Sunday, November 16, 2008
Linguine for the Fall Harvest
Well, Mother Nature sure has been hormonal for us in the north east this fall. We went straight to winter back in September, then segued to a lovely and mild Indian summer for a few weeks, then onto monsoon-type spring rains, back to freezing cold, and then a 'psyche! too bad you put your ac units up, suckaz!' return to warm weather, extending the mosquitos breeding season all the way into November.
But now, it's cold again (though I'm not going to say 'for good this time' as I have about 4 times incorrectly this season.)
And while many people ask how a Texan can adjust to a real winter every year, I tell them that winter gives me an excuse to do two of my favorite things - shop and cook. You see, with only window units to cool down our 1800's apartment building and its 20 foot ceilings, I don't often relish the thought firing up the oven in the summer and sweating like a chased pig before sitting down to dinner. But in the winter I can cook to my heart's content. (And of course, those sweaters and boots and jackets from the year before never seem to look quite as good as they did last year, which inevitably means braving the cold for a little shopping...)
Anyway, this pasta dish is both delicate and hearty. You get that earthy meatiness from sauteed portabellos while roasted butternut squash provides a sweet, nutty contrast. Fresh basil keeps the goat cheese from taking over while pine nuts round everything out with their serene, calming demeanor.
I know this is treason in some circles, but I actually find this pasta even better the next day. All of the elements seem to have gotten to know one another in the fridge and decided to be friends. A good glass of chianti makes them like each other even better...
One last thing - if they offer pre cut butternut squash in your grocery store, by all means - cheat!
Linguine with Butternut Squash, Portabello, and other Fruits of Fall
4-5 small shallots, finely diced
3 portabello mushrooms, tops wiped clean and cut into strips (slice all the way down in 1/4 inch slices, then give those slices a cut across the diagonal)
1/2 cup white wine
1 medium butternut squash, peeled, seeded and cut into small 1 inch chunks
1/4 cup goat cheese
1/4 toasted pine nuts
handful of fresh basil
1 lb fresh linguine
salt and pepper
Preheat your oven to 375.
Put butternut squash onto a large rimmed baking sheet, douse with olive oil, salt, pepper and a little pinch of red pepper flakes. Cook for 20 minutes, toss over with a spatula, then cook 20-25 more minutes until golden brown but not burnt.
Meanwhile, heat a large pot of water over high heat to get ready for the pasta.
Meanwhile, put a large saute pan over medium heat. Add a couple of tablespoons of olive oil, then the shallots, seasoning well with salt and pepper. Cook for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally, then add in portabellos (little more salt, little more pepper.) Also add more oil if pan is getting too dry. Cook, stirring occasionally, until portabellos begin to wilt and release their liquid - about 15 minutes. Once they've really wilted and become flacid, add in the white wine, bring to boil, and cook down for 2 minutes until the liquid has reduced by half. Lower heat, and simmer while you salt your pasta water and add your pasta - cooking just 6 minutes or until al dente (don't over cook fresh pasta or you'll be eating mush.)
At this point, gently toss in goat cheese, then your roasted butternut squash and basil. Check for salt, adding any if necessary and serve with toasted pine nuts sprinkled over.