Saturday, September 06, 2008

Summer-Fall Sautéed Butternut: for Athens Farmers Market

I was invited to do a cooking demonstration for the Athens Farmers Market today. (This update is scheduled for posting the hour I'm actually cooking there.) The newly established market is already becoming popular in Athens, allowing local producers, especially the organic farmers, to sell and show their produce and to help build sustainable local agriculture. For the cooking demonstrations they wish the chef-du-jour to focus on the produce sold at the market.

Since it is late summer, with fall vegetables starting to come in yet with mid-summer produce still available, I developed a recipe to capitalize on butternut squash, one of my autumn favorites, prepared with summer vegetables and herbs. Originally I pictured this as a topping for pasta, but then got more into the locavore spirit and came up with local stone-ground grits fixed in the manner of soft polenta (see Jalapeño-Wine-Cheese Grits, blog posting of 8/23/08).

The recipe will serve six hungry diners. The sautéed butternut should be served over seasoned grits, or olive oiled and lightly salted pasta, or polenta. With hearty vegetarian dishes like this one, I prefer medium-bodied, spicy red wines, such as Garnacha wines from Spain, Chianti, or Beaujolais.

Sautéed Butternut Tim

1 medium butternut squash, about 2 pounds
4 tablespoons olive oil
1 small onion, diced
1 small-medium green bell pepper, seeded and coarsely chopped
1 very large clove garlic, minced
1 small jalapeño, seeded and minced
2 large tomatoes, cored and coarsely chopped
3/4 teaspoon salt, plus more to taste
1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/2 cup white wine
6 medium-large fresh basil leaves, cut in half
2 tablespoons grated Romano or Parmesan cheese
A little more grated cheese, or minced parsley, for garnish

Peel the butternut, cut it across into 3/4-inch slices, scooping out the seed cavity when you get to that part. Cut the flesh into 3/4-inch chunks. Fry (sauté) these gently in a large pan with the olive oil, stirring frequently. Meanwhile prep the other vegetables as indicated, keeping the tomato separate.

When the butternut is just starting to become tender (test with a toothpick), add the onion, bell pepper, garlic, and jalapeño. Add the salt and pepper, and sauté the mixture, stirring frequently and scraping the bottom of the pan, until the bell pepper and onion become tender. Stir in the chopped tomatoes and sauté about 2 minutes, stirring carefully several times. Add the wine and sauté briefly until the vegetables are tender. The mixture should be slightly wet. If not, add a little water to moisten. Taste several bits of vegetable and stir in a little salt, if needed. Remove from the heat, and stir in the basil and grated cheese.

To Serve
Spread a portion of grits (or oiled and lightly salted pasta) on a plate. Spoon some of the butternut mixture over it. Sprinkle with either a little grated cheese or minced parsley.

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