Yesterday was a crisp autumn day in Northern California..leaves are turning brilliant shades of gold and bronze, some even deep cherry red…most are still at home on their branches but a few gently ride the soft wind to the earth creating a blanket to cover the sun scorched grass…Fabio, my over energized poodle finds this amusing and randomly jumps in the fallen leaves with anxious excitement..I must admit, sometimes I picture myself doing the same but then I think of all the ebby jibbies that potentially lurk under the facade of beauty and once again I refrain only by falsely convincing myself that it is not a very adult-like thing to do but secretly knowing my real reason has nothing to do with being all grown-up 😉
Regardless, fall is great! Spending much time in Florida this is the first time in 12 years I have lived in an area in which seasons are actually depicted as they are known to be. I am in love with the foliage and around every corner I find my self with a breathtaking photo-esque landscape before my eyes. Yesterday, I decided to create a sandwich that celebrated and embraced the beauty of this time of year…
Baked butter nut squash and figs are a wonderful combination alone but are even better when mingled together with caramelized red onions, wilted kale, and just a bit of crispy pancetta. Wait for it…….. wait for it…..now add all of that yummy autumn goodness to warm melted creamy Havarti cheese and smash it all together between two uber fresh pieces of grilled whole wheat Rye and you have yourself a delicious celebration of autumns harvest to bite on in to! Pair it with a sweet Pinot Grig and relax…I mean, its gotta be 5 o’clock somewhere!!!!
Yields: 4 Sandwiches
Prep Time: 20 Minutes
Total Time: 1 Hour
Grill or Sandwich Press
8 Slices of Fresh Whole Wheat Rye Bread (Pumpernickel or 8 Grain bread will work great too)
1/2 LB Creamy Havarti Cheese (Sliced thick)
8 Mission Figs (Sliced from top to bottom into 1/4″ Slices)
1 Butter Nut Squash (Halved Long-wise)
1/4 LB 1/4″ Pancetta Slices (Cubed)
4 Small Kale Leaves (De-steamed and Chiffonade) (Fun fact: in French culinary terms, to Chiffonade is a cooking technique in which herbs and leafy greens are cut into long ribbon-like strips)
1 Red Onion (Sliced Thin)
1 Garlic Glove (Minced)
2 TBSP White Balsamic Vinegar or White Wine (I prefer the white wine but PLEASE, I beg of you, do not open a bottle of wine just for this recipe because I would hate for it to go to waste as vinegar works just fine)
1 TBSP Butter
1/4 TSP Ground Red Pepper
1/4 TSP Coarse Black Pepper
1. Preheat oven to 375.
2. Place squash in a casserole dish with 1/4″ of water, meat side up and bake for 1 hour.
3. Meanwhile, in a saute pan, render the cubed pancetta until crispy.
4. Add the kale, red pepper, black pepper, and garlic to the pancetta and saute until kale becomes slightly tender and wilted and the garlic becomes aromatic (I like my kale to still have a good hearty crunch) Approximately 1 minute. Add 1-1/2 TBSP (reserving 1/2 TBSP for the following step) vinegar and continue to saute for 1 more minute. Set aside.
5. In another saute pan, add 1 TSP butter and allow to melt. Add the onions and cook on medium-high heat until they are a dark brown and become sweet. Add in the remaining vinegar and cook for an additional minute. Remove from heat.
6. When the Squash has 5 minutes remaining in the oven, place figs on a sheet tray lined with parchment paper and bake for 5 minutes.
7. In the meantime, lightly butter one side of each slice of bread and line the other side with cheese.
8. Remove the squash and figs from the oven and set aside.
9. Cut squash in 8 even pieces and remove skin. Take a form and with one hard smashing motion, flatten each piece into a pancake-like shape.
10. Sandwich all ingredients between 2 slices of bread and cheese (Buttered side out) and grill sandwiches or press in a sandwich maker.
11. Add a pinch of love.
12. Share and Enjoy.
You see, It’s truly simple: take some good quality ingredients, add a pinch of love to your cooking and bonappetit…..a delicious homemade meal for you and your loved ones!!!!