Falling for Squash: Part 1 of 4

October 13, 2009

There is this amazing transformation that occurs right around October.  As the leaves start to turn and the temperature drops in sunny So. Cal, the royal family of vegetables begin to make their appearance.  Butternut squash, acorn squash, spaghetti squash, pumpkins of course, and the list goes on.  Their curious appearance beckon a second look and their unique flavors each have something very special to contribute.  So, here is where the race begins – to try and pack as many squash recipes into the next two months.  Why such dedication? 

1)  Like many people we know, winter squash has a tough exterior but once you cook (get to know it?) it, it softens up. 

2) It marks my favorite time of year, and the fact nutmeg, cinnamon and clove are there, hand-in-hand

3) It’s packed with beta carotene, folic acid, fiber and potassium with minimal calories and it goes the distance – from soup to stews, baked to boiled, sweet to savory. 

And the aroma.  That’s why they make candles that smell like pumpkin pie.

To mark the launch of our Falling for Squash: Part 1, I set out to make homemade pasta featuring my absolute fave as the hero of the filling.  I used most of it as the star for my agnolotti with fresh sage from the garden (the last of the year, I’m afraid) and brown butter.  Don’t be afraid of a little butter.  Your body appreciates the pure fat – not the trans fat in most margarine, which doesn’t have a way of escaping your body.  The rest will go into a soup puree topped with creme fraiche and  nutmeg.  Week 1 of 4 starring squash, we have begun.

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The filling:  Cut butternut squash in half lengthwise and roast with a little butter and nutmeg until fork tender.  Mash into a bowl and add half a cup of grated Romano or Parmigiano cheese, a dash more of nutmeg and cracked pepper.  Let cool.

The dough:  The mixer technique is the best way to go.  Combine 2 cups organic unbleached flour and 5 extra large eggs.  With the dough hook attachment, mix until the dough ball forms together.  Add a little more flour until dough doesn’t stick.  Roll with a pasta maker until sheets are thin, almost transparent.  If rolling by hand, do the best you can.  With a cookie cutter or mouth of a jar, cut out 2-3″ circles of dough and set aside on a floured surface.  Keep from drying out.  If you have kids, getting them to cut out the circles is a lot of fun.

The technique:  Add a small spoonful of filling to the center of the dough circle.  Pinch edges of dough together until sealed.  After you’ve filled them all, cook in a large, salted pot of water until they float to the surface.

As they’re boiling, melt 2 tablespoons of European-style butter in a pan until butter over low heat until it begins to turn a golden brown.   Add a handful of fresh sage leaves and fry until crisp.

Toss cooked agnolotti with brown butter and sage.  Top with freshly grated cheese and a dash of nutmeg for color. 

Buon Appetito!

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