The winter squash and parsnips at our local markets have been so flavorful and juicy in the past few months. I've been using them a lot. I needed a strong tasting vegetable dish for testing a stock recipe a few weeks ago, so I naturally decided to use some parsnips I had on hand. I happened to have a butternut squash, too, so I put them together. The combination of spicy and sweet is heavenly, especially when the squash is richly caramelized. To take the edge off, while giving this brightly hued combination a luxurious feel, I stirred in some creme fraiche right before eating. A few grains of the nicest finishing salt I have was all it needed. Perfection in a bowl. Mmmmmmm. Enjoy!! —AntoniaJames
Cut the stem end off the squash and then cut it in half lengthwise. Don't worry about the seeds. Put the two pieces, cut side down, in a very lightly oiled shallow roasting pant. Nestle the sage leaves, if using, under one half of the squash and the bay leaves under the other. Put 3 - 4 tablespoons of water in the pan.
Using the end of a sharp knife, make five or six small cuts on the upper side of each piece. Put the squash in the oven immediately. (Don't worry if it's not entirely preheated.) Check every fifteen minutes while the squash is cooking, to make sure the liquid has not all evaporated. Add more if necessary. You want to create an herb- scented broth, as well as the caramelized juices released by the squash.
Peel the parsnip, then cut off the top and the inner tough core. To do this, cut the parsnip into quarters lengthwise and use a paring knife to cut away what will be triangular strips of core.
Cut the quarter parsnips into 2 or 3 pieces each, then put them on a lightly oiled baking sheet and into the oven.
Roast until tender, turning them once or twice. It shouldn't take more than half an hour, depending on the size of the pieces. Remove when done and put in the bowl of your food processor. Cover it with the top to keep the parsnips warm.
The squash may take longer (up to about 45 minutes, or longer, depending on your oven). Check it by sticking the tip of a sharp knife into the thickest part. It's best when it's very, very soft. If your squash is nice and fresh, expect there to be a lot of gooey run off from the squash.
When the squash is cooked, take it out and using a fork in one hand to stablize it (as it will be very hot, and the sugar in it can burn you, badly), remove the seeds with a sharp edged spoon.
Remove the roasted squash from the skin and put in the food processor with the parsnips. Add a tiny pinch of salt and the liquid from the roasting pan in which you cooked the squash. (Add a bit more water to the pan, if necessary, and scrape down any hardened juices, and add those, too). Discard the herbs. Process for about twenty seconds, scrape down the sides and process again. Repeat this as many times as you need to create the consistency you want. I actually prefer a bit of texture, so I don't create a true puree.
Remove from the food processor and stir in the creme fraiche. Add finishing salt to taste, and a few grinds of pepper, if you want..
Serve warm with extra creme fraiche for those who love it. This is also nice at room temperature.
Note: This puree is great in curried red lentils or masoor dal, and can easily be turned into soup simply by adding the nicest chicken or mild vegetable stock that you have, plus a bit of cream or milk. It's also delicious cold, with a few tablespoons of freshly squeezed orange juice per serving stirred in. The possibilities are endless!! ;o)
When I'm not working (negotiating transactions for internet companies), or outside enjoying the gorgeous surroundings here in the San Francisco Bay Area, I'm likely to be cooking, shopping for food, planning my next culinary experiment, or researching, voraciously, whatever interests me. In my kitchen, no matter what I am doing -- and I actually don't mind cleaning up -- I am deeply grateful for having the means to create, share with others and eat great food. Life is very good. ;o)