Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Fall Comfort Food

Roasted Butternut Squash and Spinach Salad with Toasted Almond Dressing
Surprising as it may be, salads can be just as comforting as any other fall dish. This one and the next are two prime examples. They would also make great side dishes for your Thanksgiving meal.

1 (2-2½ pound) butternut squash, peeled, seeded, and cut into ¾-inch cubes
Note: I tried it recently with a mix of unpeeled delicata and peeled butternut. I prefer the butternut.
5½ tablespoons olive oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
½ cup slivered almonds
1½-2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
¼-½ pound fresh spinach, stems discarded
½ cup dried cranberries

1. Put a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat the oven to 450 F.
2. Toss the squash with 1½ tablespoons oil on a rimmed baking sheet; spread them out in one layer. Season with salt and pepper and roast, stirring once halfway through roasting, until the squash is just tender, pale golden, and just slightly caramelized, about 30 minutes. Cool on the sheet until warm, about 15 minutes.
3. Heat the remaining 4 tablespoons oil in a 10-inch heavy skillet over moderately low heat. Add the almonds and cook, stirring constantly until golden, about 3 minutes. Put a fine mesh sieve over at large bowl and pour the almonds into the sieve, catching the oil in the bowl. Let them both cool for about 10 minutes.
4. Whisk the lemon juice into the cooled oil until well combined. Add salt and pepper and taste for the right balance between oil and lemon.
5. Add the squash, spinach, dried cranberries, half the almonds, and gently toss to coat all the ingredients. Check for seasonings and add whatever you think is necessary. Serve the salad sprinkled with the remaining almonds.

Note: If you want to make this ahead, do everything except add the spinach to the salad and store in the fridge. Let the squash warm up a bit before serving. You may need to add a bit more dressing to the spinach if the squash has soaked it all up.

4-6 servings
Adapted from Ruth Reichl’s The Gourmet Cookbook

Prosciutto, Pear, and Parmesan Salad with Lemon and Chervil (or Dill) Vinaigrette
This is a gorgeous combination of flavors. I sometimes serve this salad for dinner without anything else. Last night we had it with the grilled cheese sandwiches below.

4 large handfuls arugula or watercress
2 ripe pears
Juice of 1 lemon
3½ ounces thinly sliced prosciutto
3½ ounces parmesan, sliced with a vegetable peeler
2 tablespoons small chervil sprigs or other fresh herb, like dill, coarsely chopped
1 recipe of the Lemon and Chervil (or Dill) Vinaigrette, see recipe below

1. Put the greens in a bowl and pour over half of the dressing. Toss to combine.
Place on four individual salad plates.
2. Leaving the skin on, cut each pear into 8 pieces. Sprinkle them with the lemon juice to prevent discoloration.
3. Tear or cut the prosciutto into bite-size pieces. Scissors work well.
4. Arrange the pears and prosciutto over the greens. Scatter the parmesan and chervil or dill on top.
5. Drizzle the salads with more dressing. Sprinkle with freshly ground black pepper to taste.

Note: If you want to make this a dinner for 2, reduce the amounts to 1½ pears and 2 ounces of prosciutto.

4 side-salad servings or 2 dinner servings
Adapted from Jane Hann’s Salads: Cooking with Style

Lemon and Chervil (or Dill) Vinaigrette

4 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
Juice of 1 lemon
1 tablespoon finely chopped chervil or other fresh herbs, like dill
1 garlic clove, finely chopped or pressed
Salt and pepper

1. Combine all the dressing ingredients in a small bowl.
2. Whisk until well blended.

Makes ½ cup
Adapted from Jane Hann’s Salads: Cooking with Style

Grilled Sharp Cheddar Cheese and Cranberry Sandwiches
I almost burned these sandwiches. I pulled them out of the cast iron frying pan just in time.

10 ounces best quality cheddar cheese, thinly sliced
8 slices good quality firm white bread, such as challah
½-¾ cup Cranberry Walnut Relish with Grappa (from last week’s blog)
Your own chilled cranberry sauce
About 4 tablespoons (½ stick) butter, at room temperature
Note: You can soften the butter in the microwave at 50% power for 1 minute.

1. On a cutting board, set out four slices of bread. Arrange half the cheese over the bread. Spread the relish over the cheese. Top the relish with the remaining cheese and set the remaining slices of bread on top. So it goes bread, cheese, cranberry, cheese, bread.
2. Evenly spread the top of each sandwich with about ½ tablespoon butter. Preheat the griddle or frying pan over medium/low heat. When hot, invert the sandwiches, butter side down, onto the pan. Quickly and evenly spread the tops of the sandwiches with the remaining butter. Cover and cook until the bottom is light golden and crisp, about 2½ minutes. Watch carefully. The sandwiches can burn so quickly.
3. Flip the sandwiches, cover the pan, turn the heat to low and cook until the bottom is golden brown, and the cheese is melting, another 2 to 2½ minutes. Again, watch carefully. Remove from the pan when done.
4. With a serrated knife, cut the sandwiches in half and serve immediately.

4 servings
Adapted from Carrie Brown’s The Jimtown Store Cookbook


Tinky said...

If you have a panini press (you don't need one, of course), this works really well as panini. I use my own cranberry conserve (I'll have to try yours) and also a little sliced turkey sometimes. People who eat it are always happy!

Tinky said...

If you have a panini press (you don't need one, of course), this works really well as panini. I use my own cranberry conserve (I'll have to try yours) and also a little sliced turkey sometimes. People who eat it are always happy!

Becky said...

Everything looks so yummy and kakes me hungry. I am making the squash salad for Thanksgiving. It is always a hit. Happy Thanksgiving to you and to all and I hope your birthday was delicious!
Love, Becky