Butternut Squash, Radicchio, and Habanero Sauce. This sounds like a Chopped Champions puzzle to solve, and we haven’t even talked about pairing the wine! You can be the winner.

Butternut Squash and Radicchio with Habanero Sauce

1 medium butternut squash (about 2 pounds), quartered, and seeds and pulp removed

1/4 cup canola oil, divided

1 large onion, finely diced

Salt to taste

1 head radicchio, cored and roughly chopped

1 Tablespoon Balsamic vinegar

More salt to taste

1/2 cup sunflower seeds

1/4 cup chopped parsley

More salt to taste

Habanero Sauce (You won’t use it all in this dish)

1 Habanero chili, stemmed and deseeded, and then finely diced (wear rubber or latex gloves) 3/8 cup yellow mustard

1 orange, zested

Juice from 1 orange

Juice from 1 lime

2 cloves garlic

1 Tablespoon (packed) brown sugar

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper

1/4 teaspoon curry powder

1/4 teaspoon ground cumin

1/4 teaspoon ground coriander

In a pressure cooker or Dutch oven with a steamer tray, cook butternut squash to fork tender. Don’t overcook it. Think of how you would cook and dice potatoes for potato salad. Set aside to cool.

Meanwhile, sauté onion with 2 Tablespoon canola oil under medium heat in a skillet. When starting to brown, set aside to cool. In the same skillet sauté radicchio in the remaining 2 Tablespoon canola oil until soft. Add Balsamic vinegar to coat radicchio and deglaze the skillet. Add more salt to taste, and then set aside to cool.

Prepare Habanero Sauce.

In a blender, thoroughly blend all ingredients for the Habanero Sauce, and then set aside.

When squash is cool enough to handle, peel and cut into 1/2-inch chunks. Place in a mixing bowl. Add 3/8 cup Habanero Sauce and carefully toss (in a folding motion) to thoroughly coat the squash. Add onions and radicchio along with the sunflower seeds and chopped parsley and carefully fold again. Add more salt if needed, and a little more Habanero Sauce if you want a little more bite. Chill in the refrigerator before serving. Serves six to eight as a side dish.

We want to pair for contrast by choosing a crisp, acidic wine to cleanse and refresh the palate. Crisp light- to medium-bodied wines allow the acidity of the wine to cut through the food. These "crisp" white wines are often paired with spicy dishes like this one to give our palates a break from the heat.

Pair this dish with Rancho Sisquoc’s 2016 Santa Barbara County Riesling. Their Riesling vines are over 45 years old and continue to deliver uniquely mature wine. Juicy peach pie and creamy honey aromas and flavors, 2.8% Residual Sugar, pH 3.39, TA 5.34, 90% Riesling, 10% Sylvaner. A Gold Medal Winner at the 2017 San Francisco International Wine Competition, and a Silver Medal Winner at San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition. Enjoy!

John David Finley is a free-lance writer and author of the cookbook, Sacred Meals from our Family Table, which features Santa Barbara County wines. He can be reached at sacredmeals@comcast.net.

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