Butternut Squash, Hazelnut and Sage Mousse

A savory dessert or appetizer.

After a series of acorn squashes, we started receiving butternut squashes from our CSA. Having a great deal of fresh sage on hand and some hazelnuts, I decided to make a butternut squash mousse combining these ingredients.  The result turned out to be delicious and complimentary flavors and just as perfect for a savory dessert or an appetizer.

For those of you who are not keen on sweet desserts, try making this in small molds, even muffin molds, and serve warm at the end of a meal.

20131201-093852.jpgAs a mousse, and not a soufflé, this dish does not rise much.  So it is easy to unmold and serve on a platter or individual plates for smaller versions.

20131201-093959.jpgIngredients:
1 butternut squash (about 2.2 oz)
1 large shallot (about 3 oz)
3 oz hazelnuts
1/4 oz fresh sage
3 organic brown eggs
1 Tbsp. olive oil
1 Tbsp. butter to brush the baking mold(s)
Freshly ground sea salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 400 F.
Bake butternut squash in the same way as for the acorn squash in the Acorn Squash and Kale salad recipe, for about 45 minutes. Once soft to the touch, take out the squash of the oven, and set aside until cool enough to handle. Then, turn the oven temperature down to 350 F.

Set the butter out at room temperature so that it softens.

20131201-094429.jpgChop the shallot finely by slicing it horizontally, then vertically in perpendicular directions, while holding on to the roots.

20131201-094519.jpgHeat the olive oil in a skillet on medium high, add the shallots once the oil is hot and immediately turn down the heat to low. Let cook slowly till translucent.

20131201-094903.jpgMeanwhile, prepare the sage.  Remove the leafs from the stems.

20131201-095011.jpgChop the leaves finely and reserve a few whole leaves for decoration.

20131201-095217.jpgPlace the hazelnuts in a food processor fitted with a steel blade and process by pulsing.

20131201-095312.jpgKeep pulsing until roughly ground.

20131201-095621.jpgOnce the butter is softened, brush it on the bottom and sides of the baking dish.  It is important to use softened butter and not hasten the process by melting it because it will not adhere as well to the sides of the dish.

20131201-095724.jpgPlace about 2 Tbsps. of ground hazelnuts on the bottom of the dish and swirl it around so that the hazelnuts coat up to one third of the dish.

20131201-095822.jpgReserve another tablespoon of ground hazelnuts for decoration.

20131201-100045.jpgPour the remaining hazelnuts from the food processor bowl into the skillet where the shallots have become translucent. Mix well.

20131201-100136.jpgKeep cooking on low heat, turning occasionally, until the hazelnuts brown slightly to develop their nutty flavor. Season with salt and pepper.

20131201-100322.jpgMeanwhile, the butternut squash should be cool enough to handle.

20131201-100445.jpgPress it through a ricer into a bowl, or you might also purée it in a food processor if you prefer.

20131201-100555.jpgYou should obtain a smooth purée, with no lump.

20131201-100708.jpgAdd the sage and hazelnut/shallot mixture. Mix well.

20131201-101013.jpgSeparate the egg whites from the yolks.  Place the egg whites in a large bowl to whisk them.

20131201-101109.jpgIncorporate the egg yolks, one at a time, by mixing rapidly into the squash mixture (make sure it is cool so as to not cook the eggs).  Season with salt and pepper.

20131201-101331.jpgWhisk the egg whites with a pinch of salt until firm.

20131201-101426.jpgAdd one third of the egg whites to the squash mixture and mix thoroughly.  Then add the remaining egg whites and fold them in.

20131201-101532.jpgKeep folding the egg whites until you obtain a uniform airy mixture.

20131201-101652.jpgPour into the baking dish (or separate smaller dishes) and bake in the 350 F. oven for about 30-40 minutes depending on the size of the dishes you are using.

20131201-101741.jpgWhen the sides of the mousse come away from the dish, the mousse is ready.

20131201-101845.jpgUnmold it, decorate with ground hazelnuts and sage and enjoy immediately!

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Eggplant Mousse

We obviously grow a lot of eggplants in Provence in the summer time, and we have a myriad different ways to prepare them. My mother used to make “Mousse d’Aubergine” for us fairly frequently. This recipe was one of my brothers’ and my favorites. So making it is always reminiscent of the summer lunches we would share out on the patio. Here in Chicago, it is wonderful served as a brunch as well as an accompaniment to a dinner.

20130817-165847.jpgWhen I spoke to my mother about the fact I was going to share this recipe on my blog, she admitted that lately she hadn’t been making it, because it contains cream and she no longer tolerates lactose well. So I made this recipe with almond milk instead, and it turned out delicious. You can enjoy it either way, depending on your dietary preferences.

20130818-073846.jpgIngredients:
2 large organic eggplants
3 eggs
1/4 cup almond milk
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
1 large organic tomato
1 large shallot or small onion
1 garlic clove
Sea salt and black pepper to taste
3-4Tbsp olive oil
Fresh chives for decoration
Preheat oven to 400F

20130818-073920.jpgCut the eggplants in half and brush olive oil on the the inside.

20130818-074009.jpgPlace on a baking sheet face down and bake for about 40-45 minutes.

20130818-074040.jpgMeanwhile prepare the tomato sauce by peeling and chopping the onion and garlic. To save time, my mother did to always peel and seed the tomatoes, so here I simply removed the hard green core from the stem and chopped the tomatoes country-style. The texture will be a bit more grainy than if you peel and seed them, so if you prefer a smoother texture, please refer to my Mussels with in Orange, Tomato and Saffron sauce recipe to see the technique on how to peel and seed tomatoes.

20130818-074116.jpgHeat the olive oil and add the chopped onion. Reduce the heat to simmer until the onion melt and become translucent.

20130818-074212.jpgAdd the chopped tomatoes and garlic. Simmer for about 15-20 minutes until soft and cooked. Season with freshly ground sea salt and black pepper.

20130818-075254.jpgUsing a spoon, scoop the eggplant away from the skin. It should detach very easily when cooked.

20130818-074533.jpg Drain the eggplant in a colander for a few minutes to remove excess water.

20130818-074734.jpg Place in a food processor fitted with a steel blade.

20130818-074822.jpg Process till smooth.

20130818-074857.jpg Transfer the eggplant to a bowl and add the almond milk. Mix well.

20130818-074946.jpg Separate the egg yolks and reserve the whites for whisking. When the eggplant is cool enough so it won’t cook the egg yolks, add them one at a time mixing energetically and well. Season with nutmeg and freshly ground sea salt and black pepper.

20130818-075329.jpg Whisk the egg whites until stiff with a pinch of salt.

20130818-075407.jpgAdd about 1/4 to 1/3 of the whisked egg whites to the eggplant mixture and mix well.

20130818-075445.jpgFold in the remaining egg whites until fully incorporated.

20130818-075620.jpgPour the mixture into individual soufflé dishes, or one large one depending on how you intend to serve it. Place the dish(es) in a water bath and bake for about 20-30 minutes depending on the size of the soufflé dish you are using.

20130818-075727.jpgThe mousse is ready when the top is golden brown.

20130818-075805.jpg Top with a thin layer of tomato sauce, decorate with some fresh chives, and enjoy!