Butternut Squash Steak with Spicy Pepitas Pesto

Squash are reigning supreme at my local market, and one of my very favorites is the smooooth, sweet, easy on the taste-buds butternut squash.

Butternut squash

I found a big, blocky hulk of a butternut squash at my market, and decided it deserved to be treated right.  Butternut squash flesh is firm, velvety, and subtly sweet.  I paired the grilled squash steak with a rich, spicy, flavor-blasted pesto made from pepitas, chipotle, and tequila. Enjoy!

Butternut Squash Steak with Spicy Pepitas Pesto

one large, blocky butternut squash
3/4 cup raw pepitas, lightly toasted
2/3 cup olive oil, plus 2 TB for squash
3/4 cup fresh cilantro, packed
1/2 cup freshly grated parmesan or romano cheese
Garlic – four cloves, crushed
Chipotle pepper powder – 1/2 to 1 tsp, to taste
3/4 tsp. sea salt
juice of 2 limes
3 TB tequila (water or stock may be substituted)

For the pesto: Combine all ingredients except the squash in a food processor and process until a paste forms.  Taste and adjust seasoning — adding more salt, lime juice or chipotle powder if desired.

For the squash:  Cut off the stem and peel the squash.  Butternut squash has smooth, pale skin.  Using a vegetable peeler, make sure you get down to the vivid orange flesh of the squash.  You will likely have to do two swipes with the peeler in the same area to reveal the vivid orange flesh.  Then split the squash vertically, and scoop out the seeds in the round hollow portion of the squash.

Butternut squash steaks, just before grilling

Next, cut the squash into thick steaks, about 1/2 inch thick.  If your squash is really huge, you can cut the steaks into smaller planks.  The goal is to have each steak be a single serving.  Cut the rounded portion of the squash into smaller pieces to grill, or reserve for another recipe.  Lightly brush the steaks with remaining 2 TB olive oil and season with salt and pepper.Heat your grill or large frying pan until hot.  Lay the steaks on the grill and allow to cook for about 10 minutes.  Then flip the steaks over, and cook until they are tender when pierced with the tip of a knife.

Serve the hot squash steak with a generous dollop of Spicy Pepitas Pesto.  If you made your pesto ahead of time, gently bring it to room temperature before serving.

Make Ahead notes:  This is a great dish for a fast dinner on a week night.  Make the pesto a couple days in advance and store in the fridge.  Prep the squash up to three days in advance, wrapping the peeled and sliced squash tightly and storing the in the fridge.  Then all you have to do is brush the squash with oil, grill, and serve with pesto.  For a complete meal pair with a fresh green salad and fresh seasonal fruit.

Broccoli Cheddar Frittata

Quick — you’ve got a bunch of broccoli, and need a tasty dinner fast.  Broccoli Cheddar Frittata is here to help.

The humble Frittata is a superb dish to master.  It’s quick and easy to prepare, can be served hot or cold, and is flexible enough to accommodate any number of variations.  It’s also one of my favorite leftovers to eat for lunch.  I use my well-seasoned cast iron pan for this, but any oven safe large skillet will work.  Use a non-stick pan if you have one.

Broccoli Cheddar Frittata

one small yellow onion, diced small
3 TB olive oil
5 – 6 cups fresh broccoli florets
8 eggs, lightly beaten
1/2 cup buttermilk
8 oz sharp cheddar cheese, grated
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. freshly ground pepper

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

While the oven is heating, cook the broccoli florets.  Place the broccoli florets in a covered microwave proof bowl with 1/4 cup water.  Microwave on high until the broccoli florets are tender, but not at all mushy.  Drain off the water and reserve the broccoli.

In a medium bowl, combine the eggs, buttermilk, cheese, salt and pepper.

Heat a large skillet over medium heat until warm.  Add the olive oil and diced onion saute until translucent and tender.  When the onion is cooked and the heat is still on the pan, add the cooked broccoli to the egg mixture and immediately pour into the hot pan with the oil and onion.  It should sizzle. Gently mix just to settle the ingredients into the pan, then pop the pan into the oven.  Bake until the center of the frittata is only slightly jiggly.  Allow the frittata to cool for 10 minutes in the pan, then serve.  The frittata can also be served at room temperature, or cold.

For a fast and delicious meal, serve this frittata with a fresh green salad and some bread.

Want a small frittata?  Just use 1/2 the ingredients and a smaller skillet.

Whiskey Cake

Ahh . . . Whiskey Cake.  How many times have I made you?  I’ve lost count.  This cake is a sultry, moist, make-ahead dream.

Though most of my baking is from scratch, this is one super quick recipe for which I use a cake mix.   I developed this recipe many years ago at the request of a friend.  She had tasted something delicious at a local restaurant, and brought me a bite to sleuth out its magic.  When I tasted it I was reminded of a recipe that my Grandma Carol had often made — Bacardi Rum Cake.  So, using this 70s classic as a start, I developed the following Whiskey Cake recipe.  Best made a day ahead to allow the syrup to evenly distribute through the cake, I like to serve this cake with whipped cream and some berries as a garnish.

Whiskey Cake

for the cake:
one box yellow cake mix
4 large eggs
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup whiskey

for the syrup:
1/2 cup unsalted butter
1/2 cup whiskey
3/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup water

Preheat oven to 325.  Prepare a standard size Bundt pan for baking using baking spray.  Mix together cake mix, 1/2 cup water, 1/2 cup whiskey, vegetable oil and eggs on low for 30 seconds.  Then beat on medium for 2 minutes.  Pour into prepared Bundt pan and bake for 50 minutes, or until toothpick inserted in middle of cake comes out clean.

While cake is baking, prepare syrup by combining 1/2 cup unsalted butter, 1/2 cup whiskey, 3/4 cup sugar, 1/4 cup water and 1 tsp. vanilla in a small saucepan.  Heat just to dissolve sugar.

When cake is done baking, allow it to cool in the pan for 10 minutes.  Invert cake onto plate, then put it right back into the pan.  This step is to ensure the cake is loose from pan.  Prick cake all over with a fork.  Pour hot syrup all over the cake.  The warm cake will quickly absorb the hot syrup.  Allow cake to cook to room temp in cake pan.  Then invert onto serving plate, cover, and refrigerate for at least three hours before serving.  This cake is moist and delicious for several days.