roasted butternut squash

farfalle with broccoli rabe, roasted mushrooms & butternut squash

I know that Valentine’s Day has come and gone already this year, but I thought I might share a little story about the first (and last) time I went out to a swanky restaurant for a Valentine’s Day date night.

farfalle with broccoli rabe, roasted mushrooms & butternut squash | Brooklyn Homemaker

This was before I met Russell, so it must have been about 7 or 8 years ago now. It was one of the first times that I actually had a boyfriend on Valentine’s day so I tried to make a sort of big deal about it. I booked a table at some fancy place in Williamsburg, not really realizing that every other young couple in Brooklyn would be celebrating at the very same restaurant .

farfalle with broccoli rabe, roasted mushrooms & butternut squash | Brooklyn Homemaker

We arrived a bit early and were greeted at the front door by a harried hostess who looked like she was on the verge of a nervous breakdown. One look over her shoulder revealed the reason she was looking so frazzled. I’d been to this restaurant before, but on this night it appeared that they’d done some redecorating. All of the large tables for six or eight had been broken up into “romantic” tables for two, and all the couples at these tables were practically sitting in the laps of the couples next to them.

I couldn’t believe it was even possible to pack that many couples into one tiny dining room, and had no clue where they thought they were going to squeeze my fat ass into all this madness.

farfalle with broccoli rabe, roasted mushrooms & butternut squash | Brooklyn Homemaker

That was when the hostess said we could follow her “out back”.

I knew the restaurant had a back patio that they used in the summer, but to the best of my knowledge it was closed during New York’s chilly winter months, you know, like the month of February. We walked through the door and I couldn’t believe my eyes. The entire patio had been covered with a temporary fabric “ceiling” and filled with large propane patio heaters. The intimate space had been completely transformed into a mess hall, with rows and rows of “cute” little tables for two, all with about 4 centimeters of space between them. There had to have been at least 30 other couples sitting out there.

farfalle with broccoli rabe, roasted mushrooms & butternut squash | Brooklyn Homemaker

Of course, with the restaurant filled to capacity (or more likely over capacity), and with every table choosing a three course prix fix menu, the kitchen was completely swamped. Luckily the couple sitting next to us (our thighs were practically touching) was having a fascinating (and very loud) conversation, so there was no lack of atmosphere or entertainment for me and my date while we waited.

The food, when it came, was mediocre at best. This restaurant was usually very good, but in anticipation of the romantic stampede many of the evening’s dishes had been (at least partially) prepared and plated ahead. Even with the ready made meals, we still ended up waiting forever for our food and subsequently drank way too much to fill the time. I think we were hoping the hooch would help us forget what a crappy time we were having. It didn’t really occur to us how quickly all those cocktails and glasses of wine could add up, at least not until the bill came.

farfalle with broccoli rabe, roasted mushrooms & butternut squash | Brooklyn Homemaker

Then the headaches set in. I’m not sure if it was the propane heaters, or the crumby food, or the din of 30+ couples talking all at once in a small enclosed patio, or maybe, just maybe, it had something to do with all the drinks. (It was definitely all the drinks.)

Either way, we went home grumpy and broke, both of us with headaches, and neither of us feeling even remotely romantic.

farfalle with broccoli rabe, roasted mushrooms & butternut squash | Brooklyn Homemaker

When I started dating Russell I made it a point to make staying in on Valentine’s day a new romantic tradition. Every year we spend quality time at home alone with a fancy home-cooked meal and an even fancier home-cooked dessert. I usually make chocolate mousse. Russell LOVES chocolate mousse.

Most years I make a nice roast chicken or some kind of elegant wine braised something or other, but this year I wanted to do something different. We’ve been trying to be better about knowing where our meat comes from lately, and just eating a bit less meat in general, so I thought I’d make a romantical vegetarian pasta dinner with all sorts of good stuff swimming in it. When I noticed some beautiful butternut squash at the store I knew I had to use it. I don’t really think of butternut squash as a vegetable that goes with pasta, but I figured there was no time like the present to give it a shot.

farfalle with broccoli rabe, roasted mushrooms & butternut squash | Brooklyn Homemaker

To make sure the squash didn’t get too soft and turn to mush in the pan, I decided to chop it up and roast it in the oven so it would get tender inside but maintain it’s shape. I figured since the oven was on already I may as well roast my mushrooms too to save an extra step on the stovetop.

While the squash and mushrooms were getting all roasty and toasty, I set to work on some onions. Caramelizing onions, when done right, takes FOREVER. It just does. If you’re patient though, and avoid turning the heat up, they brown suuuper slowly and get so soft they’re practically creamy. I didn’t take them to french onion soup level caramelization, just a light golden brown that took about 45 minutes but offered a rich and subtly sweet punch of flavor. Building flavors is important in vegetarian cooking, so after the onions were ready I added some garlic and reduced some wine and stock down to almost nothing to concentrate their flavors too.

I thought broccoli rabe would be just the ticket to counter the sweetness of the onions and squash. If you’ve never had it, broccoli rabe has small florets similar to broccoli, but it’s mostly made up of thick leaves that wilt like chard when cooked. It has a deeply green bitter flavor that can sometimes even border on horseradish. It could not have been a better compliment to the sweeter elements in this dish. I tossed it all with al dente farfalle (bow ties – so much fun) and some fresh parsley and grated parmesan cheese.

All together this seems like a lot of steps to make some pasta, but it doesn’t take too too long if you time everything right and work efficiently. In the end all the extra work to build flavor really paid off and this was the perfect date night dinner, with plenty of leftovers.

farfalle with broccoli rabe, roasted mushrooms & butternut squash | Brooklyn Homemaker

Farfalle with Broccoli Rabe, Roasted Mushrooms & Butternut Squash

3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
2 tablespoons butter
salt and pepper
2 to 3 large onions, thinly sliced into strips (about 4 cups sliced)
1 small to medium butternut squash
2 pints cremini mushrooms
1/2 cup dry white wine
1 cup low sodium stock (chicken or vegetable), divided
3 to 4 cloves of garlic, finely chopped or crushed.
1 large bunch broccoli rabe
1 pound farfalle (bowtie) pasta
1/2 cup chopped parsley
1/2 cup finely grated parmesan cheese

Preheat oven to 425. .

Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil and 2 tablespoons butter over medium heat in a large skillet. Add thinly sliced onions and season with salt and pepper. Once the onions begin to soften turn the heat down to medium low and let them caramelize slowly, stirring occasionally, for about 3o to 45 minutes. This takes a long while but you want the onions to brown very slowly to bring out their sugars and intensify their flavor.

Use this time to prepare the rest of your vegetables. Peel and seed the butternut squash, and cut into small (about 1/2″ to 1″) cubes. Slice the mushrooms. Cut the dry ends off of the broccoli rabe and discard. Roughly chop the broccoli rabe, and try to slice the thicker stems smaller than the leafy tops (this way they’ll all cook through at the same time).

Toss the cubed squash in 1 tablespoon olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Spread in a single layer over a parchment lined baking sheet and roast until cooked through, and browned on the bottom side, about 30 minutes. For more even browning you could toss the squash halfway through, but I didn’t find this step necessary.

Toss sliced mushrooms in remaining tablespoon olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Arrange in a thin even layer over another parchment lined baking sheet and roast in the same oven as the squash. The mushrooms should only take about 20 to 25 minutes to cook through, so either put them in after the squash, or start checking on them first.

Once the onions are super soft and begin to take on a light golden color, add the garlic and cook for about 30 seconds or until fragrant. Add the white wine, turn heat up to high, and reduce to almost dry. Add the stock and repeat, reducing by at least half or a little more.

Cook pasta to al dente according to package instructions. Just before draining, transfer about 1/3 cup of the starchy pasta water to the pan with the caramelized onions and reduced wine and stock. Drain pasta and set aside. Bring pasta water to a boil and add broccoli rabe. Cook for about 5 minutes or until deep green and wilted.

Transfer everything, including parsley and parmesan, to the pasta pot and toss toss toss to combine. Taste and adjust seasoning if necessary. Serve immediately with a few shavings of extra parmesan cheese.

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flaky butternut squash & sage biscuits

I have a confession to make…

flaky butternut squash & sage biscuits | Brooklyn Homemaker

I’m a biscuit snob.

There.
I said it.

flaky butternut squash & sage biscuits | Brooklyn Homemaker

Over the past few years there has been a sudden explosion of “Southern” “Soul Food” restaurants in my little corner of North Brooklyn.

It would appear that fried chicken is the new cupcake. No, that’s not right. Gourmet doughnuts are the new cupcake.
Fried chicken is the new… burger?

Don’t get me wrong. I ain’t complainin’. I can’t fry chicken to save my life, and I LOVE fried chicken.
Every time I’ve tried to make it at home it’s come out under or over cooked, usually pretty greasy, and never as crispy as I’d like. There are very few recipes I’ve never been able to master, but I’d like to think I know when enough’s enough. At this point I’ve accepted defeat and decided it’s better to just leave the fried chicken to the professionals.

flaky butternut squash & sage biscuits | Brooklyn Homemaker

The problem though, is that for all of the fried chicken professionals we have running around, I haven’t yet found a place where their biscuits don’t feel like an afterthought. It’s as if they know they have to serve biscuits because, like, they’re a chicken joint, but they don’t actually care about making sure they’re just as good as the chicken.

flaky butternut squash & sage biscuits | Brooklyn Homemaker

Instead of light, tender, flaky, delicate, pillowy, buttery little clouds of biscuits, most of the these so called chicken joints serve dense, tough little hockey pucks. Most of the time they serve them with a big ramekin full of honey butter, hoping you’ll slather so much on that you won’t notice there’s anything wrong. It makes me sad, and it doesn’t need to be this way.

flaky butternut squash & sage biscuits | Brooklyn Homemaker

I know a lot of people are afraid of making biscuits at home. I know it’s easy to screw them up if you don’t know to use a delicate hand. I know a lot of people think of biscuits the way I think of fried chicken. I’m reminded of the words of wise old G. Dubya, “Fool me once, shame on… shame on you. Fool me… you can’t get fooled again.”

Here’s the thing though. Biscuits are not that hard to get right. I promise you that they’re easier than frying chicken. Whether you’re at home on a Sunday morning, or slinging chicken in a busy hipster soul food restaurant, if you want a tender delicate biscuit the only trick is to treat them tenderly and delicately. It’s really that simple.

flaky butternut squash & sage biscuits | Brooklyn Homemaker

It doesn’t matter how you get the butter into the flour, as long as it doesn’t melt in the process. You always want to keep that butter cold. I used to think a pastry blender was the only method gentle enough for a tender biscuit, but I’ve tried pulsing the butter in with a food processor, cutting it in with two knives, even mashing it in with a fork, and they all worked just fine.

I think the thing that really makes the biggest difference is how you mix the liquid into the flour. You want to gently stir and fold the liquid and dry ingredients together to moisten as much of the flour as possible without over mixing it. If a bit of the flour doesn’t want to mix in, don’t sweat it. To make sure you have super flaky layers you’ll want to fold the dough over on itself a few times, so you can mix that little bit of extra flour back in then.

flaky butternut squash & sage biscuits | Brooklyn Homemaker

To add some extra flavor and interest, I took my old standard biscuit recipe and substituted some pureed roasted butternut squash for a bit of the buttermilk. This is a perfect recipe if you already plan to serve butternut squash at your Thanksgiving dinner. If you don’t, and you don’t want to take the time to roast the squash just for the biscuits, you can use canned squash if you can find it, or canned pumpkin if you can’t.

I also wanted to add the flavor of fresh sage to compliment the squash, but I didn’t really want to have large visible chunks of sage in the dough. I decided that the best way to evenly distribute the sage, and it’s fragrant earthy flavor, all throughout the biscuits would be to pulse the sage together with some brown sugar in the food processor. If you don’t have a food processor though, just try to chop the sage as finely as you can.

The combination of fresh sage and roasted squash really adds wonderful earthy sweetness and depth that, to me at least, just screams fancy pants Thanksgiving dinner. Homemade biscuits are always a welcome addition to any meal, but this recipe is so quintessentially Autumnal that you’re guests are sure to be ooohing and aaahing over them all through dinner.

flaky butternut squash & sage biscuits | Brooklyn Homemaker

Flaky Butternut Squash & Sage Biscuits

  • Servings: 12-16 biscuits
  • Print
Roasted squash:
1 small butternut squash
1 tablespoon peanut oil or vegetable oil

Biscuits:
12 to 15 sage leaves
1/4 cup packed brown sugar
2 3/4 cups all purpose flour, plus more for dusting
4 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
3/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
1/2 teaspoon ground pepper
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
3/4 cup butter (1 1/2 sticks)
1 cup butternut squash puree (or pumpkin puree)
1/2 cup buttermilk
2 tablespoons heavy cream or melted butter

Preheat oven to 400.

Slice the squash in half, lengthwise, and scoop out seeds with a spoon. Rub the cut side of the squash flesh with oil and place cut side down on a parchment lined baking sheet. Roast squash for about 40 minutes or until fork tender. Cool completely, remove the skin, and mash the flesh with a fork, or puree in a food mill or food processor.

Turn oven up to 450.

Combine the sage leaves and brown sugar in the bowl of a food processor and run until the sage is very finely chopped (you can also just chop the sage very very finely with a knife). Add flour, baking powder, salt, cram of tartar, ground pepper, and cinnamon and pulse to combine. Cut the cold butter into 1 inch chunks, add to flour, and pulse into small pea sized pieces (if you don’t have a food processor use a pastry blender). Transfer to a bowl, cover, and chill for at least 30 minutes (or overnight). Mix squash puree and buttermilk together, make a well in the center of the flour, and pour in buttermilk all at once. Gently stir and fold together with a fork until just moistened, and bring together in a ball with your hands. Do not try to mix the liquid into the flour in the food processor or your biscuits will be tough and dense.

Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface. Gently push dough out into a flat disk using your hands (or a rolling pin). Dust lightly with flour, fold in half, and gently roll or press back out. Repeat 5 or 6 times to create layers in your biscuits that will separate when baked. Roll or pat dough out to about 3/4 inch thick and cut into circles using a 2.5 inch biscuit cutter. Remaining dough can be recombined once, but no more or it will get tough. Recombined biscuits will not be as pretty or as flaky as the first batch, but they’re still worth it. Transfer biscuits to parchment lined baking sheets and brush tops with cream or melted butter. Bake for 12-15 minutes, or until golden brown on top.

orange glazed roasted butternut squash bread

It’s been a minute I know. I’m sorry.

orange glazed roasted butternut squash bread | Brooklyn Homemaker

I think this little two week break is the longest I’ve ever gone between posts since I started this whole adventure. I promise that I have a very good reason for for my little hiatus.

orange glazed roasted butternut squash bread | Brooklyn Homemaker

I’ve been working on giving my kitchen a little facelift. I told you a few weeks ago that I wanted to change a few things in there, and your comments and encouragement gave me the strength to take action on a project I’ve wanted to tackle for years but never did. I don’t want to give anything away just yet, but rest assured things are looking rather different in there.

orange glazed roasted butternut squash bread | Brooklyn Homemaker

I’ve still got a bit of work to do, but I hope to be able to give you a peek at the progress in a week or two. Right now though, the kitchen is a total mess, and Russell and I have been surviving on delivery pizzas, tacos, and Thai food. I really can’t wait to get back in there and start cooking again, and get back into the swing of things over here too.

orange glazed roasted butternut squash bread | Brooklyn Homemaker

Luckily, I had the foresight to make one last treat before the disarray began. I’ve been so distracted over the past few weeks though, that it’a just taken me this long to get around to posting the recipe.

orange glazed roasted butternut squash bread | Brooklyn Homemaker

This cold weather has me craving some homey comforting sweet bread, with a healthy dose of warm spice. At first I was thinking about making pumpkin bread, but on a whim I decided to try it with butternut squash instead. Butternut squash, roasted and pureed, has much the same texture as pureed pumpkin, but has a brighter, fresher, sweeter flavor.

orange glazed roasted butternut squash bread | Brooklyn Homemaker

To compliment that brightness and sweetness, I added a bit of fresh orange zest to the recipe. I kept the cinnamon in the recipe for the traditional warmth, but in place of nutmeg I substituted a bit of ground ginger and clove to compliment the citrus.  Then I topped the whole thing with a thick orange glaze.

orange glazed roasted butternut squash bread | Brooklyn Homemaker

This loaf is incredibly moist and tender, with a wonderfully homey and satisfying flavor. It’s such a fun yet familiar twist on traditional pumpkin bread. The warm spice is perfectly suited to the flavor of the earthy roasted butternut squash, and the orange zest adds a lovely touch of brightness. The bread itself is so perfect on it’s own that it doesn’t even really need the glaze, and would be just as good with a simple swipe of soft unsalted butter.

I added the glaze to boost the citrus flavor, but I have to admit that I found it just a bit too sweet for my taste. My sweet tooth just prefers something a bit more subtle. If you think you’re like me and might prefer a more refined sweetness, you could skip the glaze altogether if you like. You could also try using less sugar to make a thinner glaze, or even try a cream cheese icing instead. If you like a nice dessert-like sweetness though, just make the glaze as is. Either way, a slice of bread will be heaven with your morning coffee or perfect as a treat at the end of the day.

orange glazed roasted butternut squash bread | Brooklyn Homemaker

Orange Glazed Roasted Butternut Squash Bread

  • Servings: Makes 2 loaves
  • Print
adapted from Once Upon a Chef

Bread:
1 small to medium butternut squash
2 teaspoons peanut or vegetable oil
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
zest of 1 orange
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
3/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1 3/4 cups sugar
1 1/2 sticks (3/4 cup) unsalted butter, melted
2 large eggs

Glaze (optional):
zest of 1 orange
1/4 cup fresh squeezed orange juice
2 cups confectioners (powdered) sugar, sifted

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Cut the butternut squash in half lengthwise and remove seeds. Rub flesh with oil and place cut side down on a parchment lined baking sheet. Roast for 35 to 40 minutes or until soft when pushed with a finger. Cool until cool enough to handle.
Peel the skin off the outside of the squash, and puree the flesh in a blender or food processor, or in a bowl using an immersion blender.
Measure out 2 cups of puree and save the rest for another use, or feed it to your dogs.

Reduce oven to 325 degrees. Butter and flour two 8 ½” x 4 ½” loaf pans.
Combine flour, salt, baking powder, baking soda, orange zest, and spices in a bowl. Whisk until well combined and set aside.
In another bowl, mix together sugar, melted butter, and squash puree. Whisk in eggs, one at a time, until well combined. Fold squash mixture into flour mixture until combined.
Turn batter into prepared pans, dividing evenly, and bake for about 65 – 75 minutes, or until cake tester inserted in center comes out clean. Let loaves cool in pan about 10 minutes, then turn out on wire rack to cool completely.

Once the loaves are cooled, whisk together the glaze ingredients until smooth and free of lumps. Pour over the loaves and smooth the top. Let the glaze set for a bit before slicing.