"One cannot think well, love well, sleep well, if one has not dined well."-- Virginia Woolf
Dine well we did. Three hours of kitchen dance, pivoting, avoiding, spilling, picking up, moving around, juggling platters, taking bites, shoving into the oven, banging plates, sharing tasks.
The Cava was poured into chilled glasses, the golden-crusted Brie removed from the warmth of the oven, popovers poked for steam to release, and the first course was ready. The cheese was at the mercy of our implements of destruction, layered beneath zesty cranberry. Then came the roasted beet and pear salad with beet greens and a balsamic-honey glaze, which surprised us all. Dark pink juice tinged the feta, and the flavors burst in our mouths. Roasted sweet potato cubes were speared with skewers and dipped into refreshingly spicy cilantro-lime-jalapeño dip.
Our stomachs could hold no more, yet the gluttony had just begun. The French onion soup was thick, topped with crusty baguette and Jarlsberg and thrust under a flaming hot broiler. We made our best efforts at finishing, but of course there was room for dessert: a creamy rice pudding with vanilla bean, served with orange almond tuile lace cookies that were chewy and left a floral aroma.
Plates were stacked high from the five courses, silverware gathered and soaked. The fire was roaring as a gusty wind blew down the chimney, we collapsed with full bellies, almost unable to move. Dine well we did.
This recipe was inspired by a lovely fresh stuffed ravioli dish I had with butternut squash, brown butter, and walnuts at Biaggi's. It tastes just like it-- only without the pasta!
Serves 4 (main) to 6 (side)
4 tbsp butter
¼ cup shredded Parmesan cheese
1 tbsp olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
16 oz block firm or extra firm organic tofu, patted dry and diced
2 small butternut squashes, roasted, peeled, seeded, and diced*
1 ½ tsp chopped fresh rosemary
½ cup pecans, coarsely chopped
Salt to taste
In a small heavy saucepan, heat the butter over medium heat. Let it keep cooking without stirring even after it has melted completely. Swirl the pan occasionally and let it reach a deep brown color. It will be pretty uniformly dark and nutty-smelling when finished. Remove from heat and let cool slightly, then add the parmesan and mix in (it will be a bit lumpy).
In a large (preferably nonstick) skillet, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the garlic and sauté, stirring occasionally, for one minute. Add the diced tofu and cook about 5 minutes, or until heated through. Add the diced roasted butternut squash and cook until heated through, another 2-3 minutes, stirring occasionally. Mix in the rosemary and pecans and let the flavors incorporate, another 2-3 minutes. Remove from heat and add the browned butter sauce, mixing thoroughly. Add salt to taste and serve hot with rice or another grain.
*I usually roast my squash anywhere between 350F and 400F for 40 minutes to 1 hour, until fork-tender. You can leave it whole before baking, and scoop the seeds out after, or you can cut it open lengthwise before baking and scoop seeds out then.