Making a healthy vegetarian entrée look like a gourmet dish isn’t the result of elaborate and technical procedures. Rather, it’s the product of quality ingredients, simple but appealing food combinations, and inviting contrasts in colour and texture, all assembled with care, attention, creativity and a love for food. Of course, a fancy menu-style name might impress your guests as well!
This lovely meal, for example, is no less elegant and delicious for all its true simplicity and ease. Tender roasted golden orange butternut squash is mixed with a baked casserole of creamy cannellini beans, delicate artichokes, sweet cherry tomatoes and fresh herbs, and served with a fresh crunchy and slightly tart fennel and parsley salad for a meal that is stunning for its visual appeal, wonderful taste and wholesome nourishment ? all with no more than twenty minutes of preparation, apart from the roasting time, and only a little attention and care during the cooking.
As is so often the case when I cook with squash, this meal was inspired by the fact that I could no longer stand looking at the uncooked squash that I picked up on a whim a little while ago and that just sat forlornly in my pantry ever since. I adapted the recipe itself from one given by a self-described “Dog Shaman” in South Africa who otherwise advocates a vegan diet for dogs. I don’t endorse canine veganism myself (and I know my cat would strongly disapprove of a feline equivalent), but I’m quite happy to try his human food.
Roasted Butternut Squash and Herbed Cannellini and Artichokes with Fennel and Parsley Salad
1 fennel bulb, cored, trimmed and sliced
1 large cup fresh Italian parsley leaves
1/4 cup olive oil
juice of 1 lemon
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
fresh ground black pepper to taste
Squash and Cannellini
1/2 cup dried cannellini (white kidney) beans
1 butternut squash, halved, seeded and scored into bite-sized pieces
leaves from 1 sprig of fresh rosemary, or 1/4 teaspoon dried
leaves from 1 sprig of fresh thyme, or 1/4 teaspoon dried
fresh ground black pepper
5 or 6 large oil-marinated artichokes, coarsely chopped
1 cup cherry or grape tomatoes, halved
1/2 cup dry white wine
small handful of torn fresh basil leaves, or 1/4 teaspoon dried
1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
fresh ground black pepper
fresh grated Parmesan cheese (optional)
Rinse the beans and soak overnight covered in several inches of cold water with a little yogurt whey or lemon juice added. Drain and add to a medium saucepan. Cover with fresh cold water or vegetable stock, and bring to a boil. Immediately reduce the heat to low, cover, and let simmer for 1 to 1 1/2 hours or until the beans are soft. Drain and mash gently with a potato masher. Set aside.
Prepare the salad in advance to allow the lemon juice and olive oil to mellow the strong flavour of the fennel. Combine all the salad ingredients in a bowl and toss gently. Set aside at room temperature, tossing again occasionally.
Pre-heat an oven to 400°. Prepare the squash by cutting in half lengthwise, scraping out the seeds, and scoring deep crosses at bite-sized (about 1-inch) intervals into the flesh. Place the halves on a baking sheet open side up and drizzle the squash with olive oil, a few sprinkles of water, rosemary, thyme and fresh ground black pepper. Place in the oven and roast for 40-50 minutes or until the squash is tender and browned.
Meanwhile, combine the beans, artichokes, tomatoes, wine, basil, oregano, salt and pepper in a small oven-safe casserole dish. Drizzle with olive oil. After the squash has been roasting for 10-15 minutes, place the casserole dish uncovered in the oven beside the squash and bake for 20-30 minutes or until the liquid has evaporated and the beans are still moist but not dry. Remove from oven and set aside until the squash is finished.
Remove the cooked squash from the shell and stir into the bean mixture. If using, scatter the fresh grated Parmesan cheese on top and place the casserole dish under the broiler for a minute or two to melt the cheese.
Toss the fennel and parsley salad one more time and serve with the squash, cannellini and artichoke mixture. For an added special touch, reserve the squash shells and scoop the squash, cannellini and artichoke mixture into the shells for serving.
Serves 4 – 6.
Other squash recipes from Lisa’s Kitchen you may enjoy from Lisa’s Vegetarian Kitchen:
Eggs on Sunday’s Roasted Delicata Squash Stuffed with White Beans and Wilted Spinach with Basil
Caribbean-Style Black Bean & Delicata Squash
Butternut Squash Sambar
Red Bean and Squash Soup
On the top of the reading stack: Victoria by Knut Hamsun
Audio Accompaniment: Arvo Part