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The Sailaway Gourmet

Fall has arrived with all its beautiful colors. For me it’s the time to enjoy the cooler weather and go bicycling on the rail trails that are all over the Northeast. A nice time to just walk around your neighborhood and local parks too.
For cooking, we can finally use the oven without sweltering to death. Of course, if you have AC, this wasn’t a problem in the humidity we’ve been subjected to this year. I’ve given many recipes for the always popular pumpkin and last October we talked about Winter Squash Soup, Squash Gratin and a Spaghetti Squash Primavera that are all delicious. But there are thousands more recipes to enjoy. I’m zeroing in on Butternut squash this month as it is my favorite and it’s so versatile.
As a reminder for buying squash of any kind, make sure that it is unblemished if you if don’t plan to use it immediately. Dings will get squishy and go bad, affecting any vegetables they are stored with.
The first recipe is for using it as a side. I love having pureed or mashed butternut squash in place of white potatoes, especially with pork or ham (on the rare occasions I eat meat). If you sweeten the puree (or mash) up a bit, you could serve it with your turkey during the holidays instead of sliced sweet potatoes. The second recipe is my favorite Butternut Lasagna that is to die for. Rather long and involved but worth the effort…And we have time now that are boats are under wrap.

Mashed Sweet Potatoes and Butternut Squash
2 medium sweet potatoes
1 medium butternut squash, halved lengthwise and seeded
1/4 tsp. salt & 1/8 tsp. freshly ground pepper
1/2 tsp. each of cinnamon, nutmeg and ginger
1 Tb. of lemon juice
2 Tb. of brown sugar

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Place the sweet potatoes on a cookie sheet. Place the butternut squash halves cut side down, on another cookie sheet – or both on the same if the pan is large enough. Cook until both are soft. The potatoes will finish in about 30 minutes, while the squash could take 45, so check on them after the first 30 minutes. When done, remove from the oven and cool slightly. Don’t turn the oven off.
Scoop the flesh from the squash and sweet potatoes. Mash together with the remaining ingredients. Place in a baking dish, cover and bake for 30 minutes. Serves 10-12.

Note: You can prepare the mash a few days ahead and store in the fridge. Bake when ready.

Butternut Squash Lasagna
with Goat Cheese, Sage, & Breadcrumbs
(from Fine Cooking Magazine)
1 large butternut squash (about 3 lb.), halved lengthwise and seeded
2 medium cloves garlic, unpeeled
2 sprigs fresh thyme plus 2 tsp. chopped leaves
2 tsp. extra-virgin olive oil
Kosher salt & freshly ground black pepper
5 Tbs. unsalted butter
2 sprigs fresh sage plus 1 tsp. chopped leaves
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
3 cups whole milk
1-1/4 cups crumbled fresh goat cheese (4 oz.)
1 cup finely grated Pecorino Romano (2 oz.)
1/4 tsp. freshly grated nutmeg
1/4 cup coarse dry breadcrumbs or panko
1 lb. of Lasagna (Homemade or cheat with a box)

Position a rack in the center of the oven and heat the oven to 425°F.
Put the squash cut side up on a large, heavy-duty rimmed baking sheet. Put 1 garlic clove and 1 sprig of thyme in each cavity. Drizzle each half with 1 tsp. of the oil and then season each with 1/4 tsp. salt and a few grinds of pepper. Roast until the squash is browned in spots and very tender when pierced with a skewer, 45 to 50 minutes. Remove from the oven and let cool completely, then discard the thyme sprigs. Peel the garlic and put in a large bowl. Scoop the squash flesh from the skins and add it to the garlic. Mash with a fork until smooth. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
While the squash is baking, cook the noodles, then drain and set aside covered in cold water.
Melt 4 Tbs. of the butter in a 3-quart saucepan over medium heat. Add the sage sprigs and cook until the butter is fragrant, 2 to 3 minutes. Discard the sage. Add the flour and whisk until smooth and golden, about 2 minutes. Gradually whisk in the milk and cook, whisking occasionally, until thickened enough to coat the back of a spoon, about 15 minutes. Stir in the goat cheese, 1/2 cup of the pecorino, the nutmeg, 1 tsp. salt, and a few grinds of pepper. Season to taste with more salt and pepper. Set aside 1-1/2 cups of the sauce and mix the rest with the mashed squash.
Melt the remaining 1 Tbs. butter in a small skillet over medium heat. In a small bowl, mix the breadcrumbs, chopped sage, chopped thyme, a pinch of salt, and few grinds of pepper. Add the melted butter and mix well.
Spread 1/2 cup of the reserved cheese sauce over the bottom of a 9x13x3-inch baking dish. Cover the sauce with a slightly overlapping layer of cooked noodles, cutting them as needed to fill any gaps. Spread 1 cup of the squash mixture evenly over the noodles. Add another layer of noodles and repeat the layers as instructed above, to make a total of 4 squash layers and 5 pasta layers. Spread the remaining 1 cup cheese sauce evenly over the top. Sprinkle with the breadcrumb mixture and the remaining 1/2 cup pecorino. Reduce the oven temperature to 350°F.
Cover the baking dish with foil and bake for 40 minutes. Remove the foil and bake until the top is browned and bubbly, 15 to 20 minutes. Cool for at least 10 minutes before serving. Serves 6-8.