Hi, all! This is Sara's friend Erin, serving as your guest blogger for today. I had the honor of winning a giveaway (http://cupcakemuffin.blogspot.com/2009/09/apricot-preserves-and-giveaway.html) on this blog a couple months back, and received a copy of the book Frugal Foodie as a result - hooray! I asked Sara if she wanted me to write an entry about my first attempt from the cookbook, and she said yes, so here I am.
I recently got married and have been slowly working my way through a bunch of new cookbooks I received as gifts, and only just got around to trying Frugal Foodie. In a pathetic attempt to believe that it is still autumn here in Massachusetts despite the giant blizzard currently raging outside, I decided to give the recipe for Squash and Sage Sauce a go - butternut squash is one of my favorite fall foods, and I'm not quite ready to accept winter yet.
I like to stick pretty faithfully to a recipe the first time I make it, so I tried to prepare it as follows:
Squash and Sage Sauce
from Frugal Foodie, p. 87 (http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1573443638?ie=UTF8&tag=cupcmuff-20&linkCode=as2&camp=1789&creative=390957&creativeASIN=1573443638)
1 large butternut squash, peeled, seeded, and chopped into 1/2-inch cubes
8 tablespoons butter
40 fresh sage leaves, stemmed
2/3 cup vegetable broth
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
salt and pepper, to taste
freshly grated Parmesan cheese (optional)
1. Melt 2 tablespoons butter over medium-low heat in a large stockpot. Add the squash cubes and sauté until tender, about 8-10 minutes. Remove the squash from the pot with a slotted spoon and set aside.
2. Melt the remaining 6 tablespoons butter in the pot. Add the sage leaves and cook until the edges start to curl, watching closely that the butter doesn't burn. Remove the sage leaves and set them on a paper towel to drain.
3. Add the broth and cinnamon to the butter and stir to combine. Add the pasta and toss to coat. Season with salt and pepper. Serve with the sage leaves and Parmesan.
Even though I love butternut squash, I'd actually never tried to cook it myself before, so I decided to spend a few extra dollars and get the pre-peeled, pre-seeded, pre-chopped version from the grocery store. The recipe calls for the squash to be chopped into 1/2" cubes, but, being somewhat lazy and already having melted the butter in the pan before taking the squash out of the fridge to discover that the pre-cut version cubes are much bigger than this, I decided to just try a "rustic" variation on the recipe and leave the chunks large and irregular. Note to readers: do not attempt this. Although the end-result was delicious, it was nearly impossible to get the large chunks of squash to both cook through and sauté. I had figured that my large squash cubes would take somewhat longer than the 8-10 minutes allotted for cooking in the recipe, but it ended up taking half an hour to cook them until they were not rock hard. In the end, I resorted to adding a couple tablespoons of water to the pan and covering it to steam the squash, which was extremely effective, but I have a good feeling that the recipe would have been even better had I been able to get a nice caramelization on the squash instead of merely getting them soft.
The recipe did not specify how much pasta to use for this quantity of sauce, so I simply used what I had on-hand - about half a box of whole-grain rotini. This seemed to work well, although I think the sauce could easily have supported a larger portion of pasta if you wanted to stretch the number of servings.
If I were to make this recipe again (and I think I will), I would change the way that the sage is integrated. Although I loved the flavor, my husband and I agreed that the texture was somewhat overwhelming and distracted from the rest of the dish. I think that next time I will either leave the sage in the butter/broth/cinnamon mixture for several minutes to let it infuse its flavor before removing it completely, or dicing it up into smaller bits after cooking. I may also experiment with folding spinach leaves into the pasta at the end - I did enjoy the color the sage leaves added to the dish, and I think spinach would add that element back into the dish if I were to remove the sage.
Overall, both my husband and I were pleased with this dish. It was hearty, warm, and had just the fall flavors I was looking for. I suspect it held up well for left-overs: although there were about 2 servings that I put into the refrigerator, both had been eaten by my husband by the time I went looking for them for my lunch today!
Many thanks to Sara and to Publishers Group West for this cookbook - I look forward to trying more recipes from it in the near future.