Every year I look forward to cooking with winter squashes in the fall. It really is a pleasure to go to the store and see all the different varieties of squash, from the large cool looking decorative ones to the smaller delicious butternut squash. A favorite fall dish of ours, and last night’s dinner, is ravioli or tortelloni filled with butternut squash puree. I wrote about it a while back here. Another popular use for these fall fruit (or is it a vegetable?) is in baking. I prepare waffles and pancakes with them, bake muffins, cheesecake and quick breads. For most of these baked goods, I use canned pumpkin. Along with canned beans and canned tomatoes, they are one of the few raw ingredients I do not mind using out of a can. Of course it depends on what I am doing, I’ll never make a creamy pumpkin/squash soup with canned pumpkin, but a cake like this one here is simply perfect made with a can of Libby’s pumpkin puree (NOT canned pumpkin pie filling!)
The buckwheat ice cream from the Alinea cookbook was the first thing that came to mind to accompany the cake. It is deliciously earthy, nutty and just screams autumn. The cake recipe is from Mario Batali’s “Babbo Cookbook“. It is made with olive oil, not butter, and is studded with bourbon-soaked raisins and pine nuts. The cake is fantastic with a mild spice flavor from both the spices and the peppery olive oil. It is also very tender, but holds it’s shape perfectly.
I intended to have a few more elements to this dish, but had no time for an elaborate sauce, and my Maltodextrin dry caramel just did not work out (too wet of a mixture is the cause I suspect). For plating, I had a square of the cake and a quenelle – a very ugly one at that- of the ice cream on opposite sides of the plate. I made a quick foamy sauce with olive oil, simple syrup, and a couple of tablespoons of cream and foamed it with a little Lecithin using a stick blender. I garnished the dish with drops of Steen’s Cane Syrup, bourbon raisins, toasted pinenuts and the olive oil foam. Steen’s, from Louisianna, is really a great ingredient and one of my favorite syrups. I bought my first bottle years ago because Emeril Lagasse kept on mentioning it and cooking with and I got curious. My pantry always has a bottle or two at all times now. I use it frequently on top of pancakes or waffles, as a topping for ice cream and in marinades or sauces. It tastes like a mild molasses with complex honey notes. Buy yourself a bottle if you see one at your store and give it a shot. This dish worked very nicely, I loved the flavors, the textures and – except for my ugly single spoon quenelle of ice cream (need to practice that technique)- looked lovely and warm.