A variety of winter squash provides delicious autumn meals

A variety of winter squash provides delicious autumn meals

When the darkest time of the year sets in, nature comes to the rescue to lift us from the darkness some of us feel when summer time ends. When the days are short, the nights long and the temperatures cool, it is a good time to prepare the foods, typically winter crops, that require a long time on the heat.

Long, dark nights are for cooking, for gathering around the table with loved ones and for enjoying the moment, the season, the tastes and the conversation. I find certain cultural demands of the season exhausting and at times annoying, but not cooking. Sometimes I cook just because I want to, not because I’m preparing a meal. I give the finished dishes away to friends who live alone, who do not care about cooking, who can not cook at the moment, or who just wanted to enjoy what I do.

Today’s recipes are inspired by friends who have been growing winter squash this year, but who are not quite sure what to line up with them. After making butternut squash soup and delicious squash puree, they start asking for recipes. I’m here to help.

Winter squash sauce is delicious with pumpkin-walnut raviolis. The winter squash risotto is so tasty that I have made it the centerpiece of a Thanksgiving feast more than once. Sliced ​​and steamed winter squash with olio nuovo and good black pepper is a fabulous accompaniment that pleases almost everyone, including vegetarians, vegans and those who do not eat gluten. Some experts suggest that those who follow a KETO diet can also eat winter squash in moderation.

Both of these recipes are delicious and festive enough to have a seat on any holiday table. The soup is elegant, complex and beautiful. The gratin is voluptuous and rich but not overly sweet, as so many winter squash dishes are.

The slow sweating and simmering of winter squash in cubes creates a rich, sweet, clear broth. Sometimes I pour it over pumpkin-sage raviolis and serve it as a first course. Here I pair it with what is perhaps the best tasting shell bean ever – locally grown marrow fat. Look for them at your farmers market and farm stalls, such as Tierra Vegetables (Airport Boulevard, Santa Rosa). If you can not get local marrow fats, use dried from Rancho Gordo. In a pinch, you can even use canned cannellini beans.

Winter Squash Broth with Marrowfats and Chipotle Oil

Serves 6-8 servings

5 pound winter squash

4 tablespoons olive oil

1 leek, white part only, trimmed and cut into thin slices

1 teaspoon cumin, lightly toasted

1 teaspoon whole black peppercorns

1 whole chipotle

2 pounds marrow fat, preferably fresh, peeled (about 2 cups)

¾ cup (about 2 ½ ounces) dried pennette or other short pasta

Kosher salt

2 tablespoons coriander leaves

2 tablespoons chipotle oil (see note below) or any olive oil seasoned with peppers

Cut the squash in half or quarters depending on the size. Take out the seeds and fibers and cut it into manageable pieces. Use a sharp cutting knife or vegetable peeler to peel each piece of squash; cut the meat into medium cubes.

Pour the olive oil into a large saucepan set over medium-low heat. Add the leek and sauté until soft, about four to five minutes. Turn down the heat to very low, add the squash and sweat slowly, partially covered, until the squash is soft, approx. 50 to 60 minutes.

Add cumin, black pepper and whole chipotle.

Slowly pour 3 liters of water into the pot and increase the heat to medium. When the water boils, turn down the heat and simmer very gently, partially covered, for 1 hour. Do not Touch! Strain the broth through a fine sieve, clean the pan and return the broth to the pan. Put it over medium heat and reduce by about half; there should be about 7 cups.

The soup can be prepared in advance until this time.

To finish the soup, boil the marrow fat in boiling water until very tender, about 45 minutes. Boil the pasta in boiling salted water according to the instructions on the package until it is not completely al dente. Taste the broth and season with salt if it seems a little flat. Add beans and pasta, simmer gently for five minutes, put lid on and let rest for five minutes.

Pour the soup into wide plates, drizzle with a little chipotle oil, sprinkle a few coriander leaves on top and enjoy immediately.

Note: To make chipotle oil, put four whole chipotles in a bottle and cover with olive oil or an unrefined corn oil. Let sit for at least two weeks.

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Adding potatoes to the squash in this delicious gratin cuts the sweetness so you have a wonderfully spicy dish instead of something that tastes like dessert. It is excellent with sautéed greens next to or on top.

Winter squash, potato and roasted garlic gratin

Serves 6-8 servings

3 pounds of winter squash, seeds and fibers removed

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