keito potato

Roast Winter Squash Salad with Lentils and Goat Cheese
December 21, 2011, 9:59 am
Filed under: main dishes, recipes, salads | Tags: , ,

When you’ve overdosed on xmas cookies, you might crave some lighter meals around the holidays.  This warm winter salad is utterly delicious, earthy, and healthful.  The bright dressing and goat cheese bring the dish together, and the lentils are richly-flavorful with sauteed aromatics and herbs.

I made it for the first time a few years ago in Berkeley with my cousin Patricia, and it has become a favorite winter salad.  It comes from Diana Henry’s book Roast Figs Sugar Snow, which is a collection of vibrant recipes for cold weather, gathered from Northern Europe and New England.  Last winter I shared the orange-cardamom star cookies from the same cookbook.   My favorite chocolate-rosemary sorbet comes from her cookbook Crazy Water Pickled Lemons.

Serve this as a colorful side dish, or by itself for a simpler meal.  It’s a breeze to made since you assemble everything while the squash roasts.


3-3.5 lb. (1.5 kg) winter squash, such as butternut or acorn
salt and pepper
olive oil
2 tablespoons butter
9 oz (250 g) goat cheese, broken up

for the lentils:

9.5 oz (275 g) green lentils
1/2 small onion, or 1 super-small onion or shallot
1 small stalk celery
1 tablespoon butter
1/2 tablespoon olive oil
1 1/2 tablespoon fresh flat-leaf parsley

for the dressing:

1/2 tablespoon white wine vinegar or sherry vinegar
tiny dollop Dijon mustard
4 tablespoons olive oil
good pinch sugar


Preheat the oven to 350F (180C).  Halve the winter squash and scoop out the seeds and fibers.  Peel the squash and cut into 1-inch pieces.  Put the squash wedges in a roasting tray.  Season with salt and pepper, drizzle with olive oil, and dot with butter.  Roast it in the preheated oven for 15-20 minutes.  Turn the wedges over a few times during baking.  Don’t let it scorch or get too dry.

Meanwhile, prepare the lentils while the squash is in the oven.  Rinse the lentils, then cover them with cold water in a small saucepan and bring to a boil.  Cook until tender, 15-30 minutes.  They should be tender and hold their shape.

While the lentils are cooking, chop the onion and celery finely.  Gently saute them in a wide skillet with the butter and olive oil until they are soft.

Meanwhile, prepare the dressing by whisking all of the dressing ingredients together.  Also chop the parsley at this time.  Set both aside.

When the lentils are cooked, add them to the pan of onions and celery.  Stir them around to soak up the cooking juices.  Add 2/3 of the dressing and the chopped parsley.  Season well with salt and pepper.

Serve either on a wide serving platter or on individual plates.  Mound the lentils, then top with the roasted squash.  Dot with the nuggets of goat cheese, drizzle on the remaining dressing.

Butternut Squash Risotto
November 21, 2009, 6:14 pm
Filed under: main dishes, recipes | Tags: , , ,

I threw this risotto together last night. I had a butternut squash I needed to use, and realized I was in the mood for a risotto. So there you have it. The result was so perfect that I felt compelled to share the recipe with all of you. Some of my friends have confessed to me that they enjoy risottos in restaurants, but haven’t attempted them at home. Well, perhaps this is the season to try. The traditional risotto method is simple, and allows for infinite variations with seasonal vegetables.

The squash-walnut flavor combination was stirring in the back of my head because of some recent discussions about Thanksgiving menus. I also suspected that toasted walnuts would work because I always include them in my favorite beet risotto.

The magic of risotto is that the Arborio variety of rice is short and round, and gradually releases starch whilst cooking. This starch creates something resembling a creamy sauce (without the cream). For those of you who haven’t cooked risotto before, you slowly cook it in a big pot, lid off, with onions and white wine, stirring as you gradually add ladles of broth. Parmesan is added at the end — so if you like wine and parmesan, this is the rice dish for you. Quite a different method from basic steamed rice or a pilaf, but definitely not difficult.

A cast iron pot like Le Creuset is perfect. You will want something that conducts heat well and evenly. There are also lovely risotto pots in the shops with round bases, the perfect shape for continuous stirring (which by the way also makes them perfect for polenta.)

Arborio rice can easily be found in a brick-red box at Trader Joe’s.

6 cups vegetable broth
3/4 Cup walnuts
2 tablespoons olive oil or butter
1 small yellow onion, finely minced
6 garlic cloves, minced
1 1/2 Cups Arborio rice
1/2 Cup dry white wine
3 Cups tightly diced butternut squash
salt and pepper
3/4 cup grated parmesan


Toast the walnuts in a 300F oven. They will toast while you are working on everything else. Eventually when they smell good, keep checking them until they are deeply brown in color, but not quite burnt. The darker the color, the more intense the flavor. Let them cool a bit, then finely mince them with a big knife.

Finely mince the onion. Mince the garlic. Peel and dice the butternut squash into small cubes about 1/3 – 1/2 inch thick.

Simmer the vegetable broth in a small saucepan. (You will be gradually incorporating this hot broth into the risotto.)

Heat the olive oil or butter in a heavy pot. Saute the onion for a minute. Add the garlic, and continue to saute for 2-3 more minutes. Add the Arborio rice, and stir until well coated.

Add the wine, and stir constantly until it is absorbed into the rice. At this point, add the butternut squash, and 1/2 cup of the broth, still stirring. When the broth is absorbed, add another 1/2 cup of broth. From now on, continue to add 1/2 cup of the broth at a time every 2-3 minutes, whenever the rice starts to look a little dry. You don’t necessarily need to stir constantly, but you do need to stir frequently enough to keep the bottom from sticking. Sometimes I read a book while stirring risotto or polenta.

It will take about 18-25 minutes for the rice to cook. Taste for salt and pepper. Stir in the parmesan and minced walnuts. Serve immediately.

Roasted Winter Squash Soup with Sage
November 8, 2009, 10:23 pm
Filed under: recipes, soups | Tags: , , , ,

My kitchen was fragrant this weekend from garlic and acorn squash roasting in the oven. This lovely autumn soup is based on a recipe from Deborah Madison’s cookbook Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone.

roasted acorn squash soup

Halves of winter squash are roasted face down with garlic cloves in their cavities. This technique allows the garlic to slowly infuse the squash with warm garlic steam. When soft, it all is added to a pot of browned onions, herbs, and broth. After simmering a bit, a stick immersion blender purees everything smooth.

I strayed from Deborah’s recipe in increasing the amount of garlic from 6 to 10 cloves. Feel free to even go further. The roasted garlic is soft, rich, and almost sweet.

Deborah Madison recommends pairing this soup with blue-cheese-walnut crostini. That was decidedly fantastic, creating a perfect trio of soup, crostini and red wine. It made a lovely meal with my friend Floriane. The crostini recipe also follows below.


2.5 to 3 pounds winter squash (I used 2 acorn squash)
1/4 cup olive oil, plus extra for rubbing on the squash
10 garlic cloves, unpeeled
12 whole sage leaves, plus 2 tablespoons sage chopped
2 onions, finely chopped
chopped leaves from 4 thyme sprigs, or 1/4 teaspoon dried
1/4 cup chopped parsley
salt and freshly ground pepper
2 quarts vegetable stock
fontina, pecorino or parmesan for garnish

Preheat the oven to 375F. Halve the squash and scoop out the seeds. Brush the surfaces with olive oil. Stuff the cavities with garlic, and place them cut sides down on a baking sheet. Bake until very soft and tender, about 30-35 minutes.

Meanwhile in a small skillet, heat the 1/4 cup olive oil until nearly smoking, then drop in the whole sage leaves and fry until speckled and dark, about 1 minute. Set the leaves aside on a paper towel. Using a rubber spatula, transfer the sage-infused olive oil into a heavy soup pot. Add the onions, chopped sage, thyme, and parsley. Cook over medium heat until the onions are browning on the edges, about 15 minutes.

Scoop the squash flesh into the pot along with any juices that have accumulated in the pan. Peel the garlic and add it to the pot along with 1 1/2 teaspoon salt and the broth. Bring to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer, partially covered, for 25 minutes. Puree the soup with a stick immersion blender. Taste for salt. Ladle into bowls, and garnish with cheese and fried sage leaves.


baguette slices
4 ounces, Roquefort, Maytag, or Danish blue
3 tablespoons butter at room temperature
1-2 teaspoons cognac
1/4 cup finely chopped walnuts
freshly milled pepper
finely chopped parsley

Toast the baguette slices under the broiler until nicely browned on one side, then a little less so on the second. Cream the blue cheese and butter until smooth, then work in the cognac, walnuts and black pepper. Spread on the paler side of the toasts, then broil until the cheese is bubbling. Remove, and dust with the parsley. Serve warm.

Thai Pumpkin with Tofu and Basil
September 30, 2009, 7:18 pm
Filed under: main dishes, recipes | Tags: , , ,

Thair stir-fried pumpkin
Southern California finally got a hint of fall this week, right at the tail end of September. I can actually wear a cardigan in the evenings now. I bought a butternut squash to celebrate the change of seasons, and used a fabulous recipe that my sister Deb pointed me to last winter. It’s an elegant and unusual stir-fry from my favorite Thai cookbook, True Thai by Victor Sodsook. Slices of pumpkin are stir-fried with tofu, basil, and an insane amount of garlic.

Now that the weather is cooling off, I imagine I will make this on a regular basis. It’s a cinch to assemble, and I love making my house smell like garlic.

The recipe calls for kabocha pumpkin, but I used butternut squash since that’s what my grocery had in stock today. I might get in trouble for saying this, but I think many winter squashes and pumpkins can be used interchangeably in most dishes.

For this recipe you will need to obtain a bottle of “crushed yellow bean sauce.” It’s an earthy and delicious fermented bean sauce that reminds me of the black bean paste used in Sichuanese tofu dishes like mapo tofu. You can easily find this sauce in an Asian grocery. My “Healthy Boy Brand” bottle has a funny baby on the label.
Healthy Boy Brand yellow bean sauce


1 pound kabocha pumpkin or butternut squash
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
10 cloves garlic, crushed
2 tablespoons crushed yellow bean sauce (tao jiew dam)
2 1/2 tablespoons brown sugar
1 teaspoon white pepper
3 tablespoons vegetable stock
19 ounces firm tofu, cut into bite-size pieces
3/4 cup loosely packed Thai basil or Italian basil


Scoop out and discard the seeds and fibers from the pumpkin or squash. With a sharp, heavy knife or cleaver, chop it into quarters. Cut off most of the peel and slice the pumpkin into thin, bite-size pieces.

Place all stir-fry ingredients within easy reach of the cooking area.

Set a wok over medium-high heat. (If you don’t have a wok, a wide skillet will do). When it is quite hot, add the oil. Rotate the wok a bit so the oil coats the sides. When the oil is hot, add the garlic and stir-fry briefly, just until golden and aromatic. Add the pumpkin and stir-fry for 3 minutes.

Add the yellow bean sauce and brown sugar, and stir-fry until blended, about 1 minute. Add the white pepper and vegetable stock and stir-fry for 30 seconds. Add the tofu and stir-fry until it is heated through, about 1 1/2 minutes.

Turn off the heat. Stir in the basil and cook for a few seconds, just until the basil begins to wilt.

Transfer to a serving platter and serve with steamed rice and chile sauce.