Sunday, November 28, 2010

Zucca Due Colori



It’s that time of year again. Sparklemas is on its way, and I’m experimenting with what we should have for dinner. Last year I made a giant porchetta and pumpkin ravioli. This year, I want to mix it up a little. I like the flavors of squash and sage, but I don’t want to paint myself into the corner of making labor-intensive ravioli every year.

I tried a pan-fried squash dish and served it over gnocchi. Gnocchi are a favorite of mine: pillowy little dumplings of potato and flour, chewy and surprisingly filing. They’re comfort food and just the thing for me on a deep, dark winter night.

Problem, though: the softness and blandness of the gnocchi do not make much of a contrast for the squash. And, as it turns out, not everyone likes their texture. (Cough. Beth. Ahem.) I felt the sweetness of the dish needed a little something… perhaps a splash of balsamico.

Overall, I’d call the squash a win as a side dish. The squash is sumptuous and sweet; the savor of onions, garlic, and sage complement it well.

Zucca Due Colori
That is, two-color squash. Butternut and Festival are what I happened to have in the fridge. Who knew they were going to look so pretty together?

1 butternut squash (orange flesh), peeled, seeded, and cubed
1 Festival squash (yellow flesh), peeled, seeded, and cubed
1 onion, diced
3 cloves of garlic, roughly chopped
12 dried sage leaves
3 T butter
Salt and pepper
A pound of cooked pasta, if you want
A fistful of Italian parsley, chopped
A sprinkling of grated Parmesan

Heat the butter in a large sauté pan and fry the onion until it is translucent. Toss the garlic and sage in after it and fry a minute more until they start to give off scent.

Throw in the squash cubes. They should fit in one layer; if they are too crowded, you may need to do this part in two shifts. Stir and toss the squash constantly until they start showing sear marks. If your pan is getting too sticky, throw in a tablespoon or two of water to release the caramely bits and keep things moving.

When the squash shows evidence of browning, add a quarter cup of water to the pan, turn down the heat, and cover. Let the squash cook until soft, ten or fifteen minutes. You should start the pasta during this time if you are going to serve the squash on top of it.

Turn the squash into a serving bowl, deglaze the pan with a little more water, and pour all the browned delicious bits over the squash. Toss with pasta if you are going that route. Sprinkle the bowl, or each serving, with the parsley and cheese. A splash of balsamic vinegar might brighten things up, too.

Mangiamo!

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