Butternut Squash, Spinach and Ricotta Lasagna

13 10 2011

Yes, another butternut squash post. ANDTHEREWILLBEMORE. Muaaahhhhaha. *sighs* October.¬† Honestly, everything about autumn, October and Halloween fills me with this creative, motivational energy. It’s a really magical time. And this is a magical lasagna. Because it only uses a handful of ingredients and is very simply seasoned, the flavors of the vegetables and cheeses are forefront. Tis awesome.

On the topic of the magical and cheesy, check out my band, Cheri Love Affair. We are damned adorable, is my general consensus.

Butternut Squash, Spinach and Ricotta Lasagna
Adapted from Vegetarian Cooking: A Commonsense Guide

1/4 cup olive oil
1 medium butternut squash, about 3 lbs, peeled and diced into 1/2 inch. pieces
1 lb. spinach
2 cups ricotta
2 tbs. heavy cream
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese, grated
Lasagna noodles
Pinch of nutmeg
Salt and pepper, to taste

Heat the olive oil in a large skillet. Add the squash and toss over medium heat. Cook, stirring occasionally, for about 20 minutes, or until tender. Don’t worry if some of the squash gets slightly mashed. Season with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper and keep warm.

Blanch the spinach in a large saucepan of boiling water for 30 seconds, or until wilted. Using a slotted spoon, transfer to a bowl of cold water. Drain well, squeezing out as much excess water as possible, then finely chop.

Add the lasagna to the pot of boiling water and cook, stirring occasionally, until al dente. Drain.

Put the ricotta, cream, Parmesan, spinach and nutmeg in a small saucepan. Stir over low heat for 2-3 minutes, or until warmed through.

Arrange 4 noodles in a lasagna baking dish. Top with half of the pumpkin, then more lasagna strips. Top with half the ricotta mixture, then the final lasagna strips. Arrange the remaining pumpkin and ricotta mixture over the top. Sprinkle with sea salt and black pepper. Serve!





Butternut Squash & Red Lentil Soup

28 09 2011

The main reason I chose to make this soup, minus the fact that it harnesses some great autumn veggies, also minus the fact that I had some tahini kicking around in the fridge… was that in the cookbook picture, it looked so creamy, like a spiced pumpkin puree.

I had just spent the night at a friends grandparents house out in Chemsford, MA and part of dinner was a pumpkin soup that was so yummy and had the same texture that I was dying for; the kind where you can swirl imprints with your spoon that will hold just long enough. Sadly, my soup didn’t turn out that way. Maybe I didn’t use enough squash, or too much broth. Maybe I’ll just keep blaming myself. Stupid stupid stupid. Maybe I’m a victim of metric system conversions. The book was published in Australia.

Either way, it’s a thinner soup than expected, but don’t let that deter you. It has a mellow, sweet flavor with the occasional hint of hotness. If I made it again, I would add some roasted garlic and some herbs, I’m thinking sage.

Butternut Squash & Red Lentil Soup
Adapted from Vegetarian Cooking: A Commonsense Guide

1 tb. olive oil
1 long red chili, seeded and chopped, plus extra to garnish
1 onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 large butternut squash, peeled and chopped
1 sweet potato, peeled and chopped
5-6 cups vegetable stock
1/2 cup red lentils
1 tb. tahini
Salt and pepper to taste

Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan. Saute the chili, onion and garlic over medium heat for 2-3 minutes, or until the onion has softened.

Reduce the heat to low, add the squash and sweet potato, cover and cook for 8 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Add the stock and bring to the boil, simmer for 10 minutes. Add the lentils, put the lid back on and cook for an additional 10 minutes, or until the lentils are tender.

Process the soup in batches in a blender, add the tahini and blend until smooth. Return to the saucepan, and gently reheat. Season to tase. Serve garnished with chili.





Winter Squash Soup with Gruyere Croutons

14 10 2010

Life is finally assembling itself into something that I could really dig thanks to a nice blend of cosmic settling and personal ambition. Ryan and I secured a winter rental in East Falmouth in the gorgeous home of a traveling couple who are off to Costa Rica from January – July. And I must say, this place is a dream come true, amenities & price-wise. We’re really excited. It’s giving us a chance to play out our youths a bit longer, ice cream for breakfast, sex on the counters whiskey bottle in hand sort of thing. But I think it’s also going to open up a creative wormhome, in that it’s going to give us endless time and space to work on things like our writing and music. Oh and did I mention the kitchen ?? Maybe some other time.

Anyways. In celebration, I’ve made this soup in hopes that I’ll be making similar soups like this in our new home. Nothing could bring a bigger smile to my face than the smell of roasting squash mixed with ginger and sage permeating my new walls. It’s so comforting. Tastes like velvet winter.

Some things got changed. I mixed up thyme with oregano when digging through drying herbs. Not sure how that happened. But I suppose that’s ok seeing as how thyme isn’t one of my favorite spices. Also, in my search for a good chunk of Gruyere cheese, I came across an Applewood Smoked Gruyere. Using plain Gruyere would be fine, but holy crap am I lucky to have found this. The smokiness brings out so many new flavors from the soup. Whole new level. So if you happen to stumble across it as well, good god man purchase that cheese.

Winter Squash Soup with Gruyere Croutons
Adapted from Smitten Kitchen

Soup:
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter
1 large onion, chopped
4 large garlic cloves, crushed
3 14 1/2-oz cans vegetable broth
4 cups 1-in. pieces peeled butternut squash (about 1 1/2 lbs, check out the already peeled versions in supermarkets)
4 cups 1-in. pieces peeled acorn squash (about 1 1/2 lbs; incredibly tricky to peel; cut in half, scoop out seeds and throw into an oven at 425 degrees until soft, then just scoop it out into pot)
1 1/4 tsps. minced fresh sage
1 1/4 tsps. minced fresh thyme (or oregano! hah. really, both are good. Whatever you have)
1 1/2 tsps. ground cumin
1/2 tsp. ground ginger
1/8 cup whipping cream

Croutons:
2 tbs. (1/4 stick butter)
1 baguette loaf, sliced 1/4-in. thick
1 cup grated Gruyere cheese
1 tsp. minced fresh thyme (or oregano…)
1 tsp. minced fresh sage

For soup: Melt butter in large pot over medium heat. Add onion and garlic and sauté until tender, about 10 minutes. Add broth, all squash and herbs; bring to boil. Reduce heat, cover and simmer until squash is very tender, about 20 minutes.

Working in batches, puree soup in blender. Return soup to same pot. Stir in cream and bring to simmer. Season with salt and pepper. (Can be made 1 day ahead. Chill. Rewarm over medium heat before serving.)

For croutons: Preheat broiler. Butter 1 side of each bread slice. Arrange bread, buttered side up, on baking sheet. Broil until golden, about 1 minute. Turn over. Sprinkle cheese, then thyme and sage over. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Broil until cheese melts, about 1 minute. Ladle soup into bowls. Top each with croutons and serve.