Dear friends and a Butternut Squash and Caramelized Onion Galette

18 Dec

20121216_122526As I sit down to write this, the news in the background continues to report the events in Newtown, CT, which has captivated my attention since Friday. These events make this post ever so meaningful, because it is during this time of year – this season – that we need to be thankful for what we do have and not take it for granted. Last weekend, on a chilly December night, I shared an absolutely fabulous dinner date with three close friends (who all happen to be dietitians!). Over food and laughter, I didn’t want the night to end. I am thankful for having the opportunity to open my home and kitchen to those I care about, and that is one of life’s greatest gifts that we can share.

For the menu, I chose a simple, rustic butternut squash galette featuring slow-caramelized onions from Smitten Kitchen. When I first sat down to pour over the gastronomic delight that is her cookbook, this recipe in particular caught my attention. It may have been her anecdotal story that prefaced the recipe, but nevertheless it caught my attention. In fact, I wasn’t even daunted by the homemade pie crust required. Though it was risky to make a recipe that I hadn’t ever trialed before, I put 100% of my faith in this recipe, as Deb Perelman had never failed me before. The result? A purely fantastic burst of flavor, filled with the flavors of fall. I assured them that I would share the recipe, so here it is. Now, I realize that the image of this galette is not ideal – it’s more of an isosceles triangle than a perfect circle. But cut me some slack, this was my first time!

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Butternut Squash and Caramelized Onion Galette (Courtesy of Smitten Kitchen cookbook, which differs slightly from her blog version)

For the pastry:
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
16 tablespoons (2 sticks) unsalted butter, cut into
pieces
1/2 cup sour cream or full-fat Greek yogurt
1 Tbs. white vinegar
1/3 cup ice water

For the filling:
2 small  or one large butternut squash (about 2 1/2 lbs)
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 large onions, halved and thinly sliced in half-moons
1 1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 tsp sugar
2 cups fontina cheese (about 6 1/2 ounces), grated or cut into small bits
2 tsp fresh thyme

1 egg yoke beaten with 1 tsp water for glaze

Make pastry: In a bowl, combine the flour and salt. Place the butter in another bowl. Place both bowls in the freezer for 1 hour. Remove the bowls from the freezer and make a well in the center of the flour. Add the butter to the well and, using a pastry blender, cut it in until the mixture resembles coarse meal. Make another well in the center. In a small bowl, whisk together the sour cream, lemon juice and water and add half of this mixture to the well. With your fingertips, mix in the liquid until large lumps form. Remove the large lumps and repeat with the remaining liquid and flour-butter mixture. Pat the lumps into a ball; do not overwork the dough. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 1 hour or up to 2 days.

Prepare squash: Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Peel squash, then halve and scoop out seeds. Cut into a 1/2-inch dice. Toss pieces with olive oil and a half-teaspoon of the salt and roast on foil lined (for neatness sake) sheet for 30 minutes or until pieces are tender, turning it midway if your oven bakes unevenly. Set aside to cool slightly.

Caramelize onions: While squash is roasting, add olive oil to a heavy skillet and cook onions over low heat with the remaining half-teaspoon of salt and pinch of sugar, stirring occasionally, until soft and lightly golden brown, about 20 minutes. Stir in cayenne.

Raise the oven temperature to 400 degrees. Mix squash, caramelized onions, cheese and herbs together in a bowl.

Assemble galette: On a floured work surface, roll the dough out into a 16-inch round. Transfer to an ungreased baking sheet. Spread squash, onions, cheese and herb mixture over the dough, leaving a 1 1/2-inch border. Fold the border over the squash, onion and cheese mixture, pleating the edge to make it fit. The center will be open. Brush the pastry boarder with egg wash. Bake until golden brown, 30 to 40 minutes. Remove from the oven, let stand for 5 minutes, then slide the galette onto a serving plate. Cut into wedges (which is what I did) and serve hot, warm or at room temperature. Serves 8 heartily.

I wanted to share this easy appetizer with you as well. It only requires two ingredients for a decadent, delicious, crowd-pleasing item: goat-cheese stuffed dates.

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Goat Cheese Stuffed Dates

3 oz goat cheese, softened
3 tablespoons honey (optional)
16 pitted dates

Pitted dates usually have already have a slice through one side. If yours don’t, slice an opening in one side and fill each date with goat cheese. Broil 5-7 minutes and drizzle with honey if desired. Serve immediately or refrigerate until ready to serve.

The last thing I want to share with you is a festive, easy gift for your dinner party guests (or anyone this season). I discovered this idea on, of course, Pinterest. Once you try this, you’ll find yourself making it over, and over, and over! As a side note, these cinnamon sugared almonds, done in the crock pot, fill your kitchen with the smells of the holiday season. Here in Boston, particularly downtown near Downtown Crossing, you’ll smell this scent up and down Washington Street coming from vendors selling warm nuts in paper cones. It’s nice to re-create this aroma with a few ingredients and no need to leave your home. Though this recipe calls for almonds, I think that any nut of choice can be substituted (e.g., cashews, peanuts, walnuts, pecans).

Crock Pot Cinnamon Sugar Almonds

1 1/2 cup white sugar
1 1/2 cup brown sugar
3 tablespoons cinnamon
1 egg white
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup water + 2 teaspoons vanilla

In a medium sized bowl, mix together sugars, cinnamon, and salt. Set aside. In another medium sized bowl, whisk the egg white and vanilla until it’s a little frothy. Add almonds. Make sure the almonds are thoroughly coated in the egg white mixture. Add cinnamon mixture to the almonds and toss until coated. Spray crock pot with nonstick spray. Add the divine mixture of almonds and sugars to the crock pot and turn it to low.

Cook ( with the lid on) 3-4 hours stirring every 20 minutes. In the last hour, add the 1/4 C. of water and stir well. This ensures a crunchy yummy coating. (*make sure after you’ve added the water that you continue to cook the nuts for another 45min to an hour.)

Line a baking sheet with parchment and spread the almonds flat to cool (do not rush this part!). The almonds will be sticky at this point, so make sure you separate them a little and have no large mounds. When cool, dish into gift bags and tie with decorative bow.

Sugar Almonds

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