For Thanksgiving, my family was given the task of creating appetizers. My Mom immediately emailed me for ideas in planning our appetizer portion of the menu. She already knew enlisted my help would mean steering away from any store bought treats.
During my daily read of the New York Times Dining & Wine section, I stumbled upon an article with the title, “An Impressive Thanksgiving Appetizer.” Even a week before my Mom had been giving the task of creating the appetizer portion of the meal, I had already found my “wow” dish.
While the recipe might seem slightly complex at first, its unusually simple. There are two main parts to the recipe, the preparation of the squash and then the onions. The assembly at the end once again simple, especially with the help of my two lovely sisters.
My Mom tackled the squash component, roasting the entire squash in the oven for a few minutes to peel off the skin of the squash with a bit more ease, a trick she’s learned over her many years of making our favorite vegetable. The recipe requires a simple cooking of the squash tossed with a chili flakes, salt and olive oil.
I decided to make the more time consuming portion, the onions. I heated olive oil in a pan, and slow cooked the onions until they wilted and turned that beautiful, dark brown color, bring all the sweetness to the forefront of the dish. I then added the apple cider vinegar and agave syrup (substituted for the maple syrup) and reduced it down until the onions had a jammy consistency, about 15 minutes of constantly stirring.
Then my little sister, Amanda, joined in the cooking process to mash all of the ingredients together in a bowl. The onions will mix and almost dissolve into the mashed squash, created a sweet and subtle flavor to the already flavorful squash. The slight hint of chili just balances out the sweetness.
The composition of the Squash on Toast is relatively easy. I toasted fresh French bread in the oven until slightly browned. Then my sisters and I set up a simple assembly line. I spread a thin layer of ricotta cheese on the crostini, Amanda added the squash and Leigh topped the crostini with a mint leaf.
I went to my Mom’s garden and picked fresh mint, but feel free to buy fresh mint from the store. However, don’t skip over that aspect of the dish. It really makes the flavors of the ingredients come together.
The other best part of the entire dish was the squash and onion mash. My sisters and I picked up forks and dug into the left overs. I would even recommend creating the squash and onion mash as a side dish for any fall or holiday meal. It was absolutely delicious.
Jean-Georges Vongerichten’s Squash on Toast
Adapted from The New York Times
1 2 1/2- to 3-pound kabocha or other yellow-fleshed squash, peeled, seeded and cut into pieces 1/8- to 1/4-inch thick
3/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 teaspoon dried chile flakes, more to taste
3 teaspoons kosher salt
1 yellow onion, peeled and thinly sliced
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
1/4 cup maple syrup (or agave)
4 slices country bread, 1-inch thick
1/2 cup ricotta, goat cheese, feta or mascarpone
4 tablespoons chopped mint
1. Heat the oven to 450. Combine the squash, 1/4 cup olive oil, chile flakes and 2 teaspoons of salt in a bowl and toss well. Transfer the mixture to a parchment-lined baking sheet and cook, stirring every few minutes, until tender and slightly colored, about 15 minutes or a little longer. Remove from the oven.
2. Meanwhile, heat another 1/4 cup olive oil over medium-high heat, add the onions and remaining teaspoon salt and cook, stirring frequently, until the onions are well softened and darkening, at least 15 minutes. Add the vinegar and syrup, stir and reduce until syrupy and broken down, again at least 15 minutes or so; the mixture should be jammy.
3. Combine squash and onions in a bowl and smash with a fork until combined. Taste for seasoning.
4. Add the remaining oil to a skillet over medium-high heat. Working in batches if necessary, add bread and cook until just golden on both sides, less than 10 minutes total; drain on paper towels. Spread cheese on toasts, then top with the squash-onion mixture. Sprinkle with coarse salt and garnish with mint.
- 4 to 8 servings