Tuesday, November 1, 2011

It's Fall! Squash, Beans, Chard and Bacon with Cinnamon

Happy post-Hallowe'en! Does anybody spell it that way any more? "Een" at the end of "Hallow" without the apostrophe means nothing. Yes, I know that Hallowe'en is (in turn) a contraction of "All Hallows’ Evening"

Man, I sound like an old grump. Hang on - I have to yell at some kids to get off the lawn. Or, rather, my sister's lawn. I am spending the week surrounding Hallowe'en visiting family in and around Tacoma/Puyallup, WA.

Even though it was a school night, the All Hallows Evening weather was fine and there was a constant stream of kids for a good 2 1/2 hours. My nephew parked himself, and his video game equipment next to the front door. I've had to fight him for the last couple of years to hand out candy. He's just likely saving himself the embarrassment of having his aunt answer the door wearing a t-shirt of zombies riding Segways ("We've Upgradead!).

This dish was so good, I made it two nights in a row on request. It tastes great warmed up for breakfast, with an egg on top. There's quite a bit of cinnamon, but it balances with the bacon and beans in a way that it's just savory and aromatic and not at all sweet, even with the roasted and caramelized butternut squash.

This isn't an original recipe but I cannot remember where I saw it. If I can locate the source, I'll come back and update the post.
Everybody, okay everybody who likes squash (good - more for the squash lovers!), loved this dish.
You can easily substitute smoked paprika for the bacon, or just leave it out. The dish won't suffer.


The first night I just used butternut squash, The second night, I combined the extra butternut squash
from the previous night with a large sweet potato.
Sun - the natural frost defroster, in the backyard.

RECIPE: SQUASH, BEANS, CHARD and BACON with CINNAMON

Serves: 4-6 as a side
This dish can be modified to be vegan by omitting the bacon, and the rendered bacon fat.

Ingredients
  • 1/2 lb thick cut bacon cut crosswise into 1" lardons
  • 1 medium onion (red, yellow or white), medium dice
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 large pinch of red pepper flakes (optional)
  • 2 cups black beans, cooked, reserving 1/2 cup cooking water or 1 can (approximately 1 1/2 cups), drained.
  • 4 - 5 cups butternut squash (or other squash, or sweet potatoes), 1/3" dice (2 1/2 - 3 lbs)
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 - 2 tablespoons ground cinnamon
  • 4-6 cups of chard or kale, washed stemmed and cut into 1" pieces, loosely packed. If you're using chard, chop the stems (above the woody part) into small dice and use that as well.
  • kosher salt and fresh ground pepper
Preparation
Preheat the oven to 400F, rack 1 position below the middle. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper or foil.

Toss the diced butternut squash with 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Season with kosher salt, fresh ground pepper and the ground cinnamon. Toss so that the seasoning is evenly distributed.

Pour the seasoned squash dice onto the baking sheet and roast in the pre-heated oven for 30 minutes, stirring halfway through the cooking time. You want the squash dice to have some browned edges and be tender, but not overly squishy. When it is cooked, remove from the oven and set aside to cool while you're preparing the remainder of the dish.

Cook the bacon lardons until crispy in a large saute pan or a dutch oven (at least 3 quarts or larger). Remove to a paper towel-lined plate to drain. Reserve the leftover rendered bacon fat to cook the onions and garlic.Wipe any left over bacon bitlets out of the pan with a paper towel - you don't want them to burn while you're preparing the remainder of the dish.

In a large saute pan, heat it up for a 6 minutes on medium.  Add in 2 tablespoons of the reserved, rendered bacon fat making sure to pour off the top, leaving any solids behind. Add the onion, plus a pinch of salt and saute, adjusting the heat, until the onion dice is golden and some of the edges are golden brown. Add the garlic and saute until it is the color of straw.

Add the drained beans and about 1/4 cup of the cooking liquid, or 1/4 cup water and another pinch of salt and fresh ground pepper to taste. Go easy on the salt if your beans are canned and taste after a few minutes of cooking. Simmer the beans for 5-10 minutes on medium low.

Add the prepared chard to your pan and toss with tongs to combine it with the beans, onions and garlic. Do not cover the pan. Alternately, you can microwave the chard in a microwave-safe bowl for about 2-3 minutes and then add it to the pan and cook on medium for a few minutes. If the pan is too dry, add 1/4 cup of the reserved bean cooking water or plain water.

Add the roasted squash dice that you've set aside to the pan and use a large perforated spoon to combine all of the ingredients. Adjust the heat to medium low and heat. Right before serving, add-in the bacon and combine.

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