Squash toasts with goat’s cheese and caramelized onions

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It is (still) winter–indeed, still February. Winter squash season has been going strong for five months. In October, it was exciting. Turning on the oven! In November, I still happily tossed roasted squash into salads and soups. In December, I stirred it into a big chickpea curry, served with cardamom-scented rice.

But now, in February, the act is getting old. Turn on the oven, again?

And yet for this recipe, you’ll want to. Crumble some goat’s cheese (or feta, or ricotta) onto a thick, crusty piece of bread. Turn on that oven. Roast squash, then pile on top of bread along with sweet caramelized onions. Sprinkle with mint to brighten things up, and call it dinner.

Squash toasts with goat’s cheese and caramelized onions (serves 6 hearty mains)
Adapted from smittenkitchen, who adapted it from ABC Kitchen via the NYTimes

Ingredients
2, 3-pound yellow-fleshed winter squash (such as delicata, kabocha, acorn, or butternut–I used the latter), or 6 pounds of pre-cut squash (as sold at Trader Joe’s)
3/4 cup olive oil, divided
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
Coarse sea or kosher salt
2 big or 3 small yellow onions, peeled and thinly sliced
2/3 cup apple cider vinegar
1/4 cup brown sugar
2 tablespoons maple syrup (alternatively, you can use 6 tablespoons brown sugar and cut out the maple syrup. I made this change to cut costs.)
1 big loaf of crusty bread, sliced into 1-inch thick slices
1 cup (8 ounces) goat’s cheese, feta, ricotta, or mascarpone
1/2 cup chopped mint leaves (don’t skip this!)

Instructions
Heat oven to 450F. Line two large baking sheets with parchment paper or non-stick silpat.

Halve butternut squash at the part where the neck starts to get thicker. Seed. Cut into slices. (The original recipe recommends 1/4-inch thick. I did maybe 1/2-inch or 1-inch-thick.) Place on pan. Coat with 1/2 cup olive oil, 2 teaspoons salt, and pepper flakes. Roast until tender and colored, about 40 minutes (or more, if you cut the squash thicker or if you’re using a squash with a higher moisture content), flipping partway through. Once cooked and cooled, you can easily cut the flesh from the squash. Leave on tray.

While the squash is roasting, heat remaining olive oil in large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the onions and 1 teaspoon salt and cook, stirring frequently, until onions are softened and beginning to brown, about 10 to 15 minutes. Add vinegar, brown sugar, and maple syrup and reduce heat to medium or medium-low. Cook, stirring, until onions are jammy and broken down, another 10 to 15 minutes.

While onions are caramelizing, toast however many slices of bread you want in toaster, toaster oven, or oven.

Pile onions on top of roasted squash, still on their baking sheet. Use a fork to gently half-mash the mixture. Taste and adjust seasonings if needed.

Spread cheese on toasts, heap with squash-onion mixture, sprinkle with a bit more salt, and garnish with mint.

Leftover potential: At home, just toast more bread, reheat squash in microwave, and assemble with cheese and mint. If you’re bringing this as a work lunch (as you can see I did, above), bring a couple of slices of bread in plastic wrap, a container of the squash-onion mixture, and a smaller container with a hunk of cheese and mint. You won’t be able to toast the bread, but it will still beat the heck out of your colleague’s cold cut sandwich.

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