Friday, February 18, 2011

On Weird Food Combinations and Roasted Butternut Squash with Red Grapes and Sage

This morning when I was driving to work, I couldn’t stop thinking about kimchi cheesecake.

It was a dish that was listed on the sample menu released when Chef Ludo Lefebvre’s LudoBites 6.0 at Max in Sherman Oaks was announced this past October. While I’m not sure if the item made an appearance during the pop-up’s nearly three week run, at the time, it was the dish that most piqued my interest. Enough so that I still remember it nearly four months later.

As I meandered through the seemingly never-ending parade of signals along Pico Blvd. on my commute this morning, the kimchi cheesecake popped into my head once again. I kept wondering, “What would it taste like? Could two such disparate items actually work together?”

The more I thought about it, the more I wanted to try it. I imagined that the sultry cheesecake might tame the spice and sour tang of the kimchi – muting the astringency in a way that could be compelling. It sounded crazy – perhaps one of Ludo’s strangest pairings ever, but then again I’ve always been a bit of a sucker for strange pairings.

I am, after all, the girl who makes her oatmeal with apple, dried cranberries, cinnamon, and peanut butter. And I see nothing wrong with putting green apple on my egg sandwiches or eating burgers with teriyaki sauce, cayenne-candied bacon, pineapple, and cheese.

So when I stumbled upon a recipe for Roasted Butternut Squash, Red Grapes, and Sage on Epicurious a few weeks ago, I was more than a little intrigued. I’d never thought to pair squash with grapes before – and I’d certainly never thought to roast grapes in the oven. I immediately printed the recipe so I could make the dish for a dinner party I was hosting at my apartment the next day.

While I was cognizant that it wasn’t necessarily the wisest idea to make an experimental dish for the first time when guests were coming for dinner, as soon as I pulled out the baking sheet of caramelized squash, onion and puckered grapes, I knew I had a winner in my hot-padded-hand. The sweet, warm grape juice burst forth from the blistered skins, creating a tangy dressing that was the perfect companion to the squash and onion. Seconds were requested by everyone at the table.

I’m thinking for the next dinner party, I’ll need to break out the kimchi cheesecake. After I get my guests buzzed enough to want to try it.

Roasted Butternut Squash, Red Grapes, and Sage
Adapted from Epicurious
Yield: Makes 4 to 6 side servings

Adaptations: I used a smaller squash than the recipe called for (2-1/4 pound) so reduced the proportions accordingly. I also used less olive oil, omitted the butter in the recipe, used more sage, and omitted the pine nuts. Next time I might try topping it with toasted walnuts – or, if I’m feeling particularly adventurous, a smattering of goat cheese.

1 1-1/2-pound butternut squash, peeled, seeded, cut into 1 1/2-inch pieces
1 slightly heaping cup of seedless red grapes
3/4 medium onion, cut into 1-inch pieces
2 tablespoons thinly sliced fresh sage leaves
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
Salt, pepper

Preheat oven to 425°F. Combine butternut squash, grapes, onion, and sage in large bowl. Drizzle with oil. Season generously with salt and pepper. Toss to coat. Spread out onto large rimmed baking sheet. Roast until squash and onion begin to brown, stirring occasionally, about 50 minutes. Transfer to platter and serve.


Esi said...

This actually makes perfect sense to excited to have a working oven again soon with which to roast things!

Monet said...

I love your adventerous spirit...there is so much in the world that we've yet to explore, and flavor combination is an area that I need to expand my horizons in. Thank you for sharing your heart and these delicious veggies. I hope you have a blessed Saturday!

Crème Caramel LA said...

I heart wierd food combinations. But again my food combos are left to be desired by others. :) Cheese and Oatmeal... mmm. heh.

Diana said...

Esi - Roasted grapes are kind of amazing! I want to put them in everything now!

Monet - I think you do a splendid job of mashing up flavors! Your baked goods always look delightful! :)

Kristine - Haha, I may need to try that oatmeal some day!

Gastronomer said...

Dude, I am so down for a kimchi infused cheesecake party! Strange flavor combos are like my favorite thing ever!