Tart with pumpkinseed-sage custard and roasted butternut coins


There’s been such a nice frisson lately between winter and spring. The air is filled with the fragrance of flowers, but the evenings are cool enough for people to use their fireplaces, and the combination of smells is at once hopeful and nostalgic. This tart is like that a little, to me. Although slightly autumnal, there’s something about the combination of flavors and the very tart-shaped shape of it, that’s as suitable to early spring as to early fall.

It’s a polka dot tart! A polka tart! I think butternut squash and sage make such a perfect combination. The one sweet and mild, and the other strong and sort of earthy. (How would you describe sage? It’s indescribable!) When I made my pumpkinseed sage sauce, I thought it would be perfect with coins of roasted squash. And then I thought, why not take it one step further, and combine it all in one neat package? After all, I’d been thinking of this as a sort of pesto, and I love to use basil pesto in a tart. It turned out very delicious all together. The flaky crust added just enough crunch to the tender tart. A perfect spring meal with a big green salad.

Here’s Noble Sissle with Polka Dot Rag. Have a dance around the kitchen while you wait for your tart to bake!

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Roasted butternut & tomato bisque

roasted butternut bisque

Remember Bob Ross and his happy accidents? This soup was the result of a happy accident, in some ways. NO I DIDN’T PUT TOO MUCH BURNT SIENNA ON MY FAN BRUSH!! I just made the roasted red pepper-almond sauce too hot and spicy. That’s right, the one we made with our empanadas. So last night, with fiendish cleverness and calculation, I decided to use the sauce as a base for a soup! Thus spreading the spicy joy around, and rendering it more palatable. I decided to add roasted butternut squash because it’s so mild and sweet that it could easily accommodate a bit of heat. And then I thought about all the roastiness going on, with the pepper, and the chipotle, and the squash, and I thought fire-roasted tomatoes would go well (from a can, unfortunately – it being February). So I made this lovely, velvety, sweet, smoky, spicy bisque.

Here’s Lee Perry with Roast Fish and Cornbread, because, let’s face it, I’m never going to have recipe for roast fish, and this song is wonderful!
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Butternut squash pecan dumplings

Butternut dumplings

I invented these little dumplings because I wanted something to serve with my pecan tarator sauce. I tried to think of something that would complement the earthy nutty flavor, but that would bring some surprising elements of its own to bring to the table – the dinner table, that is. I think these have a nice balance of flavors and textures. Sweet soft roasted squash, sharp briny capers, crunchy pecans, and smoky smoked gouda. The pastry on these is different from a regular paté brisée. It’s softer, and (as I imagine it) more dumpling-like. It’s actually loosely based on knish-dough recipes that I have read. It contains no butter! It’s not vegan, because it has an egg in it. But if you’re trying to avoid butter (why would you do that?) this is a good one to try. I added a little Spanish paprika to the crust, to echo the smokey flavor of the gouda, and to make them a lovely rosy color.

Here’s Johnny OtisHarlem Nocturne, which is just a remarkable piece of music.
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Roasted butternut and black bean kofta

butternut squash black bean kofta

I feel like I’ve been seeing meatballs everywhere lately. All the internets and newspapers and magazines are brimming over with them. Is this a “food trend” that we have before us? Perhaps, subconsciously, that’s where I got the idea for these. We obviously need a vegetarian version! I’m fascinated that different cultures seem to have their own take on the notion of little balls of meat and grains and veg and spices. My son’s favorite dish to order from an Indian restaurant is malai kofta, which is one variation on the idea. Decades ago, I saw pumpkin kibbeh listed on a menu at a Lebanese restaurant. I’ve been intrigued by the idea for years! This is sort of my imagining of a vegetarian meatball/kibbeh/kofta. It combines roasted butternut squash, smashed black beans, bulgar, bread crumbs, a bit of cheese and an egg. These are seasoned with oregano, basil, sage, smoked paprika, allspice, nutmeg and cinnamon. Flavorful little bundles! I thought about frying them on top of the stove, but in the end I coated them in olive oil and then baked them in a hot oven instead. They still came out quite crispy, but soft in the middle. I made a spicy chipotle tamarind sauce to go with them, and we ate them with lettuce, tomatoes, avocado and warm pita bread. Plus oven roasted rosemary french fries. But I have different plans for them tonight! I’m having trouble concentrating on this! My little son is home (not very) sick from school, and I’m getting a tutorial on the shades of difference between his two Luke Skywalker toys!

Here’s Josh White’s One Meatball.
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Roasted butternut pies with a beer crust

Butternut beer pies

These pies are crisp and flaky on the outside, and soft and yummy on the inside. They combine roasted butternut squash, roman beans, and pistachios. The squash is sweet, the beans are earthy, and the nuts provide a nice flavor and a little crunch to the proceedings. There’s beer in the crust and beer in the pies. So use a beer you like! Roman beans are very similar to pinto beans, in appearance, taste and texture. They’re largish, and you partially mash them here, so you have a nice contrast of refried-bean texture and the occasional solid yet tender bean.

These pies have sharp cheddar, which holds everything together and adds an edgy yet melty flavor. And they’re seasoned with thyme, sage, rosemary, paprika, nutmeg and fennel. They’re nice to take to a party, because they transport well, and they’re substantial enough that they can make a meal. That’s it! I’m done talking about them! I’m going to tell you how to make them now. Except that I should mention that I took them to a party, and as I sat with them on my lap – they were warm and fragrant, and they smelled like butter and beer, and it made me think of butter beer. That’s from Harry Potter, right?

Here’s Roman Blue by Danger Mouse and Daniele Lupp. I’ve just heard it for the first time, but it’s lush and Ennio Morricone-y, and I think I’ll listen to it again!
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Roasted butternut pudding soufflé

Butternut squash soufflé

Not a pudding, not yet a soufflé, but tasty nonetheless! I saw a recipe in a very very old cookbook for squash pudding. It sounded good, but a little stodgy. So I thought I’d lighten it up a bit with some sneaky soufflé-making techniques. And I added some goat cheese and tarragon, because I think they taste wonderful with butternut squash. The result was something between a pudding and a souffle. I baked it in a large flat bowl, so that it would have a good crispy-outside to soft-inside ratio. It never got as impressively lofty as a normal soufflé, but it was quite delicious. It had a pleasing, comforting texture, perfect for a day of freezing rain, and the flavor was subtle and complex in a way that made you want to keep eating more and more. Serve it with something green and crunchy and flavorful, like an arugula salad.

Here’s New York Herald Tribune, by Martial Solal from A bout de souffle. I know, I know, but it’s a killer track!!
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Black bean & butternut squash enchiladas


What makes these Halloween-y? They’re black and orange, of course! They’re also a welcome warm and spicy meal on a cold autumn night. The earthiness of the black beans and the spinach contrasts nicely with the sweetness of the squash. Chipotle puree and red pepper flakes add some zing, and fennel and cilantro brighten it all up. The sauce is a spicy tomato-almond sauce, and it’s delicious! These enchiladas are not drowned in sauce or cheese, they’re lighter and dryer, and the tortillas become nice and crispy on the edge.

Here’s Enchilada by the Scamps. Enchilaaaaaaaada….enchilaaaaaaaaaaada! The maniacal laughter makes it a good halloween song, too!
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Butternut squash/red lentil soup…

…with a berbere spice!

Roasted B-nut Squash

Berbere is a spice mix found in Ethiopian food. This isn’t the real thing, it’s a simplification and an approximation, but it is tasty and does go well with red lentils and butternut squashes.

Here’s the meltingly beautiful Tezeta, by Mulatu Astatke to listen to while you stir your soup.

Mulatu Astatke – Tezeta
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