Saturday, November 17, 2007

You Butternut Pout, You Butternut Cry

Over a decade ago, when I first moved back to Ohio, I decided to invite My Wonderful Parents to Thanksgiving dinner at my new apartment.

Before you think me too good a daughter, though, I should explain: I was determined to serve my meat-eating parents a decidedly vegetarian Thanksgiving meal that bore no resemblance to our traditional menu. It was a bold move, but they accepted the challenge with courage and open minds. (They also planned a traditional turkey dinner for themselves the following night.)

I started off the meal with small puff pastry tarts for appetizers -- some filled with diced pears and crumbled blue cheese and a drizzle of raspberry jam thinned into sauce, and some filled with a mushroom and pine nut saute. It's a good thing I began on the right foot, because my main course, a vegan squash sauce laded over fettucine, definitely fell short of their idea of a holiday entree. Oh, they ate it, all right, and they said lovely things about it, but even I could see that it just wasn't the same.

I tucked the recipe away, thinking that maybe at some non-holiday time I might revisit it, but I never did. Until this weekend.

One last butternut squash lingered from the farmers' market, begging to be used up in some lush harvest dish, and since the faithful Persephone had agreed to come to dinner this evening, I decided to pull out the recipe and give it another go... with a few needed tweaks.

After steaming the squash and pureeing it with milk, I sauteed the remaining vegetables -- celery, leek, carrot, garlic, and parsnip, all local -- with some local rosemary and a few other spices. Once the whole mixture had cooked down and become deliciously fragrant, I added a little twist.

The black kale I've been growing on my window seat has taken off lately with the cold weather, and I picked several leaves to rinse, tear, and toss into the saute along with a dash of homemade black raspberry cider vinegar. After it had cooked down a bit, I added the squash puree and let the whole sauce simmer and develop.

Once Persephone arrived, I cooked the pasta -- my homemade spelt pasta made to stretch a little further with the addition of some locally made garlic-parsley fettucine -- and ladled the sauce on top. Being as much of a squash fan as I am, she tucked right in and started humming with contentment.

While I probably wouldn't attempt to serve this revised version to my parents, I'm glad to know that just a few simple changes made it worth trying again. And what a way to use the last fresh butternut squash from the market!

Squash Sauce Over Fettucine

This recipe originally came from a vegan cookbook called Friendly Foods, but since I'm no longer attempting to eat a vegan diet, I've adapted it freely. In fact, I think it might be worth trying again sometime with Indian spices or by adding a Southwestern twist... maybe next year!

1 medium butternut squash, peeled, diced, and steamed
1 c milk
1 T flour
2 T olive oil
1/2 c thinly sliced celery
1/2 c diced carrots
1/4 c diced parsnips
1 c diced onion
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 tsp dried rosemary
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
1/4 c chopped kale
1 T vinegar (I used my black raspberry cider vinegar; balsamic also good)
6 c cooked pasta

Blend the steamed squash with the milk and the flour until smooth. Set aside.

Heat the oil in a saucepan over medium-low heat. Saute the celery, carrots, parsnips, onions, garlic, and seasonings for about 5 minutes. Toss in the kale and allow to steam briefly. Add the vinegar and continue to saute for another 3 minutes. Add the squash mixture and continue cooking, stirring constantly until the sauce has thickened.

Spoon the sauce over the cooked pasta. Serve warm.

Serves 4 to 6


At 11/20/2007 9:38 PM, Anonymous Emily said...

Where do you get local pasta?

At 11/21/2007 7:11 AM, Blogger The Baklava Queen said...

Emily, there are a couple of "Amish" pasta brands made in this county or the next, and I can usually find them at the local co-op (a lovely white spelt flour pasta) or the local grocery chain. (Note: I put "Amish" in quotes because I don't know if the pasta is actually made with Amish-grown grains or made by Amish folks, but I suspect it's related more to where the pasta is made, in the heart of Ohio's Amish country.)

I know that West Side Market in Cleveland and North Market in Columbus both have vendors who sell homemade fresh pasta... whether the ingredients are local or not, I couldn't tell you.

This year, though, I've been making more of my own pasta -- without a pasta machine or any other such equipment, just a rolling pin and occasionally a pastry wheel -- and it's really not that difficult. Definitely helps me cut back on the comfort food sometimes, but it does make it difficult sometimes to have a quick dinner!


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