pepper squash and sage (WHB 2nd anniv: sage/squash)

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recipe: Pepper Squash (or any winter squash) and Sage Lasagne made with walnuts, cheese, onions and garnished with parsley

squash and sage lasagne After rereading Kalyn’s stringent rules for WHB 2nd anniversary posts (not really, it turns out), I realized this past Friday’s post featuring Dried Mushroom, Ham, Onion, 2 Cheeses Quiche didn’t quite cut it.
 
So I have prepared a second post. And how fitting. Kalyn did say that this year
“things are happening in two’s for the WHB 2nd anniversary”. :whoohoo:
THIS is my post for

Weekend Herb Blogging (WHB) 2nd anniv

featured vegetable: pepper squash (aka acorn) – winter squash
featured herb: sage

(click on images for larger views and more photos)

squash and sage THIS time I am featuring at least one vegetable and one herb in the recipe. And THIS time, I am featuring the vegetable that I thought was going to be everyone’s favourite: winter squash. As it happens, (here comes that “happening in two’s” again!) my favourite vegetable, the onion, is also featured.

Onions are a staple in our house. I can’t think of any time that we haven’t had onions on hand. Just about every dinner has onions in at least one dish. Yes indeed, onions are the best. In retrospect, I’m wondering if I should have predicted onions as WHB’s favourite vegetable.

But when Kalyn first announced the second anniversary theme for WHB, I really thought the favourite vegetable would be winter squash. Maybe because here in Toronto, this is the time of year for winter squashes. There are baskets and shelves filled with winter squashes at every vegetable store. The great thing about winter squash is that as long as the shell is not broken, it keeps for quite a while if it is stored in a cool dry place.

It may come as a surprise to my parents who struggled to get me to eat just a teaspoon of squash whenever it was served that I absolutely adore winter squash!

My favourite way to eat squash is baked. Just cut it in half, remove the seeds and bake it til it’s tender. It doesn’t require any adornment except perhaps a bit of salt and pepper. And maybe a bit of butter or olive oil in the cavity. If the squash is not quite sweet enough, then adding a bit of brown sugar and nutmeg rescues it back to being almost (but not quite) as fabulous as a perfect squash.

I also love squash filled ravioli. And one day in September, just as the squashes were starting to appear in the vegetable stores, I read Tara’s (Should You Eat That?) post about Pumpkin, Sage & Ricotta Lasagne. What a great idea to use squash in lasagne!! Much easier that stuffing ravioli!

squash and sage lasagne Being the kind of people we are, we consulted several lasagne recipes calling for squash. We decided we would use walnuts rather than pinenuts (Tara replaced the walnuts with pinenuts in the recipe she used), and bechamel and “Ilha Branca” (a Portuguese cheese we have in the fridge) instead of ricotta.

And sage. Of course we’d use sage. We have a fair amount of sage in the garden this year (whoohoo!) and knew it would be perfect in lasagne with squash and walnuts. And of course, onions. And to stay on Kalyn’s everything “happening in two’s” theme, we’d garnish the lasagne with parsley.

Here is what T did:

Pepper Squash and Sage Lasagne
with walnuts, cheese, onions and garnished with parsley

corrected 5 Nov 2007 (corrections marked with **)

  • fresh pasta, cut in sheets for lasagne
  • 1 pepper squash (or any winter squash)
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • nutmeg
  • olive oil
  • ham, optional
  • onion
  • chilli flakes, optional **
  • walnuts
  • bechamel sauce
  • splash of chicken stock **
  • parmesan cheese, shaved
  • Ilha Branca cheese, coarsely grated (hard relatively sharp cow’s milk cheese)
  • fresh sage leaves
  • parsley, to garnish

preparation

  1. Mix fresh pasta, dough. Roll into a tight ball and set aside. When you are about to put the squash in the oven (or just after), roll out the pasta and cut it into sheets. Set aside. (Of course, you can also use ready-made fresh noodles.)
  2. Cut the squash in half. Remove the seeds. Sprinkle nutmeg, salt and pepper (and a little butter or olive oil if you want) into the cavity and bake skin side down in a 375F oven til fork tender (about 30 minutes). Scoop the insides into a bowl and discard the skin. Set aside.
  3. While the squash is baking, saute ham, onions, (chilli flakes, if using **) and walnuts in olive oil until the onions are soft. Remove from heat and set aside.
  4. Prepare the bechamel sauce. (about ¼ c olive oil, 3 Tbsp flour, 1 cup milk, salt and pepper)
  5. Coarsely chop the sage leaves. Mash the squash and add half the sage leaves ** and the onion/walnut mixture.
  6. Put a thin layer of bechamel chicken stock ** in the bottom of a rectangular casserole and place the first layer of lasagne on top.
  7. Spread some of the squash mixture over the lasagne. Sprinkle with a little parmesan and put another layer of lasagne over top.
  8. Cover the layer with bechamel and the onion mixture. Sprinkle Ilha Branca (or another hard cheese) and place a layer of lasagne on top. Keep repeating the layers until you’ve used up all the onion mixture and almost all the bechamel and cheese. Make sure you have some bechamel and cheese left!!
  9. Put bechamel on the top layer of lasagne. Sprinkle the rest of the cheese and scatter the rest of the sage leaves over top. If the top seems dry, add a little cream.
  10. Bake the lasagne at 350 for about 40 minutes til bubbly and golden brown.
  11. Remove from oven and allow to rest for about 10 minutes before serving.
  12. Garnish each serving with fresh parsley.

A word of caution: if you are in the habit of adding sugar to an inferior squash, guard against adding too much. The onions will add a fair amount of sweetness.

edit 15 October 2007:
N.B. We do NOT preboil the noodles first. The fresh pasta is quite delicate and will just end up being mushy if it is parboiled and baked as well. To ensure that the pasta gets cooked, we just make sure that there is a thin layer of liquid below the first layer of noodles and a thin layer of liquid on top of the final layer of noodles.

edit 5 November 2007: We’ve now made the lasagne using both butternut squash. The dish was equally good, if not better. I suspect that any winter squash would work. **

I loved the lasagne!

Next time, we will leave out the ham. It’s just not necessary. And instead of putting a thin layer of bechamel under the first lasagna layer, we’ll use a bit of stock. We will also put some sage in the inside layers as well as toasting some walnuts and garnishing each slice with some toasted walnuts.

This is definitely a keeper! Thank you, Tara, for giving us the idea.

About Pepper Squash (Cucurbita pepo var. pepo)

Pepper, aka acorn squash (I just googled to double-check the name. Ha! I always thought it was always called a “pepper squash” and had a devil of a time finding it… it appears that “acorn” is the standard name) is the type of winter squash we usually choose. Even though I have no idea how to tell if the squash is going to be the best one. Do I choose the heavier one?? Do I choose the one with a bit of orange on the shell? One with no orange? A smaller one? A larger one?? Luckily for me, even when a squash isn’t absolutely perfect, it’s great. But when it is perfect and has ripened properly, it’s wonderful! The inside is dark gold and firm (but not too firm), tasting nutty and sweet (but not too sweet).

When checking the name of the squash on The Cook’s Thesaurus, I saw the following handy note that I MUST remember:

Select acorn squash with as much green on the rind as possible

Ah, isn’t the internet wonderful? Here is what Pete’s Frootique produce guide says about squash:

When buying winter squash, choose one that is hard and feels heavy for its size. […] Acorn squash are […] also known as pepper squash, their smooth thin skin varies in colour from deep green to white to orange, and sometimes a combination of all three.


About Sage (Salvia officinalis)

I used to use sage only in dressing for chicken. I thought it too strong for most other things. But relatively recently, we discovered the wonders of fresh sage fried in olive oil and tossed into pasta. The wild strong flavour is completely tamed by cooking and becomes sweet and just a little spicy. Add some oven roasted sweet potato and the dish becomes (if it’s possible) even more sublime.

Sage is also fantastic as a topping for focaccia. Place several whole sage leaves and thinly sliced onions on top of focaccia dough. Drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle with coarse sea salt and bake til golden. The onions get caramelized and if there isn’t enough sage, it almost, but not quite, gets lost.

I now like sage so much that I was hard-pressed to choose basil over sage when Kalyn asked us our favourites this year. (And yes, yes, I know. Last year, I said that tarragon was my favourite herb. And it still is. But so is basil. Really. I can’t be expected to actually choose. :stomp:)

Sage thrives on neglect. It is a hardy perennial that loves sun and lean soil. No wonder it grows wild in many parts of the world. It will grow in semi-shade as well but prefers full sun. The only thing it doesn’t seem to like is too much water and freeze/thaw/freeze in the winter. It will grow indoors in a pot but the flavour is markedly faded. Like most plants, sage needs require actual sun to develop completely.

Please read more about sage and winter squash:

Weekend Herb Blogging (WHB) 2nd anniversary
doubly delicious

my favourite vegetable and herb: onion and basil
my predicted favourites: winter squash and basil

weekend herb blogging - © kalyns kitchen This is the second anniversary of Kalyn’s (Kalyn’s Kitchen) popular Weekend Herb Blogging event! In celebration, to double the fun, Kalyn asked us vote for our favourite herb and our favourite vegetable as well as to post a recipe featuring vegetable(s) and herb(s) with information on at least one of the two. Here is what she wrote:

Vote For Your Favorite Vegetable and Favorite Herb of 2007
[P]articipate in the official WHB Vote For Your Favorites poll […] even if you’re also submitting an entry, because remember, everything is happening in twos! You may even vote for different herbs and vegetables than you use in your recipe if you’d like.

Enter a Great Recipe Featuring Vegetables and Herbs
[…] [S]end a recipe featuring at least one vegetable and one herb, then include some information about at least one of the ingredients you’ve chosen. Recipes with more than one vegetable and more than one herb are also great. Extra servings to anyone who finds a really unusual combination or unusual herbs or vegetables to write about. (Your recipe does not have to have the same herb and vegetable you vote for as your favorite.) […]

The timespan for entries for WHB 2nd Anniversary is Monday morning, 8 October until 15:00 on Sunday, 14 October 2007 Utah time (GMT -6). For more details on how to participate in Weekend Herb Blogging, please see the following:

edit 15 October 2007:
Whoohoo! Kalyn has posted the recap for the 2nd anniversary of WHB. Take a look:

 

This entry was posted in anniversaries, crossblogging, food & drink, main course, posts with recipes, WHB on by .

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  • I do wish I lived next door so I could come to your house for dinner on a regular basis. You love all the foods I also adore. I love winter squash, although I usually pick butternut. (I’m going to try acorn soon; I’ve seen a few good recipes for it recently, and I didn’t know it was called pepper squash!) And I just LOVE sage! I think you have picked the winner with basil, but I’m afraid winter squash is far behind! Thanks for the extra efforts. (And I have done some creative interpretations of what’s a vegetable, so we don’t have to have a “delinquents” category!

  • ejm

    I’ve heard rave reviews of butternut but I’ve not had very good luck with them when I’ve tried them. They’ve always been a bit dull and watery. (This is not to say that some of the pepper squashes haven’t been less than satisfactory…) I’ve also heard that hubbard squashes are supposed to be particularly good. But they’re usually huge. And wouldn’t I be upset if it was one of the watery ones?

    We’d love to have you dine with us, Kalyn! Drop in any time.

    As for the name, I’m beginning to think that I’m the only one who thinks it’s a pepper squash. :lalala: While I was working on the post, I asked T this morning what he called it and he said, “Acorn, isn’t it?”

  • MrsBrown

    I adore winter squash. I’m not the biggest fan of acorn squash (which I’ve NEVER heard referred to as “pepper squash”) but it’s okay if I can’t get delicata or my absolute favourites Heart of Gold or Sweet Dumpling. I can only get the last two at the Farmers’ Market.

    A couple of weeks ago, I made roasted vegetable soup–roast up as many vegetables cut into cubes as you have on hand, puree them and add stock to thin the vegetables to your taste. I added a little white wine at the end. It had a rather vile colour but the flavour was magnificent. I used beets, butternut squash, red peppers, onions, garlic, broccoli, carrots, mushrooms. As I pulled the roasted vegetables out of the oven, I ate pieces to make sure they were done. I was hard pressed not to eat ALL the butternut squash cubes and ALL the mushroom pieces. Now that I read about sage leaves, I wonder if a little sage in the soup might be in order. I have a plethora of sage in the garden…I ALWAYS have a plethora of sage in the garden.

    I can’t wait to make the squash and sage lasagne. What, no garlic?

  • ejm

    That’s right, no garlic in the lasagne. It’s a bit surprising for us not to add garlic but it was a conscious decision. Maybe next time when we DON’T add ham, we’ll add a little garlic.

    I’m not sure if I’ve ever seen delicata or sweet dumpling squashes before but I’ll look for them MrsBrown. Thanks for the tip. (Here are a photos and descriptions of delicata and sweet dumpling squashes, courtesy of “The Cook’s Thesaurus”.)

    The Cook’s Thesaurus does not have “heart of gold” but further googling reveals that it is a form of acorn squash. This is what it says at recipetips.com

    An early winter squash that combines a sweet dumpling with an acorn squash to produce a small acorn shaped vegetable.

    (There is a photo of heart of gold squash there too – another squash that I’m not sure I’ve seen before but will look for.)

    How do you know what squash to choose, MrsBrown, to ensure that you are getting a good squash rather than a dull and tasteless one?

    By the way, the soup sounds fantastic!

  • This looks a wonderfully flavourful and comforting dish for these cooler fall evenings. So glad you entered WHB so that I could find this recipe. Thanks!!

  • ejm

    It is indeed the perfect comfort food for cooler days, Valli. I’m glad you think so too. Do let me know how it turns out and any recommended changes to the recipe if you make it.

  • David

    This looks good.

    Do you think I could use Jarrahdale Pumpkin instead of Squash?

  • ejm

    I would think so, David. I think any winter squash would do. Butternut squash works fabulously as well.

    I had to google to find out what a Jarrahdale squash was… excerpt from localharvest.org

    Jarrahdale’s tasty flesh is thick, sweet and rich golden-yellow to orange in color. […] This Australian squash is like a cross between Blue Hubbard and the Cinderella pumpkin.

    Definitely! It looks ideal for the lasagne! (I wonder if we can find such a squash here in Canada. It sounds like it’s delicious.)

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