Mussels at the Beehive 2002, charcoal on paper, 22 x 20 inches
After our travels and a lovely traditional Thanksgiving with family, I have gotten into winter cooking. I try to resist buying out-of-season vegetables and figure out new ways to cook roots, brassicas, and hearty greens.
A current favorite is bucatini with butternut squash and taleggio. This pasta looks like spaghetti but has a tiny opening right through each strand. It is chewy and delicious. Use whatever pasta shape you have but I recommend seeking out bucatini.
First roast a peeled and sliced (about 1/2 inch) small butternut squash, toss with olive oil, salt and pepper, at 400° for 20 minutes. Turn and roast another 10-15 minutes until browned and tender.
Cut into bite-sized pieces (1 inch) and set aside. Put water on to boil for the bucatini. I figure 4-5 ounces for the two of us, but you know your appetite, so cook as much as you like. Here on Blue Mountain Road at 6000 feet, this takes 9 minutes. While the strands are cooking prepare the other ingredients.
Sauté a thinly sliced shallot in olive oil in a pan that will hold the pasta. Add the squash to the pan with a scoop of pasta water. Keep warm. Prepare 4 ounces of the taleggio – the rind should be removed and the cheese torn or cut into 1/2 inch bits. This is a soft, tangy cheese and will melt into the pasta to make a delicious sauce. Finely chop a good handful of Italian parsley.
Test the pasta for doneness and a nice chew. Drain and toss with the shallots and squash, adding a tablespoon butter. Add the taleggio and top with parsley.
For a variation: last week I had mushrooms that needed cooking so added them to the dish with a handful of toasted, chopped walnuts. Cook the mushrooms in a hot skillet filmed with oil, do not turn or toss, let them brown. This brings out their woodsy flavor. When the mushrooms have released from the pan, add some chopped garlic and toss. Lower the heat and let cook a bit longer until tender.
A favorite dish at Basta in Boulder was their roasted vegetable salad (no longer on the menu). I used the idea to make a warm salad with veggies I had in the fridge ─ brussel sprouts left over from Thanksgiving, butternut squash, golden beets, onions and red pepper. I peeled the squash and beets, cut them into similar sizes, sliced the sprouts 1/4 inch thick, cut the onion and pepper into chunks, tossed with plenty of olive oil , salt and pepper.
I roasted them at 400° for 20 minutes, turned, and cooked another 10 – 15 minutes until tender. In the last 10 minutes I added chunks of bread (large crouton size) tossed with oil and minced garlic to crisp up and provide another texture to the mix.
Squeeze a half a lemon over the veggies and serve warm or at room temperature. If I had had any, I might have tossed in some arugula to brighten the salad, but it is delicious as is.