Butternut Squash Polenta with Sausage and Onion

Butternut Squash Polenta

When I saw this recipe in the New York Times last week, I though, why have I never thought of adding grated winter squash to polenta? It seems like such a natural paring and after trying this dish I can tell you it is a delicious natural paring and one I’ll be using from now on.

Grated squashThe recipe is quick and easy taking a little over 30 minutes to complete. Grated winter squash is simmered with polenta and bay leaf until they are tender, then you add a little butter and black pepper and the polenta is done. While the polenta cooks, you brown the sausage and caramelize the onions.  What could be easier? Add a nice green salad and dinner is served.

Butternut Squash Polenta 2

Polenta simmering with grated winter squash and bay leaf.

I used andouille sausage since I had some in the freezer and loved the contrast between the spicy sausage and the sweet taste of the squash and onions. I think you could use just about any kind of sausage and have a satisfying result. I did use rosemary but not the fennel seeds, mostly because I didn’t have them on hand. Using sage instead of rosemary could also be a nice variation.

Thanks to Melissa Clark at the New York Times for this keeper. You can find the recipe, a “how to” video and more information about polenta here.

Grill’n Between Storms


Grilling in February isn’t unheard of where I live. I’m lucky to live in an area where there are many winter days that are sunny and dry. On days like that, that come between storms, I get the urge to roll my little grill out of the garage where I keep it and grill away.

Today was one of those days and I found myself in the mood to grill. But what?  A quick inventory of the the fridge turned up fennel and asparagus which both grill up nicely, a further search turned up up spring lamb chops.

Now that I knew what I was going to grill I headed to the back yard for some herbs. Rosemary, definitely a must have, for the lamb. Some thyme for the veggies, but not English thyme, I have some lime scented thyme in my garden.  I know lemon is a good accompaniment to both asparagus and fennel, so why not lime?  I marinate the lamb in olive oil, garlic and rosemary, the asparagus and fennel in olive oil and the lime thyme.

I decided to add one item that didn’t require grilling, a nice soft “pumpkin” polenta. I had some roasted winter squash left over and decided that this recipe from The Tra Vigne Cookbook, Seasons in The California Wine Country, by Michael Chiarello was just begging to be tried. It was fantastic. The perfect accompaniment to the grilled lamb and veggies.

Put a little summer into your winter days by firing up your grill in between storms.

Soft “Pumpkin” Polenta

1 ½ cups chicken stock

1 ¼ cups heavy cream

½ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

¼ teaspoon salt

Pinch ground white pepper

5 tablespoons polenta

5 tablespoons semolina

1 cup roasted winter squash pureed

1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Combine stock and cream in a heavy saucepan and bring to a simmer. Add the nutmeg, salt, and pepper. Whisk in the polenta and semolina and cook over very low heat, whisking regularly, until the grains are soft, about 8 minutes. Whisk in the squash then the cheese.

What to buy at the Farmers’ Market:

Asparagus

Fennel

Lamb chops

Rosemary

Thyme (lemon or lime)

Garlic

Winter squash

It’s the weekend – get out to the Farmers’ Market.

Here’s a list of fruits and vegetables that you will find at most Northern California Farmers’ Markets this weekend.

Apples

Beets

Broccoli

Brussel sprouts

Carrots

Cauliflower

Grapefruit

Kale

Kiwis

Lemons

Mushrooms

Oranges

Pomegranates

Potatoes

Scallions

Spinach

Sweet potatoes

Swiss chard

Tangelos

Tangerines

Winter squash

Don’t forget to pick up some fresh bread, and maybe some really fresh eggs, oh, and cheese and last but not least, flowers for the table. I’ll see you there.

Winter Veggies at the Farmers Market

I recently found this article in The Huffington Post. It’s a good guide to winter vegetables having both pictures and recipes.

Winter Veggies at the Farmers Market

The Huffington Post 12/13/09

It’s easy to get stuck in a cooking rut of using the same ingredients and the same recipes again and again. If you shop at your local farmers’ market, however, you have a great opportunity to try something new. Most people think farmer’s markets are only for summer, but there are many that are open year round and offer great winter produce. Buy some fresh, seasonal produce and discover delicious new flavors. Here, our some picks for wonderful winter vegetables, complete with recipes you can make tonight.

Winter Squash: Which one do I buy?

Ok, so you’re all ready to try winter squash. You get to the market and whoa, there are so many to choose from. What to buy? Here is a list of some of the more popular varieties and their uses. So read through this. Maybe even write down a few selections that sound good to you. Then, take your list with you to the Farmers Market. If you find a squash that you’re now sure about how to use it, ask the seller. In most cases, they are more than willing to share their knowledge about the vegetables they grow and how to use them. I have noticed also, that many of the markets offer slices of some of the larger squashes. This is great news for those of us who don’t want to buy a large quantity. If you see a large squash that you want to try and it’s not already cut. Ask if you can buy a piece instead of the whole thing.

Thanksgiving is next week so this will be a good weekend to buy your winter squash for that soup, side-dish or pie that you are going to make.

Don’t know where your local market is located or what time it starts. Check out the Blogroll on this page. Have a great time at the market this weekend. I know I will.

Acorn (Danish). Most are deeply furrowed, relatively small; Table Queen is best known.

Banana Maxima type with several named varieties, but all are elongated; typically about 5 pounds; blue-skinned variety is recommended over the pink-skinned types; roast and eat from the skin.

Buttercup Maxima type widely praised for flavor; small (about 1 ½ pounds) with dark green rind and dense orange flesh; all uses.

Butternut Long neck has a bulbous base; easy to slice and peel; high yield of dense, sweet, pale orange flesh; excellent all-purpose variety.

Delicata Elongated squash with green and gold striations on  a cream background; 1 ½ to 3 pounds; relatively thin skinned; light-textured golden flesh; superb eating out of the skin.

Hubbard Typically bulbous in the middle and tapered on the ends; medium to large; maxima species; it is superb eating.

Jack Be Little Mini pumpkin (about ½ pound) with orange rind and flesh; tasty single-serving format.

Kabocha Rounded Japanese squash weighing 2 to 3 pounds on average with a dark green rind and deep orange flesh; meat is dense, sweet, dry, sweet potato like; good for pie and soup.

Marina di Chioggia Conversation piece; large (about 10 pound) squash with a warty blue-green rind and golden flesh; widely praised for it’s fine flavor.

Munchkin Small and round with a reddish-orange rind and yam-colored flesh, dense, nutty, sweet.

Musquee de Provence Large (about 13 pounds) deeply lobbed, flattened squash with a green and gold rind; orange flesh; a favorite for just about anything.

Red Kuri Medium size (about 3 pounds) squash with a reddish-orange exterior and a deep orange flesh; maxima species; good for roasting.

Sugar Pie Medium-sized pumpkin about 2 ½ pounds. Super-sweet flesh is excellent in pies.

Sweet Dumpling Small (about 1 pound), squat, ridged squash with green and gold striations on a cream background; flesh is golden, light textured; good for eating out of the skin.

Table Queen A named variety of acorn squash. It is dark green, deeply furrowed and acorn-shaped. The flesh is golden, dense and sweet but sometimes a little fibrous.

Triple Treat A 6 to 8 pound pumpkin. So named because it is good for eating out of the skin and for pies and because it’s hull-free seeds can be roasted.

What To Buy This Weekend At The Farmers Market: Winter Squash

Winter squashWinter squash, abundant fall through late winter, is one of my favorite winter vegetables. I can remember my mom buying those really big, pink-skinned, banana squash. Sometimes she would cut it into chunks  and bake it or, sometimes she would peel it, cut it into chunks and steam it till soft, then mash it with some butter. I remember it tasted so good. When my son was a baby squash was one of the first vegetables I introduced him to and when I my first grand child came along I introduced it to him too.

Throughout the years I have experimented with different ways to prepare winter squash. I’ve tried it in soups, rice dishes, pasta dishes, and baked items I’ve baked it, steamed it, sauteed it and mashed it. Last year’s, favorite preparation was to peel it, cut it in small sized chunks, toss it with olive oil, fresh thyme, salt and pepper and bake till it’s just starting to caramelize. The leftovers were wonderful incorporated into rice or pasta dishes.

Winter squash is good for you too. It rivals cabbage, carrots, potatoes and spinach in its nutritional value and it is a good source of complex carbohydrates and fiber and is very high in beta carotene, the source of vitamin A.

Not only is it good tasting, easy to incorporate into a wide variety of recipes and highly nutritious, winter squash are beautiful in their colors, textures and shapes. Last year I had a fall party and used various sized squashes and small pumpkins as a table centerpiece. When the party was over I moved them out to the garage. I had read somewhere that you could store them for months in this way if you just placed them on some newspaper on the floor. It worked just fine. Sure was great to have such a nice selection of winter squash right outside the kitchen door.

All this writing about winter squash this morning got me in the mood to look through my old cookbook collection for something new and different to do with squash. Here’s what I came up with.

Glazed Winter Squash with Pine Nuts

¾ cup pine nuts

6 tablespoons unsalted butter

1 ½ cups chopped yellow onion

2 teaspoons minced or pressed garlic

4 pounds winter squash, peeled, cleaned and cut into slices 1/8” thick

2 cups heavy (whipping) cream

2 cups light cream or half and half

1 teaspoon minced fresh thyme, or ¼ teaspoon crumbled dried thyme

½ teaspoon ground coriander

¼ teaspoon ground mace

Salt

Freshly ground black pepper

½ cup freshly grated dry Monterey Jack or Parmesan cheese

Place pine nuts in a small dry skillet over medium heat and cook, stirring frequently, until lightly toasted, about 5 minutes. Pour onto a plate to cool.

Melt 2 tablespoons of the butter in a sauté pan or skillet over medium heat. Add the onion and cook, stirring often, until very soft and golden, about 10 minutes. Stir in the garlic and sauté 1 minute longer. Remove from the heat and reserve.

Preheat an oven to 425 F.

Combine the squash, heavy cream, light cream or half and half, thyme, coriander, and mace in a heavy-bottomed saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce the heat to low and simmer, uncovered, until the squash is tender and has absorbed most of the liquid, about 15 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Toss squash mixture with the reserved onion and transfer to a highly greased 8 by 12 inch baking dish. Sprinkle with the cheese and dot with the remaining 4 tablespoons butter. Bake for 10 minutes, then sprinkle with the toasted pine nuts. Continue baking until the top is lightly browned, about 5 minutes longer. Serve immediately.

Serves 10 to 12

From James McNair’s Squash Cookbook

Chronicle Books 1989


Pick up these ingredients at your local Farmers Market:

• 4lbs winter squash (Buttercup, Butternut, Hubbard, Marina di Chioggia or Musquee de Provence would be good choices)

• 2 yellow onions

• fresh thyme

• dry Monterey Jack cheese (some Farmers Markets will have this)

• and if you’re in New Mexico you’ll be able to find pine nuts at the Farmers Market