Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Oven-Baked Butternut Squash, Purple Kale, Crimini Mushrooms and White Beans with Nutmeg Béchamel Pasta Recipe

I am on a three day break from my month-long tour and decided to take a side-trip to Brussels to spend some time with my old friend Cheryl. She and I have known each other for nearly nineteen years, danced together long ago with Merce Cunningham, and have only now reunited as colleagues for this Boris Charmatz dance project. She and her French husband now live with their adorable new baby in a charming and typical Belgian apartment, and yesterday, despite the bitter cold, we ventured out to the gilded and ornate Grand Place to take another look, and revisit memories of being in Brussels years ago, when we premiered Merce Cunningham’s Ocean at Le Cirque Royal.

Freezing in the Belgian cold, we cruised through the Christmas village where they were selling tartiflette Savoyarde (a decadent mixture of reblochon cheese and lardons and potatoes, mixed together in a massive cauldron and served in nearly every Christmas village I’ve visited while in France or near France), hot, mulled wine (also ubiquitous in Christmas villages in Europe, including Vienna, where we have just visited), Belgian waffles, or gaufres (in multiple flavors, and unique to Belgium, it seems), an array of sausages, and trinkets from the global market. Wanting to test out some Trappist beers, we ducked into a nearby brasserie to share a slightly bitter red Westmalle, a Rochefort 6, and, in honor of our ‘old times’ memories, a light Vieux Temps.

Reminiscing about ‘vieux temps’, we told stories of touring silliness, like when our friend Jared, who shared a boyish likeness to the Mannekin Pis, gracefully tumbled into the fountain, naked, tipsy, and peeing, while starring in a late-night video project by our friend Frédéric. We cried remembering when a colleague called the front desk and said, “Je ne suis pas le papier de toilette” (I am not toilet paper), when instead she wanted to say that she didn’t have any (avoir, not être), and we laughed about Cheryl’s predilection for stealing interesting glassware from several post-performance receptions, sometimes along with bottles of champagne meant for said glasses.

I am happy to be here, now, creating new memories with my good friend, Cheryl, and barring some strange and horrible circumstance, I am confident we will be sharing these memories in another nineteen years. Tonight, I will clink my Vieux Temps glass with hers and toast to us, and to all the old friends out there, friends so close they feel like family. Stolen glass or not, lucky us, lucky friends.

Oven-Baked Pasta with Butternut Squash, Purple Kale, Crimini Mushrooms, White Beans and Nutmeg Béchamel Recipe

Note: this recipe makes a massive amount of healthy, delicious and texturally varied food! I filled one large baking dish and another small one, so if that seems like too much for you, simply cut down on the amount of pasta and veggies.

Also, when I created this, I was in the mood for a creamy and rich pasta dish, but in my tasting, I found it equally delicious without the béchamel or cheese. If you’d like to make a vegan version of this, simply plate the dish after stirring all the vegetables together with the cooked pasta, and skip the baking in the oven step.

For those of you who want a little creamy heaven, don’t worry: this recipe is just creamy and rich enough to satisfy a craving, but there is relatively little cheese and milk and butter compared to healthy veggies, so go ahead and indulge.

For the pasta and vegetable mixture:

1 small butternut squash, peeled and cut into 1 to 1 1/2 inch square cubes (about three cups, but you can cut this down to two cups if you’d like to decrease the amount of food this recipe makes)
3 tablespoons olive oil, plus 1 tablespoon for coating the squash while roasting
1 medium onion, chopped
1 bunch of purple kale, stems chopped, and leaves roughly chopped
2 cups of crimini mushrooms, sliced
2 cloves of garlic, sliced thinly
1 14 ounce can of Great Northern Beans (or you can use fresh beans, if you’d like to make your own)
1 14 ounce can of diced tomatoes
1 pound of whole grain (I used whole wheat) pasta shells, fusilli or penne
salt and pepper, to taste

For the béchamel:

2 tablespoons of butter
2 tablespoons of flour
2 cups of milk
about 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg, or a touch more, depending on your taste
salt, to taste

For the topping:

1/4 cup grated parmigiano reggiano
1/4 cup grated mozzarella

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees, Fahrenheit.

Put the cut-up pieces of butternut squash into a roasting pan, coat with 1 tablespoon of olive oil and a little salt. Roast, turning them a couple times during cooking, until fork tender, about 30 - 40 minutes. Remove from the oven.

Turn the oven temperature down to 375 degrees F, once the squash has cooked.

For the pasta: put a large pot of salted water on the stove to boil, and when the water is boiling, add the pasta, and cook until al dente.

For the vegetables: Heat 3 tablespoons of oil in a large pot, add the onion and the kale stems, and cook until the onions are translucent and the kale stems have softened. Stir in the mushrooms, and cook until soft. Add the kale leaves, and cook until wilted. Stir in the garlic, the beans, and the tomatoes, and bring everything to a low simmer. Add salt and pepper, to taste. Cover, while you make the béchamel.

For the béchamel: in a medium saucepan, and over medium to medium-high heat, melt the butter. When the butter has melted, add the flour, whisking constantly, until the flour turns golden brown, about a few minutes. Slowly whisk in the milk, making sure to smooth out any lumps that form. Keep whisking at a simmer (lower the heat if the milk begins to boil), until a thickish sauce begins to form. Add salt and nutmeg.

Combine the cooked vegetables with the roasted squash and the pasta. Put this mixture into one baking dish (or two, depending on how much you have made) and pour the béchamel sauce evenly over everything.

Sprinkle the grated cheese over the top of the pasta, cover with foil, and bake in the oven for 20-30 minutes or so. Uncover the baking pans, and bake a bit more, until the cheese has melted and turned golden brown.

Similar Recipes from A Hungry Bear Won't Dance:
Pasta with Ground Beef, Parsley, Garlic Yogurt, and Paprika Butter (Piç Mantı), Conchiglie (Pasta Shells) with Gorgonzola and Garden Orache (or Radicchio) Recipe, Creamy, Thyme Scented Fusilli with Purple Asparagus, Green Peas, and Bacon


Chrissy said...

Love kale! and squash... this looks divine...

Italian Wine Blog said...

My god that looks delicious! Just found your blog and really like these fresh ideas.

Winters Reaper said...

oh this looks so good.. can't wait to try it..

I'll be back

Claire (Culinarygoddess.com) said...

That looks heavenly! I've never tried kale but this recipes looks like a good one to start with

Heather said...


for more great vegan/vegetarian recipes!

Hipstercrite said...

oh my! that looks AMAZING! will have to make it.

Alfred Walter said...

Great post and really mouth watering.

Mimi said...

Hello there, I've come via blog of note..congrats on that, and looks to me like you're a worthy winner.
I've been putting off inviting some vegetarian friends over for dinner, as I couldn't think what to cook, but now I can go ahead.
Thanks, I'll be back!
My best friend lives in Brussels, and I LOVE Grand Place- we always have a coffee there when I visit.

Live Cricket Score said...

hmm.... Its amazing........will try it today.......

Steffen Jakob said...

This really looks delicious! Thanks for sharing.

Cat and Mouse said...

What a fantastic, warming, winter veggie feast! Looking forward to making this over the Christmas holidays. Thank you!
(PS your story about the fountain made me smile!)

Randall M. said...

Always nice to have a great vegetarian dish you can throw together so quickly. Thanks!


GabrielBarrio said...

I totally dig your writing style. I love the foods you write about too. I don't have a culinary degree but I love cooking with these type of foods. I finally signed up to follow you, so I will be looking forward to more of your writings.
If you get a chance check out my blog its
I try to cover writing about life, culture, music, and art. Let me know what you think!


Hathor's Bath said...

*scribbles down recipe* I have really wanted to try something with squash, but in the UK, due to the weather gradually getting worse and there being little summer to speak of, squash is rare in this country. I remember six years ago you could get acorn, sweet dumpling, and wide assortments of various squashes. Now, butternut, and that's it. So any way of dressing that up is welcome.

D9 said...

i need some food like this when im stuck in the recording studio for hours.


SANEGO2000 said...

Good Work.


Lucas Vilanova said...

That's a big recipe name.
It must be delicious, though!

coolio1 said...

just wanna say that your blogs are a lovely read. I totally loved it...and i dont mind saying that i envy you.

Jackie said...

I just read a bit of your profile! That is fantastic! I also love to cook! I am still in College but I have danced professionally in the past. I am currently a pre-chiropractice and dance major with a minor in public relations, and an avid interest in food and cooking! I cook all the time,a nd I absolutely love it! I look forward to trying some of your reciepes! I am very new to blogger! Just signed up today!I am so glad I happened to see your blog! It looks lovely! and I can't wait to try some of your reciepes! Thanks again! And happy cooking :)

paintnpencil said...

Mmm! looks absolutely delicious, mouth watering recipes. Really enjoyed the post.

Tau-Mu said...

Looks totally delish! I was wondering if you could provide prep and cooking time estimates.

Smileyfreak said...

I love the pictures!! :)

Competition on www.happinessitsjustahabit.com

Peavy, Robinson & Houston said...

Your writing talents are excellent...You are a storyteller indeed, I can envision the food pictures you have painted.

Oglon said...

this looks good!

Thursday's Child said...

We had this for dinner on Saturday, perfect comfort food for a really cold day, and it's something we'll definitely make again. Thank you :)

Banu said...

Aw, thanks, everyone! I am just back in Brooklyn after my month-long tour of Europe (after being stranded in Paris for an extra day because of NY snow)and look forward to catching up writing back to all of you individually over the holidays! I'm so glad that those of you who have made this dish have enjoyed it, and I'm so happy you are reading!

Perle said...

Very good. I love kale in anything and I've got a variation w/o the Bechamel sauce and beans. I think I'll add the beans next time to make it a complete meal instead of a side. Thanks - Perle.

MC.MCNEE said...

man, as a poor uni student this sort of thing is really great, keep it up.

Chef E said...

This looks delicious, and I love kale, so I will be making this...

J-Diggety said...

Hi!! I just came across your blog via the "blogs of note" list, and I am uber excited about my discovery, for several reasons... one, you are a fellow dancer (although, unlike you, I'm just starting out... see my blog)... two, you are posting healthy recipes for my dancer budget... three, you are world-traveled, which is a HUGE dream of mine. Just reading this post stirred up the longings for travel that I experience regularly... so I'm excited to be here!



This DOES look Delicious!

Citrus Quark said...

I love that you use fresh beautiful ingredients for your recipes. Thanks for a beautiful blog. I'll look forward to following you and seeing what else you come up with!

Stephen said...

Love your blog! I'm 14 years old and I use it to feed myself after school while my parents are at work!
Without you I may die O.o
Anyways, check out my blog! But I can't promise cake :P

DNAcinema said...

hello! opened its doors to the new portal film directly from the studios of Cinecittà. News, reviews, previews, photos, videos and more, and if you cooperate with us by writing reviews write @ dnacinema@yahoo.it http://dnacinema.blogspot.com/ PS Congratulations on the blog, great job! ('d agree to an affiliation? us earthen particularly ...) A presto! Lorenzo

Jonny Hamachi said...


Bo's Bowl said...

This looks really tasty!!! I need to add a few more veggies to my diet.

Pink Olive said...

wow! yummy!

forum nastolatków said...

devile,delicious,really good

James P. Walsh said...

This looks delicous. I will make it soon. I love gratins of squash, cauliflower etc. etc. They are not made half as much as they should be.

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