We spend out holiday eves with our friends Andy & Linda and kids (check out Andy’s podcast site http://andy.libsyn.com/) , and this year was no exception. We had decorated the tree that morning, and I used the leftover greens from the tree to line the stair railings, along with white lights. We put candles on every shelf and table, and the place looked festive. Next year, I vow I will do this a full week prior to Christmas, and every night I will light the candles and the lights, and make this feeling last longer.
Here’s the menu:
Appetizers: Roasted red pepper dip (recipe follows) with bagel chips, baby carrots and celery sticks / Cheese / Warm apple cider with cinammon / pinot grigio
Dinner: Mushroom soup (ala’ Anthony Bourdain) , butternut squash lasagna (recipe follows), tossed greens with sherry vinaigrette, warm bread, white wine.
Dessert: None. We were all too full.
ROASTED RED PEPPER DIP
2 red bell peppers roasted, peeled and seeded
1 whole head roasted garlic, pulp squeezed and skin removed.
8 oz. of cream cheese
1 tbsp fresh parsley
1 tablespoons virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper
Pulse garlic and red peppers in food processor till smooth. Add remaining ingredients and pulse till mixed.
BUTTERNUT SQUASH LASAGNA
Warning: this is a lot of work, but well worth the effort. I combined two great recipes, one from Gourmet and one from Napa Style, and threw in a layer of carmelized onions. Luckily the sage in the garden survived the first snow. What I ended up with was delicious, but a bit heavy on the butter and Bechamel, and not enough onions. So the recipe that follows is not exactly what I made, but what I plan to make next time I do this dish (which I will do again)….The picture is what I actually made. Get it?
For the squash filling:
2 large butternut squashes
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 1/2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh sage
3 tbsp fennel seeds
2 tsp ground cinammon
1 tbsp salt
2 tsp pepper
For the sauce:
1 quart (4 cups) whole milk
3 tablespoons (3/4 stick) unsalted butter
1 tablespoon minced fresh sage
1 teaspoon minced garlic
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 tsp salt
½ tsp fresh gound nutmeg
For the carmelized onions:
3 vidalia onions, peeled and thinly sliced
3 tbsp butter
Salt and pepper
Plus: 1 cup hazelnuts (4 oz), toasted, loose skins rubbed off with a kitchen towel, and finely ground (or chopped, whichever you prefer.)
For assembling lasagne
1/2 lb fresh low fat mozzarella, coarsely grated (2 cups)
1 cup finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano (3 oz)
12 (7- by 3 1/2-inch) sheets no-boil lasagne (1/2 lb)
Preheat the oven to 400˚F. Grind the fennel seeds in spice grinder. Mix with cinammon, salt and pepper. Peel squash, trim ends and cut in half lengthwise. Remove the seeds and coarsely chop the squash into 1/2-inch chunks. In a bowl, toss the squash with the olive oil, sage, and the spice mixture. Spread the squash in a single layer on the baking sheet. Roast the squash, stirring once or twice, until very soft and beginning to brown, about 50-60 minutes.
Melt butter in large skillet or saute pan. Add onions, and cook, covered on low heat for 30 minutes. Take off lid, raise heat a bit and contiue to cook, stirring as needed, till light brown and delicious. Add a little salt and pepper
In a large saucepan, warm the milk. In a large pot, melt the butter over medium-low heat. Add the sage and garlic and cook, stirring occasionally, for about 1 minute. Do not let garlic brown. Add the flour and stir for 2 to 3 minutes to combine well with the butter. Do not allow the mixture to color. Add the milk, whisking vigorously to prevent lumps, ultil thickened. Add salt and the nutmeg. Remove from the heat.
Preheat oven to 425°F.
Coat the bottom of a buttered 13 by 9 by 2-inch baking dish with the sauce. Cover with 3 pasta sheets, leaving spaces between sheets. Layer as follows (try to get 4 layers total): Lasagna, squash, onions, hazlenuts, mozarella, sauce, parmesan. Tightly cover baking dish with buttered foil and bake lasagne in middle of oven 30 minutes. Remove foil and bake until golden and bubbling, 10 to 15 minutes more. Let lasagne stand 15 to 20 minutes before serving.