September 17

CROSTINI WITH BUTTERNUT SQUASH, KALE PESTO, AND RICOTTA

I love to kick off a meal with some crostini.  A squeeze of lemon at the end gives this dish a bright acidity that brings all the flavors together.

2 cups (3/4 inch-dice) butternut squash
¼  cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus more as needed
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
½ bunch Tuscan kale (also called lacinato, cavolo nero, or dinosaur kale), trimmed and ribs removed (about 8 cups)
⅓ cup (1. to 1. ounces) finely grated Pecorino Romano cheese, plus more as needed
¼  cup fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves
6 large fresh basil leaves
Juice of  ½ lemon, plus more as needed
4 (1-inch-thick) slices rustic bread
2 garlic cloves, halved lengthwise
½  cup (about 4 ounces) Ricotta
Lemon wedges, for serving

Preheat the oven to 350°F; position the rack in the middle of the oven.

Spread the butternut squash on a rimmed baking sheet and drizzle with just enough olive oil to coat. Season with salt and pepper, and using a spoon, toss the ingredients together until the squash is coated with the oil. Roast for 20 to 25 minutes, stirring every 10 minutes, or until the squash is fork-tender. Remove the pan from the oven, transfer to a wire rack, and set aside.

While the squash is roasting, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Fill a large bowl with ice and water. Blanch the kale in the boiling water until bright green, about 1 minute. Drain and transfer to the prepared ice bath, and let cool completely. Wring dry and transfer to the bowl of a food processor. Add the Pecorino Romano, parsley, basil, lemon juice, and a few pinches of salt and pepper and pulse a few times. With the motor running, add ¼ cup olive oil in a thin stream until the mixture is uniform and combined. If the pesto is looking dry, add a bit more oil until you get the desired consistency. Taste and adjust the seasonings. You should have about 1½ cups pesto. Set aside.

Preheat the broiler.

Lightly drizzle the bread with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Toast under the broiler for 1 to 1½ minutes, or until golden brown and warmed through.

Transfer to a cutting board and rub the garlic clove halves all over the toasted side of the bread.

Spread a thin layer of kale pesto over each slice of bread, top with a generous dollop of ricotta, and spread it over the pesto. Place a few cubes of the squash on top, nestling it in the cheese so it doesn’t fall off. Squeeze a few more drops of lemon juice over the crostini, and top with a dusting of Pecorino Romano and a drizzle of olive oil. Cut each bread slice in half (for easier eating) and serve immediately.