Slow-Cooker Pork Carnitas Tacos

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Pork carnitas tacos by Eve Fox, The Garden of Eating, copyright 2016

There's something beautifully simple about braising a big hunk of meat in the slow cooker all day. Especially when said hunk of meat falls off the bone into tender shreds of flavorful, juicy carnivorous bliss that can then serve as the basis for several delicious meals.

You can use this meat in many ways but I kicked off my porcine journey with pork carnitas tacos for a small crowd of family and friends. I started by assembling the ingredients for the braising liquid - a combination of fresh orange juice, tomatoes, garlic, chipotles and spices.

Ingredients for pork carnitas by Eve Fox, The Garden of Eating, copyright 2016

I happened to have some exceptional tangelos courtesy of our friend, Phoebe, who sent us a crate from Florida. Their juice is remarkably flavorful - sweet and tangy at the same time in that hard to describe way of truly top-notch citrus.

Tangelo juice for the braising liquid by Eve Fox, The Garden of Eating, copyright 2016

The chipotles come packed in adobo sauce in a can that I would buy for the label, alone. ¡Vive las morenas! But the peppers do add a wonderful smoky, spicy flavor to the meat.

Chopping the chipotles in adobo sauce by Eve Fox, The Garden of Eating, copyright 2016

I poured our last jar (sniff) of home-canned tomatoes into the slow cooker and added the garlic, the chipotles, the tangelo juice and half the salt. Then I turned to the pork shoulder, clipping its strings, and trimming away the excess fat before rubbing it all over with a mixture of ground cumin, cinnamon, oregano, sea salt and black pepper.

Rubbing the pork shoulder roast with cumin, salt, pepper, oregano and cinnamon before searing by Eve Fox, The Garden of Eating, copyright 2016

Although you can certainly skip this step and save yourself the trouble of washing another pot (as the recipe I was working off directed), I seared the roast in a Dutch oven for a few minutes on each side before I put it in the braising liquid in the slow cooker as it does give the flavor a nice little boost.

Searing the pork shoulder roast before slow cooking by Eve Fox, The Garden of Eating, copyright 2016

Once it was browned, I levered it out of the Dutch oven and put it in the  the slow cooker with the braising liquid where it bubbled away for about eight hours (more is fine), filling the house with mouth-watering smells. I turned it several times to ensure that it was submerged equally.

Putting the pork picnic roast in the slow cooker with the liquid by Eve Fox, The Garden of Eating, copyright 2016

Meanwhile, I put together a quick brine of apple cider vinegar, salt, pepper, sugar and hot water. Then I got out my trusty mandoline and made short work of a red onion that I set aside to pickle for a few hours. I find that pickled onions make a great counterpoint to most things, especially meats.

Making pickled red onions by Eve Fox, The Garden of Eating, copyright 2016

Eight hours of cooking time leaves you ample time to prepare your fixings although certain things, like avocado, needs must wait until just before serving, of course.

Cilantro in the salad spinner by Eve Fox, the of Eating, copyright 2015

I happened to have a pineapple to hand because James, my three-year-old, had been hounding me to buy one for weeks and I had finally succumbed, whereupon he promptly lost interest in the manner of children the world over... But I cut it up into a fine dice and then turned the rest into virgin piña coladas which I served with the tacos. And both boys drained their glasses which I counted as a victory of sorts.

Pineapple halves by Pineapple and Coconut via Flickr, some rights reserved. https://www.flickr.com/photos/pineappleandcoconut/

Things were ratcheting up into the usual pre-dinner insanity that takes place here nightly when I took the pork shoulder out and we could not manage a photo of me going at the thing with two forks. But it yielded an impressive pile of tender, shredded meat.

Pork carnitas by Eve Fox, the Garden of Eating, copyright 2016

I warmed up a bunch of corn tortillas by placing stacks of five tortillas, wrapped in tinfoil, in a 350° oven for 10-15 minutes and then leaving them in their foil until it was time to eat them - it worked beautifully. I served the pork carnitas alongside a cavalcade of bowls filled with fresh pineapple, chopped tomatoes, pickled onions, thinly sliced radishes, shredded purple cabbage, this wonderful salty lime mayo sauce, chunks of perfectly ripe avocado, a jar of our homemade salsa, and some lime wedges.

Each warm, little package of tender, flavorful meat was topped with zingy onions, buttery avocado, juicy chunks of sweet pineapple and the cool, fresh cilantro. I ate at least three...

Pork carnitas tacos by Eve Fox, The Garden of Eating, copyright 2016

As for the rest of the meat, barbecued pulled pork sandwiches are definitely in our future as well as maybe some kind of creamy polenta dish with pork. Hallelujah for multiple meals from one one mess in the kitchen.

The recipe below is adapted from Sarah Kate Gillingham's recipe on the Kitchn.

-- print recipe --
Slow-Cooker Pork Carnitas Tacos
Serves 8-10

Ingredients

* 1 (4-6 lb) pork shoulder (a.k.a. Boston butt or pork butt) roast - bone-in yields the best flavor
* 3-4 cups of liquid (orange juice, beer, stock or some combination of those things )
* 1 quart of diced tomatoes or tomato purée
* 4 diced chipotle peppers in adobo (I used 2 because my kids don't like spicy food)
* 8 garlic cloves, smashed or pressed
* 2 Tbsps coarse sea salt
* 1 Tbsp freshly ground black pepper
* 1 Tbsp ground cumin
* 1 Tbsp dried oregano
* 2 tsps ground cinnamon
* 1 tsp cayenne pepper (optional/to taste - I left this out for the kiddos' sake)

Directions

1. Place half the salt and all of the other spices in a bowl and give a little stir to combine. Cut the strings and remove them from the roast. Using a sharp knife, trim any excess fat from the pork roast, then rub the spice mixture all over the pork roast. Heat a little bit of butter or bacon fat (I keep mine in a jar in the fridge) in a Dutch oven over medium-high heat and sear the roast for several minutes on each side, until browned.

2. Place the tomatoes and liquid (juice, beer and/or stock), garlic, peppers and the rest of the salt in the slow cooker then add the browned roast and cook on low for roughly 8 hours, turning every few hours to ensure even cooking. You'll know the meat is done when it is falling off the bone.

3. Remove the meat from the cooker and let it sit on a cutting board or large plate until it's cool enough to handle safely. Using two forks, shred the meat and remove the bone. Save some of the cooking liquid to use for reheating and/or as a sauce. I actually saved all of mine and have frozen it to use next time I make this.

4. Serve the meat with warm corn tortillas, avocado, cilantro, radishes, pineapple, sour cream or lime mayo, tomatoes, pickled red onions, thinly sliced cabbage and the like.

You might also like:


For more delicious recipes, gardening ideas, foraging tips, and food-related inspiration "like" the Garden of Eating on Facebook, or follow me on Twitter and Pinterest.

8 Soups To Warm Up Your Winter

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

8 warm & delicious winter soups from the Garden of Eating blog

Thanks to the revolving door of colds and coughs my kids bring home from school, I've been making quite a lot of soup. On the plus side, I love soup.

Some are old favorites while others, like this spicy red lentil soup with meyer lemon, are new favorites. Every one is warming and delicious. My advice to you is:
  • Save your vegetable scraps - they make great stock - details here; and
  • If you make more than you need, freeze what's left over - you'll be glad you did, especially next time you catch a cold and do not feel like cooking.
Swiss Chard, White Bean & Sausage Soup
This is one of those soups that is a meal in and of itself. Hearty and full of flavor, thanks in part to the vastly underutilized trick of saving your Parmesan cheese rinds to give your stock a huge boost. You can use kale in place of the chard - both are good. Simply skip the sausage if you want to make a vegetarian version.


Quick Coconut Vegetable Stew
This is a wonderful go-to meal that is packed with flavor and also wildly good for you. The vegetables are flexible but kabocha squash is one of my favorite additions because its dense, sweet flesh pairs so nicely with the warm curry powder and the rich coconut milk. Vegan to boot!


Creamy Roasted Garlic & Potato Soup
This is one of the most addictive soups I've ever eaten - it ranks right up there with my favoriteThai soup, tom kha gai. The nutty, mellow flavor of the roasted garlic is the perfect foil for potatoes' sweet starchiness. Add a little heavy cream and you are officially IN BUSINESS.


Curried Lentil & Sweet Potato Stew
A perfect vegetarian meal packed with protein and flavor. The exotic flavors of the curry marry beautifully with both lentils and sweet potatoes. Whatever other veggies (carrots, etc.,) you want to add are just icing on the cake.


Jerusalem Artichoke (Sunchoke) & Sweet Potato Soup
I discovered this recipe as a result of Eatwell Farm, our old CSA back in Berkeley that helpfully included it in a share box that featured a big bag of sunchokes. At the time, I had no idea what they were or what to do with them so I took the easy way out and made the soup even though it sounded a little weird to me. But it was sooooo good - sweet, nutty and with a nice kick from the green garlic! Now I yearn for sunchokes and am thinking about planting a bunch in the spring even though I've been warned that they have thuggish tendencies and like to take over. Considering how tasty they are, that might not be the worst thing in the world...


Red Lentil Soup with Chili Paste & Meyer Lemon
This is my new favorite soup, inspired by a recent New York Times recipe. Like all lentil soups, it's quick, hearty and nutritious and the chili paste and lemon juice pack a nice little punch of flavor.


Winter Squash & Pear Soup with Sage
Pear adds a lovely, floral sweetness to the nutty squash and sage anchors the flavors with its earthy astringency. Add a dollop of sour cream or crème fraîche to make this extra rich and serve with peasant bread or brown rice and a green salad.


Curried Butternut Squash Soup
A super simple, super tasty (accidentally) vegan soup made with roasted butternut squash, creamy coconut milk and warm, exotic curry powder. You can't lose with this soup! If you're not a vegan, top with a little sour cream, crème fraîche or plain, whole milk yogurt.


You might also like:
For more delicious recipes, gardening ideas, foraging tips, and food-related inspiration "like" the Garden of Eating on Facebook, or follow me on Twitter and Pinterest.

Butternut Squash Lasagna with Leeks and Béchamel

Sunday, January 10, 2016

Butternut squash lasagna with leeks and bechamel sauce by Eve Fox, The Garden of Eating, copyright 2016

I've had this recipe bookmarked in my dog-eared copy of Andrea Chesman's excellent Recipes from the Root Cellar for about six years. But now that I've finally made this lovely lasagna, I will be making it often.

Butternut squash for the white lasagna with leeks and bechamel sauce by Eve Fox, The Garden of Eating, copyright 2016

It's a perfect winter meal - elegant and hearty at the same time. The combination of sweet, nutty roasted squash, mellow leeks, sage and garlic-infused béchamel, and gooey, melted Parmesan cheese makes it very hard to stop eating... In fact, next time, I will get out my HUGE lasagna pan and double the recipe to ensure leftovers.

Leeks for the butternut squash lasagna with bechamel sauce by Eve Fox, The Garden of Eating, copyright 2016

Please do NOT be intimidated by the fancy-sounding béchamel sauce - it's not hard to make. Once you've made it once, you'll realize there's nothing to be scared of, even if it does sound frighteningly French.

You start by roasting butternut squash and leeks until they're soft and caramelized.

Roasted butternut squash and leeks for the white lasagna bechamel sauce by Eve Fox, The Garden of Eating, copyright 2016

While the vegetables are roasting, you make a garlicky roux by sautéeing garlic in butter then stirring in the flour and browning it for a couple minutes.

Ingredients for the bechamel sauce for the butternut squash lasagna by Eve Fox, The Garden of Eating, copyright 2016

Then you turn that roux into a béchamel by whisking in several cups of milk, bringing it to a boil briefly and adding the dried sage and white wine. It should thicken up nicely.

Sage and thyme-infused béchamel sauce for the butternut squash lasagna with leeks by Eve Fox, The Garden of Eating, copyright 2016

Assembly is easy, just schmear some béchamel in the bottom of the pan, put a layer of lasagna noodles (I used no-cook) over it, do another schmear, top with a layer of roasted vegetables and a blizzard of Parmesan cheese and repeat as many times as you have ingredients for.

Building the butternut squash lasagna with leeks and béchamel sauce by Eve Fox, The Garden of Eating, copyright 2016

Cover with tinfoil and bake for half an hour, then remove the foil and bake a little longer to achieve maximum bubbling and browning. Cut and serve with a salad and some bread.

Butternut squash lasagna with leeks and bechamel sauce by Eve Fox, The Garden of Eating, copyright 2016

If you don't already have a copy of Recipes from the Root Cellar, I encourage you to get one! It's one of my three most-used cookbooks along with Deborah Madison's Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone and the good old Joy of Cooking.

-- print recipe --
Butternut Squash Lasagna with Leeks and Béchamel
Serves 6

Ingredients

For the lasagna
* 1 large butternut or other winter squash (about 1 1/2 pounds), peeled, seeds removed and cut into small cubes
* 3 leeks, rinsed trimmed and sliced
* 3 Tbsps olive oil
* 12 no-boil lasagna noodles
* 2 cups grated Parmesan cheese
* Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

For the béchamel sauce
* 6 Tbsps organic butter
* 3 3/4 cups organic milk
* 3 cloves of garlic, minced or pressed
* 6 Tbsps all-purpose flour
* 1/2 cup dry white wine
* 1 tsp dried sage
* 1 tsp dried thyme
* Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Directions

1. Preheat the oven to 425. Mound the squash and leeks on a baking sheet, drizzle with the oil, salt and pepper and toss thoroughly with your hands until everything is well-coated. Arrange in a single layer and bake, turning once or twice to avoid burning for 25-30 minutes, until the vegetables are tender and browned. Remove pan from the oven and lower the heat to 350.

2. While the veggies are roasting, make the béchamel sauce. Melt the butter in a saucepan over medium heat, add the garlic and cook until fragrant, about two minutes. Whisk in the flour to make a smooth paste (a roux) and cook, whisking constantly for about one minute. Add the milk and whisk until smooth. Bring to a slow boil, stir in the wine and sage and season with salt and pepper. Remove from the heat.

3. Assemble the lasagna: spread half a cup of the béchamel in the bottom of a 9- by 13-inch baking dish. Lay three noodles over the bottom of the pan. Pour more of the sauce over the noodles then top with a third of the roasted squash and leeks and a quarter of the Parmesan cheese. Repeat until you've used up the veggies and noodles. Spread the remaining sauce and sprinkle whatever cheese you have left on top.

4. Cover the pan with tinfoil and bake for 30 minutes, then remove the foil and bake for another 10-15 minutes to brown the top. Remove and let stand for five minutes before cutting and serving.

You might also like:
For more delicious recipes, gardening ideas, foraging tips, and food-related inspiration "like" the Garden of Eating on Facebook, or follow me on Twitter and Pinterest.

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Slow-Cooker Pork Carnitas Tacos

Pork carnitas tacos by Eve Fox, The Garden of Eating, copyright 2016

There's something beautifully simple about braising a big hunk of meat in the slow cooker all day. Especially when said hunk of meat falls off the bone into tender shreds of flavorful, juicy carnivorous bliss that can then serve as the basis for several delicious meals.

You can use this meat in many ways but I kicked off my porcine journey with pork carnitas tacos for a small crowd of family and friends. I started by assembling the ingredients for the braising liquid - a combination of fresh orange juice, tomatoes, garlic, chipotles and spices.

Ingredients for pork carnitas by Eve Fox, The Garden of Eating, copyright 2016

I happened to have some exceptional tangelos courtesy of our friend, Phoebe, who sent us a crate from Florida. Their juice is remarkably flavorful - sweet and tangy at the same time in that hard to describe way of truly top-notch citrus.

Tangelo juice for the braising liquid by Eve Fox, The Garden of Eating, copyright 2016

The chipotles come packed in adobo sauce in a can that I would buy for the label, alone. ¡Vive las morenas! But the peppers do add a wonderful smoky, spicy flavor to the meat.

Chopping the chipotles in adobo sauce by Eve Fox, The Garden of Eating, copyright 2016

I poured our last jar (sniff) of home-canned tomatoes into the slow cooker and added the garlic, the chipotles, the tangelo juice and half the salt. Then I turned to the pork shoulder, clipping its strings, and trimming away the excess fat before rubbing it all over with a mixture of ground cumin, cinnamon, oregano, sea salt and black pepper.

Rubbing the pork shoulder roast with cumin, salt, pepper, oregano and cinnamon before searing by Eve Fox, The Garden of Eating, copyright 2016

Although you can certainly skip this step and save yourself the trouble of washing another pot (as the recipe I was working off directed), I seared the roast in a Dutch oven for a few minutes on each side before I put it in the braising liquid in the slow cooker as it does give the flavor a nice little boost.

Searing the pork shoulder roast before slow cooking by Eve Fox, The Garden of Eating, copyright 2016

Once it was browned, I levered it out of the Dutch oven and put it in the  the slow cooker with the braising liquid where it bubbled away for about eight hours (more is fine), filling the house with mouth-watering smells. I turned it several times to ensure that it was submerged equally.

Putting the pork picnic roast in the slow cooker with the liquid by Eve Fox, The Garden of Eating, copyright 2016

Meanwhile, I put together a quick brine of apple cider vinegar, salt, pepper, sugar and hot water. Then I got out my trusty mandoline and made short work of a red onion that I set aside to pickle for a few hours. I find that pickled onions make a great counterpoint to most things, especially meats.

Making pickled red onions by Eve Fox, The Garden of Eating, copyright 2016

Eight hours of cooking time leaves you ample time to prepare your fixings although certain things, like avocado, needs must wait until just before serving, of course.

Cilantro in the salad spinner by Eve Fox, the of Eating, copyright 2015

I happened to have a pineapple to hand because James, my three-year-old, had been hounding me to buy one for weeks and I had finally succumbed, whereupon he promptly lost interest in the manner of children the world over... But I cut it up into a fine dice and then turned the rest into virgin piña coladas which I served with the tacos. And both boys drained their glasses which I counted as a victory of sorts.

Pineapple halves by Pineapple and Coconut via Flickr, some rights reserved. https://www.flickr.com/photos/pineappleandcoconut/

Things were ratcheting up into the usual pre-dinner insanity that takes place here nightly when I took the pork shoulder out and we could not manage a photo of me going at the thing with two forks. But it yielded an impressive pile of tender, shredded meat.

Pork carnitas by Eve Fox, the Garden of Eating, copyright 2016

I warmed up a bunch of corn tortillas by placing stacks of five tortillas, wrapped in tinfoil, in a 350° oven for 10-15 minutes and then leaving them in their foil until it was time to eat them - it worked beautifully. I served the pork carnitas alongside a cavalcade of bowls filled with fresh pineapple, chopped tomatoes, pickled onions, thinly sliced radishes, shredded purple cabbage, this wonderful salty lime mayo sauce, chunks of perfectly ripe avocado, a jar of our homemade salsa, and some lime wedges.

Each warm, little package of tender, flavorful meat was topped with zingy onions, buttery avocado, juicy chunks of sweet pineapple and the cool, fresh cilantro. I ate at least three...

Pork carnitas tacos by Eve Fox, The Garden of Eating, copyright 2016

As for the rest of the meat, barbecued pulled pork sandwiches are definitely in our future as well as maybe some kind of creamy polenta dish with pork. Hallelujah for multiple meals from one one mess in the kitchen.

The recipe below is adapted from Sarah Kate Gillingham's recipe on the Kitchn.

-- print recipe --
Slow-Cooker Pork Carnitas Tacos
Serves 8-10

Ingredients

* 1 (4-6 lb) pork shoulder (a.k.a. Boston butt or pork butt) roast - bone-in yields the best flavor
* 3-4 cups of liquid (orange juice, beer, stock or some combination of those things )
* 1 quart of diced tomatoes or tomato purée
* 4 diced chipotle peppers in adobo (I used 2 because my kids don't like spicy food)
* 8 garlic cloves, smashed or pressed
* 2 Tbsps coarse sea salt
* 1 Tbsp freshly ground black pepper
* 1 Tbsp ground cumin
* 1 Tbsp dried oregano
* 2 tsps ground cinnamon
* 1 tsp cayenne pepper (optional/to taste - I left this out for the kiddos' sake)

Directions

1. Place half the salt and all of the other spices in a bowl and give a little stir to combine. Cut the strings and remove them from the roast. Using a sharp knife, trim any excess fat from the pork roast, then rub the spice mixture all over the pork roast. Heat a little bit of butter or bacon fat (I keep mine in a jar in the fridge) in a Dutch oven over medium-high heat and sear the roast for several minutes on each side, until browned.

2. Place the tomatoes and liquid (juice, beer and/or stock), garlic, peppers and the rest of the salt in the slow cooker then add the browned roast and cook on low for roughly 8 hours, turning every few hours to ensure even cooking. You'll know the meat is done when it is falling off the bone.

3. Remove the meat from the cooker and let it sit on a cutting board or large plate until it's cool enough to handle safely. Using two forks, shred the meat and remove the bone. Save some of the cooking liquid to use for reheating and/or as a sauce. I actually saved all of mine and have frozen it to use next time I make this.

4. Serve the meat with warm corn tortillas, avocado, cilantro, radishes, pineapple, sour cream or lime mayo, tomatoes, pickled red onions, thinly sliced cabbage and the like.

You might also like:


For more delicious recipes, gardening ideas, foraging tips, and food-related inspiration "like" the Garden of Eating on Facebook, or follow me on Twitter and Pinterest.

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

8 Soups To Warm Up Your Winter

8 warm & delicious winter soups from the Garden of Eating blog

Thanks to the revolving door of colds and coughs my kids bring home from school, I've been making quite a lot of soup. On the plus side, I love soup.

Some are old favorites while others, like this spicy red lentil soup with meyer lemon, are new favorites. Every one is warming and delicious. My advice to you is:
  • Save your vegetable scraps - they make great stock - details here; and
  • If you make more than you need, freeze what's left over - you'll be glad you did, especially next time you catch a cold and do not feel like cooking.
Swiss Chard, White Bean & Sausage Soup
This is one of those soups that is a meal in and of itself. Hearty and full of flavor, thanks in part to the vastly underutilized trick of saving your Parmesan cheese rinds to give your stock a huge boost. You can use kale in place of the chard - both are good. Simply skip the sausage if you want to make a vegetarian version.


Quick Coconut Vegetable Stew
This is a wonderful go-to meal that is packed with flavor and also wildly good for you. The vegetables are flexible but kabocha squash is one of my favorite additions because its dense, sweet flesh pairs so nicely with the warm curry powder and the rich coconut milk. Vegan to boot!


Creamy Roasted Garlic & Potato Soup
This is one of the most addictive soups I've ever eaten - it ranks right up there with my favoriteThai soup, tom kha gai. The nutty, mellow flavor of the roasted garlic is the perfect foil for potatoes' sweet starchiness. Add a little heavy cream and you are officially IN BUSINESS.


Curried Lentil & Sweet Potato Stew
A perfect vegetarian meal packed with protein and flavor. The exotic flavors of the curry marry beautifully with both lentils and sweet potatoes. Whatever other veggies (carrots, etc.,) you want to add are just icing on the cake.


Jerusalem Artichoke (Sunchoke) & Sweet Potato Soup
I discovered this recipe as a result of Eatwell Farm, our old CSA back in Berkeley that helpfully included it in a share box that featured a big bag of sunchokes. At the time, I had no idea what they were or what to do with them so I took the easy way out and made the soup even though it sounded a little weird to me. But it was sooooo good - sweet, nutty and with a nice kick from the green garlic! Now I yearn for sunchokes and am thinking about planting a bunch in the spring even though I've been warned that they have thuggish tendencies and like to take over. Considering how tasty they are, that might not be the worst thing in the world...


Red Lentil Soup with Chili Paste & Meyer Lemon
This is my new favorite soup, inspired by a recent New York Times recipe. Like all lentil soups, it's quick, hearty and nutritious and the chili paste and lemon juice pack a nice little punch of flavor.


Winter Squash & Pear Soup with Sage
Pear adds a lovely, floral sweetness to the nutty squash and sage anchors the flavors with its earthy astringency. Add a dollop of sour cream or crème fraîche to make this extra rich and serve with peasant bread or brown rice and a green salad.


Curried Butternut Squash Soup
A super simple, super tasty (accidentally) vegan soup made with roasted butternut squash, creamy coconut milk and warm, exotic curry powder. You can't lose with this soup! If you're not a vegan, top with a little sour cream, crème fraîche or plain, whole milk yogurt.


You might also like:
For more delicious recipes, gardening ideas, foraging tips, and food-related inspiration "like" the Garden of Eating on Facebook, or follow me on Twitter and Pinterest.

Sunday, January 10, 2016

Butternut Squash Lasagna with Leeks and Béchamel

Butternut squash lasagna with leeks and bechamel sauce by Eve Fox, The Garden of Eating, copyright 2016

I've had this recipe bookmarked in my dog-eared copy of Andrea Chesman's excellent Recipes from the Root Cellar for about six years. But now that I've finally made this lovely lasagna, I will be making it often.

Butternut squash for the white lasagna with leeks and bechamel sauce by Eve Fox, The Garden of Eating, copyright 2016

It's a perfect winter meal - elegant and hearty at the same time. The combination of sweet, nutty roasted squash, mellow leeks, sage and garlic-infused béchamel, and gooey, melted Parmesan cheese makes it very hard to stop eating... In fact, next time, I will get out my HUGE lasagna pan and double the recipe to ensure leftovers.

Leeks for the butternut squash lasagna with bechamel sauce by Eve Fox, The Garden of Eating, copyright 2016

Please do NOT be intimidated by the fancy-sounding béchamel sauce - it's not hard to make. Once you've made it once, you'll realize there's nothing to be scared of, even if it does sound frighteningly French.

You start by roasting butternut squash and leeks until they're soft and caramelized.

Roasted butternut squash and leeks for the white lasagna bechamel sauce by Eve Fox, The Garden of Eating, copyright 2016

While the vegetables are roasting, you make a garlicky roux by sautéeing garlic in butter then stirring in the flour and browning it for a couple minutes.

Ingredients for the bechamel sauce for the butternut squash lasagna by Eve Fox, The Garden of Eating, copyright 2016

Then you turn that roux into a béchamel by whisking in several cups of milk, bringing it to a boil briefly and adding the dried sage and white wine. It should thicken up nicely.

Sage and thyme-infused béchamel sauce for the butternut squash lasagna with leeks by Eve Fox, The Garden of Eating, copyright 2016

Assembly is easy, just schmear some béchamel in the bottom of the pan, put a layer of lasagna noodles (I used no-cook) over it, do another schmear, top with a layer of roasted vegetables and a blizzard of Parmesan cheese and repeat as many times as you have ingredients for.

Building the butternut squash lasagna with leeks and béchamel sauce by Eve Fox, The Garden of Eating, copyright 2016

Cover with tinfoil and bake for half an hour, then remove the foil and bake a little longer to achieve maximum bubbling and browning. Cut and serve with a salad and some bread.

Butternut squash lasagna with leeks and bechamel sauce by Eve Fox, The Garden of Eating, copyright 2016

If you don't already have a copy of Recipes from the Root Cellar, I encourage you to get one! It's one of my three most-used cookbooks along with Deborah Madison's Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone and the good old Joy of Cooking.

-- print recipe --
Butternut Squash Lasagna with Leeks and Béchamel
Serves 6

Ingredients

For the lasagna
* 1 large butternut or other winter squash (about 1 1/2 pounds), peeled, seeds removed and cut into small cubes
* 3 leeks, rinsed trimmed and sliced
* 3 Tbsps olive oil
* 12 no-boil lasagna noodles
* 2 cups grated Parmesan cheese
* Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

For the béchamel sauce
* 6 Tbsps organic butter
* 3 3/4 cups organic milk
* 3 cloves of garlic, minced or pressed
* 6 Tbsps all-purpose flour
* 1/2 cup dry white wine
* 1 tsp dried sage
* 1 tsp dried thyme
* Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Directions

1. Preheat the oven to 425. Mound the squash and leeks on a baking sheet, drizzle with the oil, salt and pepper and toss thoroughly with your hands until everything is well-coated. Arrange in a single layer and bake, turning once or twice to avoid burning for 25-30 minutes, until the vegetables are tender and browned. Remove pan from the oven and lower the heat to 350.

2. While the veggies are roasting, make the béchamel sauce. Melt the butter in a saucepan over medium heat, add the garlic and cook until fragrant, about two minutes. Whisk in the flour to make a smooth paste (a roux) and cook, whisking constantly for about one minute. Add the milk and whisk until smooth. Bring to a slow boil, stir in the wine and sage and season with salt and pepper. Remove from the heat.

3. Assemble the lasagna: spread half a cup of the béchamel in the bottom of a 9- by 13-inch baking dish. Lay three noodles over the bottom of the pan. Pour more of the sauce over the noodles then top with a third of the roasted squash and leeks and a quarter of the Parmesan cheese. Repeat until you've used up the veggies and noodles. Spread the remaining sauce and sprinkle whatever cheese you have left on top.

4. Cover the pan with tinfoil and bake for 30 minutes, then remove the foil and bake for another 10-15 minutes to brown the top. Remove and let stand for five minutes before cutting and serving.

You might also like:
For more delicious recipes, gardening ideas, foraging tips, and food-related inspiration "like" the Garden of Eating on Facebook, or follow me on Twitter and Pinterest.