Curse the design and marketing team at Crate & Barrel! Curse them for being good at their jobs! Here we are, still knee deep in October (arguably the best month of the year), and an idle flip through their latest catalogue has left me jonesing for Christmas (not only Christmas, but all sorts of related decorative elements that I truly do not need).
Christmas is, it must be said, my very favorite holiday and my favorite season (I have a major failing for twinkle lights and Christmas carols. What can I say? Character flaw, perhaps.), so it doesn’t take a ton to get me excited about it and chomping at the bit for it to come. But, to do so to the detriment of appreciating fall, glorious fall, well that would be tragic.
So, I am pulling myself back and rooting myself in now, which happens to be a rather lovely now, with an electric blue sky, fading crimson leaves, and an impish breeze. And I am thinking about squash. Because that is what one thinks of when one thinks about fall, no?
The advent of fall always gets me extremely jazzed up about squash, and makes me want to horde them, forgetting how much I will have eaten by the time we survive March and April. Those slushy, barren days of squash and cabbage blasé still seem like a far away impossibility. (You know, because I am in the now, and all!)
If I were a chipmunk, I’d probably have lumpy, full cheeks stuffed with butternut and kabocha squash. I would look weird.
Suffice it to say, what better way to really celebrate October than to cook something with squash, perhaps combined with some frost-hearty greens like kale?
Now, maybe I’m actually incredibly predictable and uncreative, perhaps I just really like things on toast, but at any rate I decided to make crostini, something I do rather often. I just love to slather and pile things on crusty pieces of bread, be those things goat cheese, figs, meyer lemons, and olives or honeyed grapes and ricotta, or even a little decadent pork pate (oh shoot, now I’m hankering after pate). It’s such a simple and delicious way to turn an assortment of produce into a little appetizer, or even a light meal.
The combination of winter squash and garlicky kale has a wonderful interplay of sweet-savory flavors along with both delightfully smooshy and sturdy, leafy textures. Piled generously atop a smear of creamy ricotta laced with some lemon zest for fragrance, it was a truly delightful way to top off some toasty slices of bread.
Then we added some bowls of soup and it was most definitely perfectly October. Which is not to say I won’t probably make the exact same thing several times again come December, and perhaps then with a little glass of champagne…
Ricotta Crostini with Winter Squash and Kale (makes 12)
- olive oil
- 2 and 1/2 cups of 1/2 inch cubes of peeled winter squash, I used kabocha, butternut would be a good alternative
- 1 large clove of garlic, minced
- 1 bunch kale, stems removed and discarded, leaves well chopped
- 1 cup whole milk ricotta
- zest from 1 small lemon
- 12, 3/4-inch slices of baguette, sliced on the diagonal
- salt and freshly ground black pepper
- Preheat your oven to 425F. On a large rimmed baking sheet, drizzle the squash cubes generously with olive oil, sprinkle with salt and toss. Roast in the oven, stirring a couple of times to flip (you may smash and destroy some of the little cubes in this process. It’s okay. They’re going to be mounded on bread anyway.), until the pieces are tender, around 20 minutes. Remove from oven and set aside.
- Turn the oven down to 375F. Brush the bread slices on both sides with olive oil, put on a baking sheet in a single layer, pop into the oven, and bake until golden, around 15 minutes. Remove from the oven and transfer the toasts to a cooling rack.
- In the meantime, as the bread toasts, in a large sautee pan, heat 1 Tbs. olive oil over moderately high heat until shimmering. Add the garlic and sautee until golden (1 or 2 minutes), then add the chopped kale. Sprinkle with some salt. Cook, stirring, until the greens have nicely wilted and all their water has been cooked off. Taste and add more salt as desired. Remove from the heat and gently stir in the squash cubes.
- In a small bowl, stir together the ricotta and lemon zest. Spread the ricotta on the toasts, then put a heaping spoonful – maybe two if you can cram on there (we’re going for a look of abundance) – of the kale-squash mixture on each toast. Arrange the crostini artfully on a large serving tray. Drizzle with a little more olive oil and sprinkle with freshly ground black pepper. Serve! These are good warm or at room temperature.