Photos by Margaret M. Johnson.
Recipes | By Margaret M. Johnson
By Sunday, we’ll have said good-bye to Halloween and the jack-o-lanterns that come with it, but not to pumpkins and other varieties of winter squash in general. In fact, with Thanksgiving on the horizon, sweet and savory squash recipes are still in great demand.
ROASTED SQUASH HUMMUS
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MAKES 2 CUPS
Although hummus is not traditionally associated with Ireland or Irish cookery, it’s a great go-to dip for easy entertaining wherever you live. You can increase the flavor and nutritional value by adding winter squash, especially butternut, which is widely available and has a mild taste. You can also find it pre-cut in many supermarkets, making it even more user-friendly for this delicious dip.
1 1/2 cups cubed butternut squash
Extra virgin olive oil
1 (15-ounce) can chickpeas, drained and rinsed (reserve 3 tablespoons liquid)
1/4 cup tahini (sesame paste)
3 tablespoons reserved liquid
2 garlic cloves
1 teaspoon ground cumin
Juice of 1 lemon
Roasted squash seeds, for topping (optional)
Rosemary sprigs, for garnish (optional)
Carrots, crackers and toasted pita bread, for serving
1. Preheat oven to 425°F. In a large bowl, toss squash cubes with salt, pepper and olive oil. Spread in a single layer on a rimmed baking sheet.
2. Roast, turning once or twice, for 20 to 25 minutes, or until squash is lightly browned and tender; let cool for 10 minutes.
3. Transfer squash to a food processor or blender. Add chickpeas, 1 tablespoon reserved liquid, garlic, cumin and lemon juice. Process until smooth, adding remaining reserved liquid, if needed. (Cover and refrigerate for up to 1 day, if desired).
4.Transfer to serving bowl and swirl top using back of a spoon. Drizzle with additional olive oil, and garnish with roasted seeds and rosemary sprigs (if using), and a few additional grinds of pepper. Surround with carrots, crackers and pita bread.
ROASTED SQUASH SEEDS
MAKES ABOUT 1 CUP
Roasting pumpkin seeds after carving the Halloween jack-o-lantern need not be a once a year tradition. Try roasting them any time you make a squash dish (seeds from butternut and acorn squash are great for this recipe), for nibbling with drinks or to add crunch to creamy soups and salads. If you’re serving the roasted seeds with hummus, you might want to season them only with salt and pepper; otherwise, you can use almost any sweet or savory spice — pumpkin pie spice, crushed rosemary, cinnamon, cumin, cayenne pepper or paprika, to name a few. The secret to crunchy seeds is to be sure they’re completely dry before roasting.
Seeds from winter squash
Extra virgin olive oil
1. Fill a large bowl with water. With a large spoon, scrape seeds and pulp from inside of squash and transfer to water (this will help separate seeds from pulp). With your hands, pull seeds away from pulp and transfer seeds to a colander; rinse seeds.
2. Transfer seeds to a tea towel and spread out to dry; leave overnight. Alternately, line a rimmed baking pan with parchment paper. Spread seeds out in a single layer and dry them in a preheated 325°F for 10 to 15 minutes.
3. To roast seeds, increase oven temperature to 350°F. Transfer dry seeds to a large bowl. Toss with olive oil, salt and pepper.
4. Return to baking sheet and roast, turning once or twice, for 10 to 15 minutes longer, or until brown and crisp. Let seeds cool for about 10 minutes before transferring to a serving bowl.
SQUASH SOUP WITH BLUE CHEESE CROÛTES
SERVES 8 TO 10
Use all pumpkin or any combination of winter squash — butternut, acorn, carnival and sweet dumpling work well — to make this soup, which also uses a potato for thickening. Serve it with little toasts made with Cashel Blue cheese or with croutons.
For the soup
5 tablespoons butter
5 cups winter squash, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1 leek, green and white parts, chopped
1 small carrot, chopped
1 celery stalk, chopped
1 large potato, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch pieces
2 sprigs fresh thyme
2 fresh sage leaves
4 cups homemade chicken stock or canned low-salt chicken broth
1/2 cup heavy (whipping) cream
Chopped fresh chives, for garnish
For the croûtes
1 baguette, cut into 1/4-inch-thick slices
4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
3/4 cup crumbled Roquefort or similar blue cheese
2 tablespoons Parmesan cheese
2 tablespoons crème fraiche
3 tablespoons minced fresh flat-leaf parsley
1. Make soup. In a large saucepan over medium heat, melt butter. Add squash, leeks, carrot celery and potato; stir to coat. Cover and cook for 12 to 15 minutes, or until vegetables are soft but not browned; stir in thyme and sage.
2. Add stock, bring to a boil, and then reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer, stirring occasionally, for about 30 minutes, or until vegetables are tender. Remove thyme sprigs and sage leaves; let cool.
3. Working in batches, transfer soup to a food processor or blender; purée until smooth. (May be prepared to this point 1 day ahead). Return soup to same pan, stir in cream; bring to simmer. Season with salt and pepper. Ladle soup into bowls, sprinkle with chives and serve with croûtes.
4. Make croutes. Preheat broiler. Arrange baguette slices in a single layer on a baking sheet; brush tops with olive oil. Broil for about 1 minute, or until lightly browned and crisp. Remove from oven; turn over.
5. In a small bowl, combine blue cheese, Parmesan cheese, crème fraiche, parsley and pepper; mix well. Spread mixture on slices, return to broiler, and broil for about 1 minute longer, or until mixture is browned and bubbling.
Margaret Johnson’s “Recipes” page also includes “Ireland Hopping: Adventures in Food, Drink, and Travel.” For further details on her work, or to order a signed copy of her new cookbook Teatime in Ireland, visit www.irishcook.com