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Categories: Main courses, Sides, Vegetarian

Caramelized winter squash with wheat berries, dried cherry relish and roasted onions

Caramelized winter squash with wheat berries, dried cherry relish and roasted onions
Kirk McKoy / Los Angeles Times

Winter squash usually gets short shrift at the holiday table, relegated to pumpkin pie or maybe a side dish for those who can't abide sweet potatoes. In the hands of Le Comptoir chef Gary Menes, though, this oft-overlooked vegetable can ... Read more

Total time: 3 1/2 hours, plus roasting times | Serves 12.
Note: Adapted from a recipe by Gary Menes. Roasting the squash, preparing the onion jus, making the dried cherry relish and cooking the wheat berries can all be done several days in advance and assembled just before serving.

Wheat berries

  • 6 tablespoons butter
  • 1/2 onion, minced
  • 1 carrot, minced
  • 1 stalk celery, minced
  • 1 clove garlic, thinly sliced
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 1 pound wheat berries or kamut
  • 1/2 cup white wine
  • 6 sprigs thyme
  • 4 cups water

Step 1In a heavy saucepan, melt the butter over medium-high heat. Add the onion, carrot, celery and garlic and cook, stirring frequently, until soft and fragrant, about 5 minutes. Season with 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper, or to taste.

Step 2Stir in the wheat berries and cook until they are lightly toasted, about 2 minutes. Stir in the wine and cook until it evaporates, 2 minutes.

Step 3Add the thyme and enough water to cover by one inch, cover the pan with a lid and gently simmer until the wheat berries are tender, about 1 hour. Check the berries occasionally, adding additional water as needed so the berries do not dry out. Once the berries are tender, remove from heat and drain any excess liquid. This makes a scant 8 cups wheat berries.

Dried cherry relish

  • 8 ounces dried cherries or currants
  • 1 cup freshly squeezed orange juice and zest from 1 orange
  • 1 small red onion, diced
  • 3/4 cup (4 ounces) whole pistachios, toasted and coarsely chopped (pine nuts or pumpkin seeds can be substituted)
  • 2 tablespoons minced parsley
  • 2 tablespoons minced chives
  • 2 tablespoons best quality red wine vinegar
  • Salt

Step 1Simmer the cherries, orange juice, zest and red onion in a small pot over medium-low heat until the liquid is almost evaporated, about 15 minutes. Add the pistachios, parsley, chives and red wine vinegar and season with 3/8 teaspoon salt, or to taste. This makes about 2 cups relish.

Roasted onions

  • 1 large onion (or 12 small to medium bulbing green onions, with greens still attached)
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • Salt and pepper
  • Thyme leaves

Step 1Heat the oven to 350 degrees. Lay a large sheet of aluminum foil on a work surface. Place the whole onion, or the whole bulbing onions, in the center with the butter and sprinkle with salt and pepper and thyme leaves. Seal tightly into a package and roast until the onions are soft, about 40 minutes.

Onion jus

  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) butter
  • 3 pounds red onions, thinly sliced
  • 1 sprig thyme
  • Sherry vinegar
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Step 1Heat the butter in a nonstick pan over medium heat. After the butter foams and subsides, add the onions and thyme and cook, stirring occasionally, until they begin to soften, about 10 minutes. Reduce the heat to low and cook, stirring occasionally, until they are a deep mahogany color, 1 1/2 to 2 hours.

Step 2Transfer the onions to a 2- to 3-quart saucepan, cover with water by 2 inches and simmer until the liquid is deeply flavored, about 1 hour.

Step 3Strain the liquid into a 1 quart saucepan and press liquid out of the solids before discarding them. Simmer gently until the liquid is reduced to a sauce-like consistency, about 1 hour.

Step 4Before using, correct the seasoning with sherry vinegar and salt and pepper.

Caramelized winter squash with wheat berries, dried cherry relish and roasted onions

  • 1 winter squash (recipe tested with butternut, but you could also use blue Hubbard squash, Hokkaido, kabocha or Musquèe de Provence/fairytale pumpkin)
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, melted, divided
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper
  • Brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 6 sage leaves
  • 6 sprigs thyme
  • Wheat berries, reheated if prepared in advance
  • Dried cherry relish
  • Onion jus, reheated if prepared in advance
  • Roasted onion

Step 1Heat oven to 375 degrees. Halve the squash lengthwise through the stem, scooping out the stringy center and seeds (save the seeds for next year's planting). Brush the cut sides and cavity with 1/4 cup butter and season each half with 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1/4 teaspoon pepper and 2 teaspoons brown sugar, or to taste.

Step 2Lay the squash cut-side down on a parchment-lined sheet pan and wrap the pan tightly with aluminum foil.

Step 3Bake in the oven until you can poke a paring knife into the flesh with only slight resistance, 1 to 2 hours. Cool to room temperature.

Step 4Cut the squash into 2-ounce wedges.

Step 5Heat the remaining 1/4 cup butter in a nonstick skillet with the olive oil over medium-low heat. Add the squash wedges. If using the whole roasted onion, cut it in thin wedges, leaving the wedges attached at the root end. Add the onion wedges or the whole spring onions to the pan with the squash. Add the sage leaves and thyme sprigs. Slowly brown the squash and the onion, basting with the butter every few minutes, until the squash is deeply caramelized on the cut sides and the onion is lightly browned. If the pan looks dry, add more olive oil and butter. Set aside.

Step 6When ready to serve, spoon 3/4 cup wheat berries onto a plate. Top with 3 wedges of caramelized squash. Garnish with 3 tablespoons of dried cherry relish on top of the squash, spoon over some of the onion jus and serve with a roasted onion wedge beside the squash.

Each of 12 servings:
Calories 559; Protein 11 grams; Carbohydrates 70 grams; Fiber 10 grams; Fat 29 grams; Saturated fat 14 grams; Cholesterol 56 mg; Sugar 22 grams; Sodium 290 mg
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