Thursday, April 5, 2012

Butternut Squash Vinaigrette. (And what to do with the leftovers.)

Happy April! This would be a good Easter brunch or dinner side item. Seriously - a super crowd pleaser, and here are some reasons why:

1. It's v. simple to make and is nice at room temp, so it doesn't need to be fighting with a ham or anything for the oven.

2. It's vegan (or could be easily anyway) and there are no common allergens in it. So it should be good for your loved ones with dietary restrictions.

3. You can keep the peels on the butternut squash, which is cool and interesting and befuddling to people, thereby making this item a lively conversation topic. (E.g. "The peels are on! That Edith is so lazy." "No, you can eat the peel; it's nice." "Really?" "Yes. Try it." "Oh. Hmm."... (self-conscious chewing ensues) ... "Yes, not bad. I never knew! Edible and structurally sound!")

squash evolution 
4. If nobody notices the peel thing (which, frankly, would be odd), they will still talk about how pretty this dish is.  Because other than delicious, simple, and hypoallergenic, that's what this dish is:  PRETTY. And if pretty food doesn't say "He is Risen", I just don't know what does.

(I'm sure my mom will tell me though. She might tell me there was something blasphemous or at the v. least sacrilegious about that.)

(Speaking of "sacrilegious" - what's up with the spelling of that word? It's totally counter intuitive. And I'm more confident in my spelling than I am in my cooking!)

(I meant for that to be a really bold assertion, sort of like when my friend Jenn, a singer, told me in college that she was more confident in her tap dancing ability than in her singing. Did it work?)

red onion vinaigrette 
I'm quite rambly today so here are a bunch of pictures because I couldn't decide which ones to use because, as mentioned above, it's so pretty. We ate it for dinner on Sunday with some grill-pan-grilled chicken sausages and a salad.
  Sunday dinnersunday dinner plate 
We ate the leftovers on Monday, cold on a salad for lunch and warmed up and mashed into a soup for dinner. Both were exquisite - and while I am self-conscious using that word, I'm going with it because I feel it's entirely accurate.

Monday lunchMonday dinner 
You might want to double this recipe so as to ensure leftovers.  For reals.  Soup recipe below = outstanding.

pretty plated squash 
Butternut Squash Vinaigrette 
Adapted from Mario Batali, via my sister-in-law, Katie 
Yield: 6-8 side servings 

1 really large or 2 medium butternut squash, cut into 1-inch slices, skin on, seeds discarded* 
Salt and pepper, to taste 
4 tablespoons olive oil 
4 tablespoons warm chicken or vegetable broth** 
1/4 cup red wine vinegar 
1/2 medium red onion, sliced paper-thin and then crosswise in thirds*** 
1/2 to 1 teaspoon red chili flakes 
1 tablespoon dried oregano 
1 clove garlic, minced 
2 tablespoons (or more), torn fresh mint leaves 

Preheat oven to 450 degrees F. 

Season the squash with salt and pepper, drizzle with olive oil, and place in a single layer on 1 or 2 rimmed baking sheets. Place into preheated oven and cook 15-18 minutes, until just tender. Meanwhile, stir together the red onion, chili flakes, oregano and garlic, season with a little salt and pepper, and then drizzle red wine vinegar and broth on top. Set aside so that onions soften and flavors blend. Remove squash from the oven and pour marinade over. Allow to cool 20 minutes in the marinade, sprinkle with mint leaves and serve. 

*I cut the long thin part of the squash - the shaft, if you will - in half lengthwise and then into 1 inch slices. I cut the more bulbous part a little more haphazardly. They were more like 2" chunks than 1" slices. I thought it ended up looking extra pretty with the variations in size and shape. 
** The original Mario Batali recipe uses olive oil in place of broth. If you don't have broth, go with the olive oil. I made the change based on the following reasoning: 8 tablespoons of olive oil is a lot of oil (1/2 a cup in fact), I'd like the red onions to soften a little bit, oh hey this hot chicken broth I just made would be an excellent substitution! And it totally was, so if you have some, microwave it and trust me. 
*** You could just use thin slices and skip the crosswise-in-thirds part. I don't like long slices of onion. I like bite-sized pieces.
  Best. Ever. Leftovers Soup.
Butternut Squash Vinaigrette Soup 
Yield: 2-3 servings 
Pour 2-3 cups leftover squash and all remaining vinaigrette into a saucepan or soup pot. Cover with broth (I used 3 cups). Add a fresh or canned pear (I used the latter), cut into large chunks, and zest from an orange (optional). Stir in 2 heaping tablespoons miso paste. Bring to boil and simmer for 10-15 minutes. Remove from heat. Mash with a potato masher or puree a little in your blender. Serve! Oh - and if you don't have a pear, try adding 1/2 cup applesauce instead, or, after removing soup from heat, add in 2 tablespoons honey, maple syrup, or mirin wine - something sweet to cut against the sourness/tartness of the actual squash mixture.

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