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Comfort food for November: nuts, squash and cake

It will eventually feel a little colder, right? Here are foods for that scenario.
'Tis the season for acorn squash, which is delicious roasted or worked into a lasagna.
'Tis the season for acorn squash, which is delicious roasted or worked into a lasagna. [ MICHELLE STARK | Tampa Bay Times ]
Published Nov. 4, 2020

November? When did you get here?

I have mixed emotions about it being the second-to-last month of 2020, a year truly unlike any other I’ve lived.

On the one hand, November is the best. The weather cools down ever so slightly (ahem, still waiting for that cold front, Florida), the holiday season is in full swing, and it’s a month that naturally lends itself to making lots of food.

On the other, well, things don’t feel very festive this year. With a fraught election and the pandemic sucking all the air out of the room, it’s harder to get excited about an apple cake.

But get excited we must, because what is food if not one of life’s greatest sources of comfort?

Here are three things I’m indulging in this month. Stay tuned for Thanksgiving tips and recipes throughout November, including in our special Sunday Thanksgiving issue on Nov. 22.

Browned Butter Pear Cake: This would work with apples, too, but pears rarely get to shine in baked goods the way apples do, so I’m going with them here. The full recipe is below, but you could just as easily use your favorite cake recipe with a few swaps: Brown your butter before adding it to the batter and stir in some thinly sliced pears at the end of mixing.

Roasted nut mix: A warm nutty snack was one of my great revelations last holiday season, so I’m definitely planning to work that into my repertoire this and next month. One of my favorite mixes is whole almonds, chopped dates, orange peel and fresh rosemary. Just add the whole thing to a skillet with olive oil or butter, season with salt and a pinch of cinnamon, and cook until the almonds are fragrant and everything is nice and caramelized.

Squash lasagna: Squash and pasta are an exquisite fall pairing, especially when there’s some cheese added in. I like using squash in lasagna, specifically one that trades a red meat sauce for a white bechamel. Use your favorite lasagna recipe, but sub this sauce for the red sauce: In a medium saucepan, melt 4 tablespoons butter. When melted, whisk in 4 tablespoons flour and let cook a minute until gently bubbling. Before it browns, add 2 ½ cups milk and stir constantly until you’ve got a smooth consistency. Season with salt, pepper and a pinch of nutmeg, and bring to a low boil. Keep stirring, and cook for a couple of minutes until mixture has thickened. Remove from heat and use. Along with this sauce, layer thinly sliced squash between your lasagna noodle layers. I’ve used butternut and acorn with equally good results.

Browned Butter Pear Cake

3 large ripe Bosc pears, peeled, cored and thinly sliced

2 tablespoons sugar

1 teaspoon lemon juice

½ teaspoon ground cardamom

½ cup unsalted butter

¾ cup plus 1 tablespoon sugar

¼ teaspoon vanilla extract

2 eggs, lightly beaten

1 cup flour, sifted

¼ teaspoon salt

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Butter or oil an 11-inch glass pie dish.

In a mixing bowl, gently toss the pears with sugar, lemon juice and cardamom. Arrange into an even layer in the prepared pie dish.

In a small saucepan set over medium-high heat, melt the butter and cook until golden brown, about 7 to 10 minutes. (Watch it carefully to ensure it doesn’t burn.) Remove from heat immediately and set aside to cool for 5 minutes.

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Scrape the browned butter and solids into a mixing bowl. Stir in the ¾ cup sugar and vanilla, then add the eggs one at a time, stirring well to incorporate between additions. Add the flour and salt, and fold in until just barely combined. Spoon the batter evenly over the pears, then smooth the top to make an even layer. Sprinkle with the remaining tablespoon sugar.

Bake in preheated oven until top is golden and filling is bubbly, about 30 to 40 minutes. Let cool in the pan on a wire rack until just warm, then slice into wedges and serve.

Source: Adapted from crumbblog.com