ACORN SQUASH & BRUSSELS SPROUT SALAD

I got my first stalk of Brussels Sprouts and couldn’t wait to get it home and start experimenting. I ‘m one of those strange individuals who actually really likes these healthy little sprouts. I think they got a bad name from being horribly over-cooked. The key is that they MUST be crisp.

This is a tasty, satisfying salad that can be served either warm or at room temp.

 

2 cups steamed and cubed Acorn or Butternut squash

2 cups of brussel sprouts, trimmed and halved

1 cup pecan nuts

1/2 cup good olive oil

1/4 cup of sweet aged Balsamic vinegar

Sea salt and pepper

Goat or sheep’s cheese (optional).

Steam the sprouts for just a few minutes (about 4) until they are still crisp but tender enough to be able to slide a sharp knife into one of them. Shock them under cold or iced water to retain the crispness and color.

Dry-roast your pecan nuts over a hot cast iron skillet for about 2 minutes on either side.

Mix up your dressing.

Finally, combine all the ingredients in a pretty bowl and dress lightly. You can crumble a little sharp sheep or goat cheese over the top to make this into a hearty lunch or supper.

GOURMET MAC & CHEESE WITH WINTER SQUASH

This is hand’s down the best Mac & Cheese I’ve ever made – it’s rich, comfort food at its absolute best. I wanted to use up some beautiful little squashes that I got in my farm box last week, and also a packet of Serrano Ham that my mom smuggled in from England.

I made huge batch so I could freeze half of it ¬†- it’s the perfect cozy dish to offer guests who have just flown in for the holidays. At this time of year I start stockpiling one-pot dinners that I can pull out when we get back from all events that are scattered over the Holiday season.

I will warn you that I didn’t skimp on the fat in this dish, but honestly, if you want to knock the socks off your family and friends, you really need to include all the rich ingredients – not a vegan-friendly dish! If you are vegetarian, just skip the ham and it’ll still be outstanding.

GOURMET MAC & CHEESE

Serves 8 or split into 2 serving dishes for 4 people

1 small butternut squash or 3 small squashes (you want to end up with about 2 cups of peeled, cubed and de-seeded squash). If you’re using Butternut you’ll have to peel, but I didn’t bother with my little yellow squashes. If you have the choice – go with Butternut, as it’s creamier.

Grated zest of 1 lemon and juice of 1/2 the lemon

2oz butter

2oz all-purpose flour

1tbsp dijon mustard

1tbsp Worcestershire Sauce

4 cups whole milk

8oz Mascarpone

Sea Salt and Pepper to taste

1 16oz package whole wheat macaroni

6oz gruyere cheese, grated (save some for topping)

10 slices Serrano or Prosciutto ham (optional)

Pre-heat the oven to 400 degrees F

Spread the squash on a baking sheet and drizzle with the oil. Massage the oil well into each cube. Season, sprinkle with the lemon zest,

and place on the top rack for 25 minutes or until tender when a knife is inserted. Remove from oven and set aside.

Turn down your oven to 350 degrees F

Heat the butter in a large, heavy saucepan and add the flour. Mix and allow the mixture to bubble. Add the mustard, milk, mascarpone and simmer for 8 minutes, stirring all the time. Add the mustard, lemon juice and most of the cheese (keep a couple of handfuls back for topping.)

Meanwhile bring a large pot of water to the boil. Cook the macaroni according to package directions until al dente, drain and place in a large mixing bow.

Add the white sauce, the roasted squash and finally tear the ham into little pieces and fold in.

Spoon into a large (or two) baking dish, and place in the over for 25 minutes or until bubbling and crispy on top.

 

 

2 tbsp olive oil

Salt & Pepper

 

KABOCHA SQUASH RISOTTO

When I saw the first leaves turning last week and felt a slight early morning chill in the air, I immediately had a yearning for a comforting risotto. Risotto is one of my favorite recipes to make because it’s so therapeutic. My mother who taught me how to make a pretty good one, never ceases to remind me that you can’t rush a risotto – she loves telling me this because she knows I’m a whirling dervish in my kitchen – always multi-tasking and hating to have to do anything slowly – but as usual – mama knows best! So once I’ve committed myself to a good 1/2 hour of leisurely stirring, I put on some relaxing music and go into a stirring-zone, which is very similar to meditating.

Out of all the risottos I’ve made in the last year, my husband thinks this recipe would definitely be in the top 2 – wow! So now you have his vote of confidence (and don’t forget he’s very spoiled when it comes to food), you may want to give it a try.

I got given a Kabocha squash, which is what prompted this risotto – you can really use whatever winter squash you want – Butternut works well too.

Kabocha Squash Risotto

1/2 large Kabochha squash, but into large cubes

2 tbsp olive oil

2 large portobello mushrooms, cut into large cubes

1tbsp olive oil

1 medium yellow onion, chopped

2tbsp olive oil

1 cup arborio rice

1/2 cup white wine

1 quart (give or take) chicken or vegetable stock

12 fresh sage leaves

1 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Sea Salt and Pepper to taste

 

You can either peel the squash before your cube it or do as I did and remove the skins after roasting, which is a bit messy – so next time I’ll peel before!

Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees F. ¬†Place squash on a large foil-lined baking sheet and pour over the olive oil. Use you hands to coat each piece. Place in the oven for 40 minutes or until browned and soft when you poke a knife in. Remove from oven and put aside. When cool, if you haven’t already, gently remove the skins and cut the squash into cubes.

Heat 1tbsp olive oil in a small skillet and fry the mushrooms for about 3 minutes. Set aside.

Pour the chicken stock into a saucepan and place on a low heat. You want to keep the stock warm for the duration of the cooking of the risotto – so make sure that heat is low enough that it won’t simmer or boil.

Heat 2 tbsp olive oil in a deep skillet (I love my 360 skillet,) and add the onion. Fry gently until translucent then stir in the rice. Add the wine and stir on a low heat until it’s absorbed.

Now comes the stirring bit. You’ll need to add a ladle of stock and gently stir over a low-medium heat until its completely absorbed – then add the next ladle. Keep on going for about 20 minutes or until the rice has fully expanded and has a nice chewy texture. The texture of the rice is what makes a risotto great or mediocre, so make sure that it’s just past al dente – you obviously want it to be soft and chewy, but not overcooked into a mush.

When it’s ready, turn off the heat and stir in the parmesan cheese, salt and pepper.

Carefully combine the squash and mushrooms into the risotto – I say carefully because you want the squash to keep its shape and not get mushy.

In a small saucepan, heat 1 tbsp olive oil on a high heat and add about 6 sage leaves. Fry for about 1 minute on either side and then drain them on a paper towel.

Finely chop the remaining sage leaves.

Make sure your serving bowls are warm. Spoon the risotto into each bowl and top with the crumbled-up friend sage leaves and the freshly chopped sage.