Gourds. Not exactly the most beautiful foods to look at with their lumps and bumps and weird shapes, but they make for some pretty yummy dishes. Trust me. If you’re like me, the first thing that comes to mind when you think of gourds are pumpkins and squash. Friends, let me tell you those are not the only members of the gourd family. Zucchini (courgette), cucumber and even some melons all fall under the gourd classification. Mind blown? Mine was.
For dinner this week we decided to celebrate this eclectic fruit (yeah, they’re fruits not vegetables) and dedicate a dinner to their quirkiness. We had a creamy butternut squash soup, some cheesy sautéed zucchini, and pumpkin spice latte cupcakes. So, so delicious.
Butternut Squash Soup:
- 1 large leek
- 2 tbsp. olive oil
- 1 medium sweet onion, chopped
- 1 medium butternut squash, peeled, seeded and cut into 1-inch pieces
- 5 cups vegetable stock
- 2 tbsp. maple syrup
- Sprinkle of cinnamon
- 1/4 tsp. sea salt
- Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
- 1/3 cup toasted pecans, chopped
- Halve the leek lengthwise, rinse thoroughly and chop the white and light green parts only. Discard the tough dark green parts.
- Heat oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add onion and leek and sauté until they start to turn golden, 8 to 10 minutes. Add squash, stir to coat with oil and continue cooking 10 minutes longer.
- Add stock and bring to a boil. Add maple syrup and cinnamon. Reduce heat to a simmer and cook until squash is tender, about 20 minutes. Let soup cool slightly. In a food processor, purée half of the soup until smooth. Take extreme care when puréeing a hot liquid. Mix purée back into soup and season to taste with salt and pepper. Top with toasted pecans and serve.
Sautéed Zucchni with Gruyere:
- 1 lb. zucchini, sliced into 1/4 or 1/2 inch slices
- 1-2 tbsp. grapeseed or canola oil
- 1/2 onion, sliced
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- 2 tbsp. chopped fresh tarragon (or 1/2 tsp. dried)
- 1/4 cup chopped fresh basil (or 1 tsp. dried)
- 2 oz. Gruyere cheese, thinly sliced
- Salt and pepper
- Heat oil in a large sauté pan on fairly high heat. (An anodized aluminum pan works well for this purpose because it is stick resistant yet can handle high heat.) Coat the bottom of the pan with the oil, adding more if needed. When the pan is hot, add the zucchini and onions. Spread out along the bottom of the pan. Cook quickly on high heat, stirring frequently, until all zucchini pieces are a little browned at least on one side (about 2 minutes). Sprinkle with salt and pepper while cooking. Halfway through the cooking, add the garlic and the herbs. If there is any sticking to the pan, add a little more oil.
- Remove the pan from the heat. Place slices of cheese over the zucchini in a single layer. Cover the pan. Let sit for a few minutes, until the cheese is just melted. Remove the zucchini to a serving dish. Serve immediately.
Pumpkin Spice Latte Cupcakes:
- 2 2/3 cups all-purpose flour
- 3 tbsp. espresso powder
- 2 tsp. baking soda
- 2 tsp. baking powder
- 1 tsp. ground cinnamon
- 1/8 tsp. ground nutmeg
- 1/8 tsp. ground cloves
- 1 tsp. salt
- 1 (15oz.) can pumpkin puree
- 1 cup sugar
- 1 cup brown sugar
- 1 cup canola or vegetable oil
- 4 large eggs
- 1/2 cup coffee or espresso, for brushing
- 2 1/4 cups heavy cream, chilled
- 1/4 cup powdered sugar
- Ground cinnamon
- Caramel sauce
- To make the cupcakes, preheat the oven to 350°F. Line cupcake pans with paper liners. In a medium bowl, combine the flour, espresso powder, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves and salt. Stir together and set aside. In the bowl of an electric mixer, blend together the pumpkin, granulated sugar, brown sugar and oil. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. With the mixture on low speed, add the flour mixture in two additions, mixing just until incorporated.
- Fill the cupcake liners about three-quarters full. Bake until the cupcakes are golden and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, 18-20 minutes. Transfer the pans to a wire rack and let cool for 10 minutes, then remove the cupcakes from the pans. While the cupcakes are still warm, brush them two or three times with the coffee or espresso, allowing the first coat to soak in before repeating. Let cool completely.
- To make the frosting, place the heavy cream in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Whip on medium-low speed at first, gradually increasing to high speed. Blend in the confectioners’ sugar gradually. Whip until stiff peaks form, being careful not to over-beat. Use a pastry bag fitted with a decorative tip to frost the cooled cupcakes. Sprinkle with ground cinnamon and drizzle with caramel sauce. Store in an airtight container and refrigerate.
Happy eating, everyone!