Each year, I look forward to autumn, not because of the season change (I am a summer girl after all), but because of the flavors of the harvest and the colors of fall that brighten up a dish that says, "tis' the season." Most of all, my ideas for recipes really flourish, I get the bug to be inventive, and I love to share my creations. Our friends are my best guinea pigs and their priceless expressions, the greatest reward.
Today, we spent the morning at our school's country fair. Despite the unusually hot weather, I sat and ate many harvest treats as the autumn leaves blew off trees in droves. It was evident that fall was here, definitely a Hallmark moment. We headed home for a short break before venturing on to our next party, an annual Harvest-fest and fundraiser. An exciting event that features a pumpkin painting contest, a hay bale maze, apple cider press, apple bobbing, a boat towing tractor ride and more. That short break was when my creative juices began to flow.
In my refrigerator, I had a container of pre-cut butternut squash that was calling my name. I was trying to come up with something original that you don't often see, and what I came up with is "butternut squash bruschetta." Mmm mmm mmm. I could taste it already, and what I could taste in my mind, I created in a Le Cruset pot. When I cook, my first rule is I need to create a medley of flavors that compliment each other and represent the season or the occasion for which it's intended. Second, color. Visually stimulating, the balance of color in food should exist. By that I mean, add multiple colors from the harvest and fresh seasonings. I chose my palate by using orange butternut, squash, red craisins, green capers and black sesame seeds. The rest is in the flavor and the tricks to draw them out. This is where seasoning comes in to play; the aroma of the olive oil, the garlic, the cheese, the salt and the pepper.
4 1/2 tbsp olive oil (reserve a tablespoon for the final seasoning stage)
A small bowl of extra virgin olive oil for brushing on the Italian bread (as needed)
3 chopped garlic cloves
1 butternut squash chopped and finely diced
3 tbsp capers
2 oz. red craisins
2 tbsp black sesame seeds
1 cup grated parmesan cheese
1 cup freshly chopped parsley
1 tbsp salt
1 tbsp pepper
1 loaf Italian bread sliced on an angle (for extra crispy bread toasts, allow the loaf of bread to sit out and be exposed to the air for 12 hours.)
Slice your Italian bread on an angle approximately 1" thick. Then, brush both sides with extra virgin olive, using a pastry brush. Place it in a 350 degree preheated oven, on a lined baking sheet, bake until the center is golden and the edges are crispy and lightly toasted. Remove from oven and place on your decorative tray if it is being served hot. If serving cold, place it on a cooling rack.
Over medium/low heat, In a frying pan or large pot, coat the bottom with 3 1/2 tsp, regular olive oil.
Once the olive oil is hot, add 3 finely chopped garlic cloves to the pan. Once caramelized, move onto the next step (or you can boil your squash).
Next, add the finely cubed butternut squash and toss in the capers, craisins and black sesame seeds, tossing to avoid sticking. Use a wooden spoon or large ladle.
Add salt and pepper, grated parmesan cheese, fresh parsley and an additional tablespoon of olive oil.
Toss, cover and simmer. When the squash has become iridescent and soft enough to easily put a fork through it, (like a potato when mashing) remove from heat, carefully spoon onto each slice of toast and serve hot or cold.
This topping can also be used as a harvest pasta dish, and I recommend using gnocchi or orichetta pasta. delish!