Since both Summer and my birthday are officially over, I've been a little down. There's nothing that makes me feel more excited and happy than a party on the horizon, so to celebrate the arrival of Autumn, I'm planning a simple lunch. The meal will honor the season and its most prominent ingredients. I'll start by putting together a small spread of olives, crackers, and charcuterie. When guests arrive, they can savor olives or nibble on crackers. To begin the sit-down meal, I'll serve a spicy green salad with Manchego cheese, pears, and pumpkin seeds. For the main course, a Fall lunch requires something comforting and classic, like a butternut squash and sage lasagna. If you are interested in the recipes to this menu,
1/3 cup green (hulled) pumpkin seeds (pepitas; not toasted)
1/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon olive oil, divided
3 tablespoons Sherry vinegar
1 teaspoon mild honey
1 teaspoon grainy mustard
4 cups packed spicy salad greens, such as radish greens, watercress, and/or arugula, tough stems discarded
4 cups packed frisée (French curly endive), torn into bite-size pieces
1 (1/2-pound) piece Manchego cheese, rind removed and cheese shaved into 32 thin slices (preferably with a cheese plane)
8 small red or yellow Bartlett pears (preferably with stems)
- Cook seeds in 1 tablespoon oil in a small heavy skillet over medium-low heat, stirring frequently, until puffed and beginning to brown, about 4 minutes. Transfer with a slotted spoon to paper towels and reserve oil. Season seeds with salt and pepper.
- Whisk together vinegar, honey, mustard, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and 1/8 teaspoon pepper. Add remaining 1/3 cup olive oil and reserved oil from skillet in a slow stream, whisking until emulsified.
- Divide greens and cheese among salad plates. Cut off 2 opposite sides of each pear (reserve for another use), leaving a 1/2-inch-thick lengthwise center slice with stem and core. Arrange a pear slice on each plate and drizzle dressing over salads. Sprinkle with seeds.
Make ahead: Pumpkin seeds can be toasted 2 days ahead and kept separately from oil, covered, at room temperature. Greens can be washed and dried 1 day ahead and chilled, wrapped in paper towels, in a sealed bag.
- Greens , Salads
3 1/2 pounds butternut squash, peeled, seeded, and cut into 1-inch pieces
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper
1 pound whole-milk ricotta cheese
1/2 cup heavy cream
2 large egg yolks
1/2 pound fresh mozzarella cheese, coarsely grated (2 cups)
Freshly grated nutmeg
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/3 cup loosely packed fresh sage leaves, coarsely chopped
1 1/4 cups homemade or store-bought low-sodium chicken stock
Fresh Lasagna Noodles, (you will need only 1/2 of the batch), cut into 4-by-13-inch strips and cooked, or store-bought dried noodles, cooked
4 ounces finely grated Parmesan cheese (1 1/4 cups)
- Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Toss squash, oil, and 1 teaspoon salt on a baking sheet. Season with pepper. Bake until light gold and tender, 25 to 30 minutes. Let cool.
- Reduce oven temperature to 375 degrees. Combine ricotta, cream, yolks, mozzarella, and a pinch of nutmeg in a medium bowl. Season with salt.
- Melt butter in a small saute pan over medium-high heat. As soon as it starts to sizzle, add sage, and cook until light gold and slightly crisp at edges, 3 to 4 minutes.
- Place squash in a medium bowl, and mash 1/2 of it with the back of a wooden spoon, leaving the other 1/2 in whole pieces. Gently stir in sage-butter mixture and stock. Season with salt and pepper.
- Spread 3/4 cup of ricotta mixture in a 9-cup baking dish. Top with a layer of noodles. Spread 1/2 of the butternut squash mixture over noodles. Top with a layer of noodles. Spread 1 cup of ricotta mixture over noodles. Repeat layering once more (noodles, squash, noodles, ricotta). Sprinkle Parmesan over ricotta mixture.
- Place baking dish on a rimmed baking sheet, and bake until cheese is golden and bubbling, 30 to 35 minutes. Let stand for 15 minutes before slicing and serving.
- Pasta, Main Dishes