Halloween is coming soon. The big question is what to do with all the pumpkin. Eat them, of course. My latest creation is this yummy, rich Pumpkin Lasagne. With classic hints of nutmeg and sage, a bit of chocolate adds a meaty character to a meatless dish. A little bit goes a long way, so it is perfect for a party!
For the Pumpkin:
1 sugar pie pumpkin (about 3 lbs.)
4 Tablespoons butter, melted
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground white pepper
Cut off the top of the pumpkin and peel it with a vegetable peeler (the skin should be thin enough to accomplish this without too much trouble). Cut off the bottom of the pumpkin, cut it in half and scoop out the seeds and strings. Cut in again into quarters, then slice into 1/4-inch slices, first slicing the top and bottom bits, then turning it and slicing the rest vertically. Put the pumpkins slices in a big bowl and toss with the melted butter, salt and white pepper until evenly coated. Heat a large frying pan over high heat. when the pan is good and hot, sear the pumpkin slices, in batches, until browned on both sides. Set the seared pumpkin aside until you are ready to assemble the lasagne.
Bechamel Sauce :
3 Tablespoons butter
1/3 cup flour
3 1/2 cups milk
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
1 teaspoon salt
2 ounces 90% chocolate (or unsweetened, or 85 %)
Melt the butter in a large saucepan. Add the flour all at once and whisk to combine ( it will be crumbly) Continue to heat over low heat, stirring occasionally until it turns nut brown. Add the cold milk all at once and whisk to combine. Continue to heat, stirring occasionally again, until the sauce becomes thick. Simmer about 5 minutes, then whisk in the nutmeg, salt and chocolate. Remove from the heat and set aside until ready to use.
For the Onion Garnish:
1 large onion, finely diced
1 Tablespoon olive oil
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 Tablespoons finely chopped fresh sage
3/4 cup dry white wine
In a medium saute pan over med-high heat, heat the olive oil, then add the onion and salt. Saute until onion is soft, add the sage and white wine. Reduce the wine until it is nearly dry. Set aside.
For Final Assembly:
1 package no-boil lasagne noodles
3/4 lb. fontina cheese, grated
1 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
Okay, here we go assembling our masterpiece. Lightly oil your lasagne pan. The one I used for this made a small, but very tall lasagne (9"X 7" and 3" deep), but you could make it in a bigger pan with fewer layers if you wish. First, spread a layer of bechamel sauce on the bottom (about a generous 1/2 cup) put a single layer of noodle over that, sprinkle 1/4 of the onions over the noodle. Spread a layer of grated fontina over that. Place pumpkin slices in a single snug layer over the cheese. Pour about 1/4-1/3 cup cream over the pumpkin, then start all over, but this time reversing the bechamel and noodle ie: put the noodle over the cream, then bechamel, onion, fontina, pumpkin, cream, then again. Keep layering until you run out of stuff, but make sure to end with a layer of noodle covered with bechamel, onion (if you have any left), fontina, then finish with the parmesan. Bake at 325 for about one hour, until bubbling and brown around the edges. Let sit for at least 10 minutes before you slice into it. It will be gooey and want to spread out rather than stay in beautiful slices, but that's what makes it so good!
The Solbar in Calistoga has been open for a year or two, but we thought many of you may have missed it as it is not a stand alone restaurant, but is located in the Solage Resort. Solage is part of the Auberge Resorts and like their two other properties in the Valley it is a beautiful operation. The restaurant is located next to their enormous pool and offers inside or outside dining. Dining outside is wonderful with the views of the pool and of the hillsides. Immediately adjacent to the seating area are two bocce courts so you can get in a game or two before or after the meal. Dining inside is just as comfortable, the high ceilings and modern design are welcoming, sophisticated and warm with a large bar where you can simply relax. We've eaten there five or six times now, both inside and out, and can say that the food is consistently great. Because they are a hotel restaurant they serve breakfast, lunch and dinner. The food is farm to table in style with a range of light dishes to some with richer flavors. Among our favorites are the light and fresh Shrimp Lettuce Wraps and a great salad of a crispy poached "Lily's Egg" on frisee with prosciutto - their riff on the classic french frisee salad with lardons. The main courses are what I would term elegant, comfort food with strong flavors and quality ingredients. Favorites here include a Snake River Farms Bavette Steak and the Ahi Tuna with bacon, beans and chanterelles. We look forward to trying their "Lucky Pig" which looks absolutely fabulous. If you get there first, let us know how it is! www.solagecalistoga.com