By Tom // Posted 29 September, 2009 in: Farmers Market, Food + Drink, Recipes
When a new vegetable first comes in to season, all I want to do with it is prepare it as simply as possible. A little fat, a little seasoning, and let the vegetable speak for itself. The year’s first asparagus? Lightly steam it and toss it with butter and salt. Sweet corn? Shuck, boil and enjoy slathered in butter and plenty of salt and pepper. Tomatoes? They require little more than slicing, a drizzle of olive oil and grains of sea salt.
But there comes a point, especially as a season seems to drag on, when simple preparations start to get a little tiresome, and I start trying to think of new ways to use up the half-dozen ears of corn I feel compelled to buy every week while the season lasts.
Squash, now firmly in season, is a vegetable that easily fits this pattern. I love roasted squash mashed with butter and salt as much as the next guy, but it doesn’t take very long before I start to find the squash’s sweetness and its squishiness daunting. I enjoy the occasional squash soup, but once a year is really enough. So with an eye to heading off squash fatigue, I offer an interesting, if a little labor-intensive way to use up those fall squash: bisteeya.
Bisteeya is a Moroccan sweet/savory pie filled with shredded meat and nuts. In her book Spice: Flavors of the Eastern Mediterranean, Ana Sortun offers a vegetarian version using sweet potatoes. I adapted her version to use the red Kuri squash I bought at the farmers’ market in place of the potatoes. The North African flavors in this dish are a nice accent to the squash and a welcome relief from more straightforward presentations.
- 1 Kuri squash, about 1.5#
- 2 Tablespoons butter
- 1 Large onion, minced
- 1/8 Teaspoon turmeric
- Pinch saffron threads, crumbled
- 1 Teaspoon grated ginger
- ¾ Teaspoon black pepper
- 4 Eggs, beaten
- 2 Tablespoons lemon juice
- ¼ Cup parsley, chopped
- ¼ Cup cilantro, chopped
- ¾ Walnuts (Sortun uses pine nuts, but I substituted walnuts—what we had on hand)
- ¼ Cup powdered sugar
- 2 Teaspoons ground cinnamon
- ½ Cup extra virgin olive oil
- 9 Sheets phyllo dough
Preheat oven to 350°F. Cut squash in half and scoop out seeds. Coat inside of squash with a light film of oil and roast until fork-tender, 45 minutes to an hour. Remove squash from oven and allow to cool.
While squash is roasting, melt and slightly brown the butter. Add the onion, turmeric and saffron. Lower the heat to medium-low and cook until onions are softened but not at all brown. Stir in ginger and set aside.
When squash is cool enough to handle, scoop the flesh out of the skin and into the bowl of a food processor. Purée the squash until creamy, adding ½ to ¾ cup of water as necessary to keep everything moving in the food processor. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Add eggs, lemon juice, parsley and cilantro and blend until smooth. Transfer to a mixing bowl and stir in onion mixture. Add a little more salt.
Toast the walnuts in a skillet or in the oven until darkened and fragrant. Allow to cool then coarsely chop. Mix with sugar and cinnamon (when I made this I actually forgot the cinnamon and sugar. It was still good, but I have made it in the past with cinnamon and sugar and would recommend remembering them.)
Brush the bottom of a 9″ cake pan with olive oil. Place one sheet of phyllo dough on the counter and brush with olive oil. Sprinkle with 1 Tablespoon of the nuts. Top with another sheet of phyllo dough and repeat. Add a third sheet, brushing it with oil.
Carefully lay this assembly of three sheets of dough in the cake pan. The edges of the dough should overlap the sides of the pan. Assemble another set of phyllo sheets in same manner and lay it in the cake pan on top of the first set, but perpendicular. Press the dough to the sides of the pan and fill with squash mixture. Make a third set of three sheets of dough and lay it over the top of the squash mixture, then fold over the edges of the bottom sheets of dough so the entire pie is covered.
Bake for 40 to 45 minutes until puffy and golden brown.
Cut pie into wedges and dust with powdered sugar. Serve with a light salad. Part of the pleasure of this dish is the crispy phyllo crust — which your refrigerator will do nothing for — so it’s best to eat this all immediately.