Foodwise, fall is my dream come true. First come the apples, and we’ve been through my apple addiction. They give us good excuses to make things like salted caramel cholliesauce and Joni Mitchell Apple Pie. Then comes Halloween season (it’s really not just a day you know) and all those excuses to make things like Crackle and Salty Malty Rice Krispy Treats with whatever Whoppers you didn’t polish off. And of course you’ve got the crock pot bubbling in the background with goodness like no-fuss chicken taco chili. Honestly though, what I love most are the fall veggies—the squash, brussels sprouts, beets and various roots all begging for their turn to get roasted in the oven.
In my fall food frenzy I’ve gone a little nutty on the winter squash, and now I find I’ll have to pace myself because I have so many orange recipes to post. I’m starting with an appetizer, because it is the one that surprised me the most with its popularity and because party season is upon us!
Here, courtesy of Jean Georges Vongerichten via NYT Minimalist Mark Bittman is the elegantly named “Squash on Toast.” I knew I’d like it well enough, because you know, the weirder the better. And onions caramelized into jam with maple syrup and apple cider vinegar? Come on! The mainstream was just as smitten. The first time I made these I brought them to a party and they were devoured. Crazy good.
Here we go with my disclosures. I used a kabocha squash, hollowed, filled with water and cooked whole in the oven. For cheese I used a spreadable brie because that’s what I had. Whipped cream cheese is also excellent. I adhered to directions and included the fresh mint which got high praise from all, so play by the rules here. For the bread I brushed thin slices of Easiest French Bread Ever with olive oil and toasted them in the oven. Make a lot of toasts so you don’t have to be mean and hide them from your family before party time.
Ok, squash on!
1 2 1/2- to 3-pound kabocha or butternut squash, peeled, seeded and cut into pieces 1/8- to 1/4-inch thick
3/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 tsp dried chile flakes, more to taste
3 tsp kosher salt
1 yellow onion, peeled and thinly sliced
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
1/4 cup maple syrup (or agave)
4 slices country bread, 1-inch thick
1/2 cup ricotta, goat cheese, feta or mascarpone
4 Tbsp chopped mint
1. Heat the oven to 450. Combine the squash, 1/4 cup olive oil, chile flakes and 2 teaspoons of salt in a bowl and toss well. Transfer the mixture to a parchment-lined baking sheet and cook, stirring every few minutes, until tender and slightly colored, about 15 minutes or a little longer. Remove from the oven.
2. Meanwhile, heat another 1/4 cup olive oil over medium-high heat, add the onions and remaining teaspoon salt and cook, stirring frequently, until the onions are well softened and darkening, at least 15 minutes. Add the vinegar and syrup, stir and reduce until syrupy and broken down, again at least 15 minutes or so; the mixture should be jammy.
3. Combine squash and onions in a bowl and smash with a fork until combined. Taste for seasoning.
4. Add the remaining oil to a skillet over medium-high heat. Working in batches if necessary, add bread and cook until just golden on both sides, less than 10 minutes total; drain on paper towels. Spread cheese on toasts, then top with the squash-onion mixture. Sprinkle with coarse salt and garnish with mint.
Deconstructed is the only way to transport, and remember to bring the right sized platter and a spreading knife. When you get to your destination have a fine little chat while assembling the toasts (and try to keep up with production as they are eaten off the platter).