Light and Love

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My name is: Marissa Lippert. 

I’m known for being: Chef/nutritionist, owner and founder of the former West Village café, Nourish Kitchen + Table.

I'm talking about: Whipped Butternut Squash Toasts with parmesan, sour cherries, pine nuts and frizzled rosemary.  (So great for an easy appetizer or afternoon snack before the big meal!)

I created it when: This recipe is an oldie, but a serious goodie!  I can’t remember when I actually created it, but it’s honestly one of my go-to’s every single Thanksgiving. It feels so seasonal—warm and comforting, but also bright and vibrant—kind of like the essence of Thanksgiving itself.

What makes it special is: It’s like a holiday hug wrapped up in an appetizer. It’s always a crowd pleaser and is an easy addition to the Thanksgiving table. It’s important for me to hinge the meal (really, every meal) around seasonality and locality and connecting with those around the table. So, I’m able to source the squash, shallots, garlic and rosemary from some of my favorite farmers at the Greenmarket and the bread from SheWolf Bakery. Really good ingredients totally amp up the flavor and healthfulness of any meal/dish; they’re a game changer and allow you to make something simple that really shines. Great ingredients will do the work for you! Obviously, the sour cherries, pine nuts and parm aren’t local to the NYC region; they snuck in there, somehow. But, it’s the holiday season, so a few extra “jazz hands” are only appropriate.

One thing you can’t miss is: Frying herbs may sound hard, dumb and/or time-consuming, but the rosemary will make this toast pop and the process actually takes seconds, literally, once you master it. Just don’t forget to lightly salt the herb with kosher salt after frying.  Also, the sour cherries are a winner (though in a pinch, they can subbed for dried cherries). You can find them at Whole Foods this time of year or at specialty shops. They usually come in a jar.

For me, Thanksgiving (or this time of year) is about: Family, friends, football and a hell of a lot of good food and wine. (Oh, and my grandma Bebe’s amazing stuffing—chicken livers are the secret! Maybe I can share that recipe next Thanksgiving.)

Your body will thank you because: It’s a light and zippy appetizer, and the fiber content and antioxidants of the squash will definitely help all that turkey go down a little easier. 

Here’s how to make it:

WHIPPED BUTTERNUT SQUASH & SOUR CHERRY TOASTS

Serves 8

Ingredients:

1 butternut squash, halved and seeded

4-6 thyme sprigs

6 garlic cloves, smashed

3 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil, extra for toasts

2 shallots, diced and sauteed 

½ cup finely grated Parmesan cheese, more for serving (or Grana Padano for a more cost-effective option or even an aged gouda)

½ cup chicken or vegetable stock

1 cup sour cherries, pitted, and roughly chopped *look for the jarred variety

¼ cup pine nuts, toasted

Kosher salt to taste

Black pepper to taste

A good crusty bread (ie baguette, sourdough, wholegrain boule)

FRIED ROSEMARY

3 cups sunflower or safflower oil

4-6 rosemary sprigs

Kosher salt

  1. Heat oil in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Allow the oil to come to temperature. You’ll know it’s ready to fry if a flick of water agitates the oil.
  2. Gently fry sprigs 2-3 at a time for 20-30 seconds each. Remove promptly from oil and placed on a plate or baking sheet lined with paper towels.  Season lightly with kosher salt. 

Instructions:

  1. Preheat oven to 375F.
  2. Place the butternut squash on a baking sheet and rub it down with olive oil, season with salt and pepper. Lay garlic cloves and thyme underneath the squash (so the squash is roasting cut-side down atop the aromatics – they’ll help bring a little more flavor to the squash).
  3. Roast for 25-40 minutes until the squash is soft, malleable and lightly golden brown. Spoon the meat of the squash in a food processor, discard thyme sprigs and compost the peel or save for another use. Add in 2 of the roasted garlic cloves, sauteed shallots and parmesan.
  4. With the food processor running, slowly stream in chicken or veg stock until the butternut squash is a smooth, whipped consistency. Season with salt and pepper.
  5. In a medium mixing bowl, fold the sour cherries and pine nuts into the whipped squash.  
  6. Toast pieces of your favorite crusty bread drizzled with olive oil and salt.  
  7. To serve, spread a good tablespoon or two of the whipped squash on the toast. Top with a few needles of fried rosemary and additional freshly grated parmesan.

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