For my first time dining at ABC Kitchen my friend and dining companion forced the squash toast on me. I read that menu with as much enthusiasm, delight and excitement as I did reading Harry Potter 7 (I just finished rereading the series and am deeply missing it). Each dish ignited inspiration – except for the squash toast. Squishy ricotta, on squishy bread with squishy squash. But she insisted.
I love it when I’m wrong. When I’m reminded of the very thing I teach my children on a daily basis, “Don’t judge something before you’ve tried it.” (Same goes for people, places, experiences, etc.) Before I even realized it I’ve made up my own mind, somehow convincing myself of the truth when really I know nothing.
So here I give you my recipe for humble pie. Otherwise known as Squash Toast.
I have made this recipe several times since our dinner at ABC Kitchen. I’ve used butternut squash, as they do at the restaurant but I’ve since switched to delicata as I love that the squash doesn’t squish into the jam. Instead the skin (also, no peeling!) crisps in the oven so you get a lovely tender crunch. I also think the little roasted half moons are so stunning sitting atop a bed of creamy ricotta. However, no one complained when I used butternut squash so feel free to decide for yourself.
This dish can skew towards the sweet so don’t be shy with salt and heat. I have also added smoked paprika to the original recipe because, well, you know me, I love smoke.
Now I am the one insisting you try this recipe. Trust me.
Squash Toast with Smoky Onion Jam
Yield 4 servings
This recipe is my version of the iconic toast served at ABC Kitchen.
1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 large onion, thinly sliced
Pinch chili flake
3 thyme sprigs
1/3 cup red wine vinegar
1/4 cup maple syrup
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
1 delicata squash, halved and seeded
2 tablespoons Olive oil
4 thick cut slices of bread
1 cup whole milk ricotta
1/4 cup mint leaves, torn or chopped
For the onion jam:
In a large skillet or dutch oven set over medium heat, add the olive oil, butter, onions and then a pinch of salt. Stir in the chili flake and thyme sprigs.
Cook the onions slowly until they start to soften and then eventually brown. If the edges start to brown and crisp turn down the heat so as to gently encourage the natural sugars in the onions to caramelize. This, like so many of life’s finest things, takes time. So give it that. 45 minutes to an hour is fine. You could go longer and your patience would be rewarded.
Once the onions match the color of a fine aged cigar (first reference that popped into my head - Gabe is really into cigars right now) stir in the vinegar and maple syrup. Reduce until sticky - neither soupy or dry, about 3 minutes of cooking. Turn off the heat, wait for it to cool a bit then pluck the thyme sprigs from the jam. While the jam cools roast the squash.
For the squash:
Line a sheet pan with parchment and preheat your oven to 400°F.
Cut the squash into 1/4 inch thick half moons. Add to the sheet pan then toss with 2 tablespoons olive oil, salt and a pinch of chili flake. Roast until tender and caramelized in parts. I don’t even mind a few bits that are crisp and charred.
Gently fold the roasted squash into the onion jam. Keep warm for the toasts or make ahead, cover and refrigerate for up to 3 days. Rewarm before serving.
Assemble the toast:
Drizzle the bread with olive oil then toast in a hot skillet, grill pan or on an actual grill. You want a good bit of color on the exterior crust while maintaining some softness within. SO use a very hot pan.
Top the bread with ricotta then add a nice pinch of salt. Add to that about 1/3 cup of the onion/squash mixture. Finish with salt and fresh mint. I like to add a bit more chili flake to mine too but that is up to you.