Butternut Squash Cannelloni

by rivka on January 19, 2009 · 2 comments

in main dishes, vegetarian

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First, let me just say that if you’re not in Washington right now, I’d be surprised. This city has officially been infiltrated: hundreds of thousands of tourists have descended upon the nation’s capital to witness this historic event, and boy does it feel crowded around here! The weekend was relatively quiet — I say relatively because Adams Morgan simply isn’t a quiet place, ever ever ever — but today the hordes arrived. Friends and I walked down to the Mall after lunch, and and apparently so did the rest of the country’s citizens! Boy was it crowded.

D was talking to her Bubbie the other day about inauguration festivities, and what was Bubbie’s one question? (Remember, this is in her adorable Czech accent) “All those people standing outside for the inauguration, where are they going to go to the bathroom?” Well, let me assure you, the sheer number of port-o-potties was massive. There’s plenty of room to pee.

Now, for today’s recipe:

Martha’s recipes have become an ever-increasing portion of my cooking repertoire. When Epicurious fails to inspire me and I’m too lazy to start leafing through cookbooks, marthastewart.com inevitably has a good suggestion, and usually, her recipes are accompanied by some mouth-watering photos. Granted, some of her recipes are way, way more fuss than they’re worth, and not all recipes actually turn out tasty, but I’ve been having mostly good luck.

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Because I often get accused of only posting my successes and never my failures, I’ve decided to post this recipe even though it was kind of a flop. These cannelloni were about a 3 out of 10 on the good luck scale: cannelloni themselves were tasty, if a bit bland; squash filling was smooth and pretty, and the chive wrapping was particularly elegant (and elicited some oohs and ahhs). The sauce was another story, though — it was altogether bizarre. I was really excited about it, but seriously, the color alone was enough to turn me off. Gray food is just not appetizing.

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I’ve provided the original recipe here (with my adaptations in parentheses), but I recommend doctoring it up even more. I don’t think the recipe is unsalvageable: an enterprising cook can certainly fiddle with the proportions, add some extra elements, and make it tasty. But as is, it’s pretty unspecial. One way to make these squash bundles tastier would be to serve them with hazelnut or almond brown butter and some grated pecorino or parmesan. If cream sauce is your thing, it’d be good with these, I suppose. Like I said, the sunchoke vinaigrette is weird — but I actually salvaged it by adding some honey and some of the cooking water from the squash, which I (very fortunately) stowed in the fridge.

One last note: I used egg pasta sheets, but the eggroll wrappers Martha recommends would also work.

Butternut Squash Cannelloni with Sunchoke Vinaigrette
adapted from Martha Stewart

Serves 4 as a main course, 8 as an appetizer
Vegetable oil, for baking sheet
1 butternut squash (about 1 1/4 pounds), halved lengthwise and seeded
Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper
4 ounces ricotta cheese
1 1/2 ounces creme fraiche
1 small bunch chives (preferably garlic chives)
8 spring-roll wrappers or egg pasta sheets
1 egg, lightly beaten (for egg wash)
1/4 cup canola oil
Jerusalem Artichoke Vinaigrette
Shelled edamame, cooked, for garnish (optional)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly oil a small baking sheet. Place squash on small baking sheet, and season with salt and pepper. Bake until tender when pierced with the tip of a knife, about 45 minutes. Remove from oven, and let cool. Scoop out flesh, discarding skin. Transfer flesh to a damp cheesecloth-lined sieve set over a bowl. Refrigerate overnight.
Place ricotta cheese in a second damp cheesecloth-lined sieve set over a bowl. Refrigerate overnight.
Transfer squash to a large bowl. Pour squash liquid into a small saucepan, and place over medium-high heat. Cook until reduced and slightly thickened, 5 to 10 minutes. Add to squash. Season with salt and pepper. In a small bowl, stir to combine drained ricotta and crème fraîche. Stir into the squash mixture.
Prepare an ice bath; set aside. Bring a small pot of water to a boil. Add chives, and blanch for 15 seconds. Transfer to ice bath to cool. Drain well; set aside.
Working with one wrapper at a time and keeping the others covered with plastic wrap; lay wrapper on work surface with a long side facing you. Spread scant 1/4 cup of the squash mixture along one long edge leaving a 3/4-inch border on either side. Roll up like a jelly roll to enclose filling, brushing edge with egg wash to seal. Tie each end closed with a chive. Repeat with remaining wrappers and filling.
Heat oil in a large skillet. Add cannelloni, and cook until heated through and evenly browned, about 1 1/2 minutes per side. (I didn’t do this: I just heated the cannelloni in a low oven in a big pyrex pan.)
Serve with Jerusalem artichoke vinaigrette, and garnish with shelled edamame, if desired.

Jerusalem Artichoke Vinaigrette
Makes about 1 1/2 cups
5 Jerusalem artichokes, washed and very thinly sliced
3 sprigs fresh tarragon, picked of leaves, stems reserved
1/3 cup sherry-wine vinegar
Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper
2 small shallots, minced
2/3 cup grapeseed oil (optional)
Directions

In a small saucepan, combine Jerusalem artichokes, tarragon stems, and half of the vinegar. Add enough water to cover by about 1/2 inch. Season with salt and pepper. Bring to a boil over high heat, reduce to a simmer, and cook until tender, about 25 minutes. Drain, and place in a blender. Add just enough of the cooking liquid to purée until very smooth. Add reserved tarragon leaves, remaining vinegar, and shallots. Pulse to combine. Add either grapeseed oil or a little of the cooking liquid depending on the desired consistency.

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