In Chicago, Autumn is unofficially the second shortest season after Spring. The topic of weather here is always a source of small talk. I’ve met many people who have lived in this city all their life and still never seem ready for that gust of tear stinging wind that slaps them hard in the face when turning a towering corner. And then there are those who appreciate bundling over the layers of pants and gloves just to go to the corner store. It is a mixed breed out here but nevertheless we all cope with the creeping freeze. Luckily, there is still a whole month to anticipate the first effects of Chicago’s drunk Uncle Winter (nicknamed Boof…or Norm, or something).
This week, I set the table with the season in a Baked Cider Butternut Squash dish with fluffy Israeli Cous Cous, Mixed Baby Greens, and a Caramelized Mix of Onion and Zucchini reduced in a pumpkin beer that can apparently cook well with others, too! All of this is united with a sprinkling of crumbled, creamy goat cheese or for the lactose-sensitive crowd, a delicious Parmessan will do.
I tried this dish as a scavenger meal (scavenging for the random amounts of produce and items which have been staring at me from through the refrigerator door). Like most meals, dependent upon what you like and already have in your cupboards, this meal can be tailored to your taste and still achieve the flavor of feeling wrapped up in fall.
Baked Cider Butternut Squash
Yields 4 Servings
- 1 Medium-Large Butternut Squash, peeled and cut into 1/4″ cubes
- 1 Cup Apple Cider
- 2 Tablespoons Unsalted Butter, cut into 1/4″ cubes
- 3 Tablespoons White Sesame Seed
- Salt and Pepper to taste
- Fresh Lemon Juice to taste
Set your oven rack on the middle frame and pre-heat oven to 375°F
- In a large Skillet or Sauté Pan set to medium-high heat, combine: Butternut Squash, Apple Cider, Butter, and Sesame Seed. Stir and cook until butter melts and the cider is boiling.
- Once ready, add salt and pepper to taste before placing in the oven. Allow to bake for 15-18 minutes. Check for tenderness (able to pierce easily with a fork) before removing from oven.
- Set pan on medium heat and stir occasionally until liquid evaporates, about 8-10 minutes.
- Add a hint of fresh squeezed lemon juice to balance flavor
Caramelized Onion and Zucchini Reduced in a Pumpkin Beer Glaze
- 2 Tablespoons Unsalted Butter
- 1 Large Red Onion, peeled and sliced thin
- Salt and Pepper to taste
- 1 Medium-Large Green Zucchini, diced into 1/4″ cubes or triangle cuts
- 1 Shot or 1.5 ounces of your favorite brown wheat ale or Pumpkin beer
- 1 Cup Dried Israeli Cous Cous (or other grain such as brown rice, quinoa, corn) prepared using package cooking instructions
- 2 Cups Mixed Baby Greens (Arugula, Spinach, or Kale)
- Crumbled Goat Cheese (or preferred cheese) for garnish
- Honey Toasted Pumpkin Seeds for garnish
- In a large skillet allow butter to melt on medium-high heat stove top. Add onions a handful at a time (allow each handful to shrink and cook a little).
- Reduce heat to medium-low, occasionally stirring onions until a brown residue forms on the pan, about 15-20 minutes (don’t worry, the de-glaze method will bring most of that flavor back into the dish)
- Once the onions are soft but not mushy and have a deep brown color but not burnt, about 15-20 minutes. Add the salt, pepper, and zucchini and sauté until a brown edge forms on the zucchini, about 3-5 minutes
- Add the preferred shot of beer (dry wine, or water) to the pan and allow to cook until evaporated and a brown glaze forms. Stir to incorporate the bits of brown from the pan which will turn the vegetables a deeper caramel/purple color
- Season to taste before serving. Top plate with cheese garnish, toasted pumpkin seeds, and handful of mixed baby greens