble and cook the lasagna: Preheat your oven to 375 degrees. Lightly butter a 9-by-13-inch baking dish. Spread 3/4 cup sauce on the bottom of the pan, then make three layers as follows, leaving space between the noodles (they expand considerably when they cook):

3 noodles
1/3 of the squash puree (about 1 cup)
1/2 cup mozzarella
1/2 cup basil bechamel

Place the final 3 noodles on top and spoon on the remaining bechamel. (You will probably have more sauce than you need.) Cover the dish tightly with foil and bake the lasagna for 40 minutes.

Sprinkle the lasagna with the remaining half-cup of  mozzarella cheese and all of the Parmesan. Bake uncovered for about 15 minutes, or until the sauce bubbles and the top is golden. Let the lasagna rest for 15 minutes before serving.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Week 14: Pasta With Roasted Squash, Mushrooms, and Sage

I made butternut squash-filled ravioli once -- only once. The recipe used wonton wrappers for the pasta, and while it was not a total disaster, it was not worth repeating, either. Someday, in a more ambitious moment, I'll go the complete route from scratch. In the meantime, there's today's recipe. It mimics the flavor combination that I was going for, but eliminates much of the work. Definitely one for the "repeat" list.

(And now that I'm contemplating the recipe, I think it would be great to try pairing the roasted vegetables with ricotta-filled ravioli or cheese tortellini, instead of just plain pasta. Lots of delicious possibilities here.)

Pasta With Roasted Squash, Mushrooms, and Sage
(Adapted from Beyond Salmon. Serves 4. If you roast more squash than you want for this dish, you can use some of the roasted cubes in one of these salads.)

1 butternut squash (about 2 pounds), seeded, peeled, and cut into 3/4-inch to 1-inch cubes
About 2 Tbsp olive oil, divided use
Salt and pepper
2 portabella mushroom caps, cleaned
8 ounces pasta (I used farfalle)
1 Tbsp butter
12 sage leaves (or more, to taste)
1 garlic clove, minced
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Preheat your oven to 425 degrees. Toss squash cubes with a tablespoon (or little more) of olive oil and spread them out in a single layer on one or two baking sheets. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Place the mushrooms on a baking dish (they can share space with the squash), brush with olive oil, and season with salt and pepper.

Roast the squash and mushrooms for 20 to 30 minutes,  flipping the pieces about halfway through the cooking time, until the squash is soft and just beginning to caramelize. Remove from oven. When the mushrooms are cool enough to handle, slice them 1/4-inch thick.

Meanwhile, bring a large pot of water to a boil, and cook the pasta according to the directions on the box.

Melt the butter in a small skillet over medium heat. Add the sage leaves in one layer. Cook 1 to 2 minutes, until the leaves begin to stiffen and crisp, then add the garlic. Continue to cook until the garlic turns golden, about 1 minute. Remove from the heat.

Drain the pasta well, then mix in the roasted squash, mushrooms, and sage-garlic butter. Sprinkle with cheese, or serve the cheese on the side.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Week 13: Massaged Kale Salad

Don't you love how food brings people together? I have a new acquaintance, and we are bonding over our mutual experiences with community-supported agriculture, and, in particular, kale.

Kale is great stuff, but it's easy to fall into the "saute with olive oil and garlic" rut when you are trying to throw dinner together after a long day. So I have to thank E. and her mother for suggesting this recipe to me. It's quick to make, it keeps well in the fridge, and it's different from the sauteed standard. Best yet: It's an excuse to really play with your food. 

Massaged Kale Salad
(Slightly adapted from Aarti Sequeira's recipe -- which is to say, I used peaches instead of mango, because I had a ton of peaches from the farm. There's a nice companion video to the recipe on the Food Network site, from which I learned, after the fact, that I did not slice my kale as thinly as recommended. Serves 4.)

1 bunch kale, stalks removed and discarded, leaves sliced into thin ribbons
Juice of 1 lemon, divided use
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus extra for drizzling
Kosher salt
2 teaspoons honey
Ground black pepper
1 cup diced peaches
2 to 3 Tbsp pepitas (roasted pumpkin seeds)

Place the kale in a large bowl. Add half of the lemon juice, a drizzle of olive oil, and a pinch of salt. Massage the kale with your hand for 2 to 3 minutes, or until the kale begins to break down and wilt.

In a small bowl, whisk together the remaining lemon juice, honey and black pepper. Stream in the olive oil slowly and whisk until a dressing forms. Taste and adjust the seasonings.

Pour the dressing over the kale, then add the peaches and pepitas. Toss and serve.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Week 12: Aloo Gobi (Potatoes and Cauliflower)

I'll be upfront: I have no idea how closely this recipe resembles the traditional Punjabi dish of spiced potatoes and cauliflower. It might just share the name. Doesn't matter, really. This is a great late-summer harvest dish, especially on a day that has just enough of a chill in the air to suggest a change in season.

Aloo Gobi (Potatoes and Cauliflower)
(Adapted from a recipe)

2 Tbsp canola oil (or another neutral-tasting vegetable oil)
1 large onion, peeled and diced
1 tsp cumin seed
1 bunch cilantro, leaves and stalks separated and roughly chopped
1 T minced ginger
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp turmeric
1 tsp salt
1 tsp chili powder
3 cups diced fresh tomatoes (2 to 3 tomatoes)
1 small cauliflower, separated into florets
3 potatoes, peeled and cubed (to be about the same size as the florets)
2 tsp garam masala (make-your-own recipe at the bottom of this post)

Heat the oil in a large saucepan, then add the onion and cumin seeds. Cook together until the onion becomes translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the cilantro stalks, ginger, garlic, turmeric, salt, and chili powder to the onions, and cook another minute or two. Stir in the tomatoes, and cook about 5 minutes, or until the tomatoes begin to break down. Add the potatoes and cauliflower, turning them in the sauce to coat. Cover and simmer the mixture for about 20 minutes, stirring occasionally, or until the vegetables are cooked through. Stir in the garam masala and cilantro leaves near the end of the cooking time.