Yotam Ottolenghi’s Butternut Squash with Orange Oil and Caramelized Honey

A dazzling roasted butternut squash dish with a trick for making infused orange oil so easily.
A dazzling roasted butternut squash dish with a trick for making infused orange oil so easily.

A new Yotam Ottolenghi cookbook is always an occasion to rejoice.

After all, the London restaurateur is a seven-time New York Times best-selling cookbook author.

His latest, “Ottolenghi Test Kitchen: Shelf Love” (Clarkson Potter) of which I received a review copy, was written by him and Noor Murad, head of the Ottolenghi Test Kitchen.

Unlike most of his other cookbooks, which showcased dishes from his acclaimed Nopi and Rovi restaurants, and Ottolenghi delis, this one aims to show you more creative ways to cook from your pantry, fridge and freezer.

That being said, that doesn’t necessarily mean these are recipes that take barely any time or effort to put together. If you know Ottolengthi recipes, you know they often require a number of steps. But in this case, none are especially difficult or laborious. And in many cases, you’ll learn a new tip or technique along the way. Many of the recipes also list handy substitutions or additional ways to use a particular sauce or serve a dish.

Case in point, “Creamy Dreamy Hummus,” which Murad and Ottolenghi provide directions for making with the preferred dried chickpeas, as well as with, yes, canned garbanzos, often considered sacrilege. But, as they note, canned ones can still create a very creamy hummus — provided you first use kitchen towels to gently release their skins, then cook them briefly in water with salt, and a pinch of cumin.

Or take the recipe for “Very Giant Giant Couscous Cake,” a clean-out-the-fridge type of crispy, savory cake made in a pan that can be put together with leftover rice or pearl barley, if you don’t have couscous on hand.

Or the “Skillet Berries, Bread, and Browned Butter” breakfast, brunch or afternoon snack that makes use of half-opened bags of frozen berries, stale bread, and that forgotten container of rolled outs by turning it all into a delicious warm fruit crumble drizzled with cold heavy cream.

With a butternut squash languishing on my countertop for a couple of weeks, I was moved to try my hand at “Butternut Squash with Orange Oil and Caramelized Honey.”

The nifty trick to this recipe is making a very quick orange oil. Instead of having to heat up oil with orange zest, you just blitz strips of orange zest in a food processor with olive oil, and let it infuse for an hour, before straining out the solids. It’s a very modest amount of oil, but what there is tastes quite concentrated with citrus with a whisper of bitterness from its peel.

The orange peel blitzed in a food processor with olive oil.
The orange peel blitzed in a food processor with olive oil.

Half-moons of butternut squash get roasted at high heat in the oven. Although the recipe instructed to roast them on two baking sheets, mine fit all on one.

A splash of honey is boiled for a couple of minutes until it deepens in color and takes on that lovely near-burnt sugar taste. A little fresh orange juice and apple cider vinegar are stirred in to cut the sweetness, along with fresh orange segments.

Like a party on a platter.
Like a party on a platter.

Arrange the roasted squash on a platter, shave over Pecorino shards, pour over the caramelized honey dressing, as well as the orange oil, then top with fresh oregano leaves and toasted pumpkin seeds. It all makes for a beautiful dish to behold.

Certainly, you could have just roasted butternut squash and drizzled on honey from a bear-shaped squeeze bottle. But that wouldn’t have created a dish with nearly such depth of flavor, what with the sweetness of the squash contrasting with the salty cheese and savoriness of the oregano, and with the squash’s softness offering a counterpart to the crunch of the pumpkin seeds.

The orange oil may be a small player, but it makes its presence known, instilling the orange’s deeper, rounder fullness of flavor instead of just its expected burst of sweetness.

This is a dish to enjoy now, and to certainly remember when the winter holidays roll around once again.

Be sure to get a little bit of everything in that perfect bite.
Be sure to get a little bit of everything in that perfect bite.

Butternut Squash with Orange Oil and Caramelized Honey

(Serves 4 as a starter or side)

1 butternut squash (2 pounds, 7 ounces), peeled, halved lengthwise, seeded, and then cut into 1/2-inch-thick half-moons

2 tablespoons olive oil

1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

1 1/2 tablespoons honey

1 1/2 teaspoons apple cider vinegar

1 1/2 ounces Pecorino, thinly sliced into 1/16-inch-thick shards

1 1/2 tablespoons oregano leaves, with some stem attached

2 tablespoons pumpkin seeds (pepitas), toasted

Salt and black pepper

For orange-infused oil:

2 oranges

3 tablespoons olive oil

Preheat the oven to 500 degrees or as high as your oven can go.

For the infused oil, finely shave the orange peel into strips, giving you 1/2 ounces of peel (avoiding any pith). Roughly chop the peel, then transfer to the bowl of a food processor. Add the oil and blitz for 1 minute, or until the peel is finely chopped. Transfer to a bowl and allow to infuse for 20 to 60 minutes. Strain through a sieve into a separate bowl, discarding the solids.

Segment both the peeled oranges; do this over a sieve set over a bowl to catch the juice. Set aside the segments and 1 tablespoon of the collected juice for the dressing.

Put the butternut squash, olive oil, nutmeg, 1/2 teaspoon of salt, and a good grind of pepper into a large bowl, tossing to combine. Divide between two parchment-lined baking sheets, spacing the pieces so that they’re not overlapping, and bake for 20 to 25 minutes, turning the pieces halfway through, until cooked through and nicely browned. Set aside to cool to room temperature.

Meanwhile, put the honey into a small frying pan on medium-high heat. Bring to a boil, then cook for 2 to 3 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the honey turns to a deep brown caramel. Remove from the heat and immediately stir in the orange segments, the 1 tablespoon of reserved juice, and the vinegar. Set aside to cool slightly.

Arrange the butternut squash and Pecorino on a large platter. Pour the caramelized honey dressing over the top, and top with the oregano, pumpkin seeds, and orange oil.

From “Ottolenghi Test Kitchen” by Noor Murad and Yotam Ottolenghi

More Yotam Ottolenghi Recipes to Enjoy: Vineyard Cake

And: Miso Butter Onions

And: Roasted Eggplant with Anchovies and Oregano

And: Squash with Chili Yogurt and Cilantro Sauce

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