Butternut Squash & Ricotta Toasts

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Merry Christmas week everyone! Are you feeling festive yet?

Thanks to a couple weeks of hikes on beautiful snowy trails and a massive cookie baking day with my mom (where we went completely insane and made nearly 900 cookies during one very-long day), I’m totally feeling in the holiday spirit.

I’m glad we’re back in action, we definitely had a lull in Christmas cheer for a moment. We began pretty early with the holiday movies this year and had the house totally decorated by thanksgiving, so by early December I actually needed a bit do a break from all things festive. The great British bake off and swapping out my holiday tunes for audiobooks did the trick, and now, luckily we’re now back in action with Frank Sinatra Christmas tunes playing and a fridge full of great food prepped for the next three days of celebration. We even got up the energy to start our annual December Harry Potter marathon up and running with some friends virtually.

Even though the snow is melting , things are feeling quite magical. We’ve handed out cookies to everyone we can think of. We’ve ordered (and devoured) a decadent holiday meal from one of our favorite restaurants. And we’ve got a pile of presents under our tree. All that’s left to do is gather with our dear sweet families, sink into home, play some games, open some gifts, and enjoy time together around the dinner table.

All the holidays meals we have planned over the next three days hit the perfect balance of nourishing, extravagant, and festive. There will even eggs Benedict, eggnog cinnamon rolls (if I don’t mess them up), breakfast pizza, cheese spread, relish trays, crab, spiral ham, scalloped potatoes and prime rib sandwiches. Life is good. As usual, we’ll be bringing lots of vegetables to every table. I’m making this elegant salad from Half Baked Harvest for Christmas Eve dinner and a sprawling array of veggies, dips, and pretzels for Christmas Day. If there’s room in our bellies, I’ll also be whipping up these beautiful Butternut Squash and Ricotta Toasts on Christmas Day as an appetizer for our dinner.

These butternut squash toasts are one of my absolute favorite winter treats. They’re a super fun simple appetizer for any holiday table or dinner party. With a little advanced prep, they come together in minutes. The contrasting colors are striking. And the combination of flavors and textures is just next level. I love the way the creamy ricotta pairs with the crusty, crunchy bread and how the tender sweet butternut squash and almost candied onions okay with the salty cheese.

If you’re still looking for something to contribute to your family’s holiday meal, this is the perfect recipe. Or, if you’re just looking for something elegant and easy to eat for dinner tonight while sipping a glass of wine and turning on your favorite holiday movie, this is also the perfect recipe.

Enjoy my friends and have a most lovely, joyful week.

Your friend,
Leek

P.S. If you do make these toasts for your Christmas or New Year’s table, please let me know what you think! Or better yet, snap a photo and share your creation with me on Instagram at @theleekandthecarrot.

BUTTERNUT SQUASH & RICOTTA TOASTS
Recipe adapted from Smitten Kitchen

Serves 4 as a meal, 8 as an appetizer
Takes 45 minutes

2 tablespoons canola oil
1 large butternut squash (or 2 small), peeled and cut into 1/2-inch rounds
3/4 teaspoon Kosher salt, divided
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 yellow onions
2 tablespoons butter
1/4 cup maple syrup
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
1 loaf favorite sourdough bread, sliced and toasted
1 cup whole-milk ricotta
Thyme or microgreens, optional

  1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
  2. Drizzle pan with half the canola oil, add butternut rounds, drizzle with remaining oil and sprinkle with 1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt and pepper. Roast for 20 minutes, flip squash and roast additional 20 minutes until softened and slightly browned.
  3. While the squash roasts, prepare your caramelized onions. Melt butter over medium low heat in a large saute pan. Add onions and remaining 1/4 teaspoon Kosher salt. Saute for 15 minutes until onions are softened but have not taken on color.
  4. Increase heat to medium, add maple syrup and cook 15 minutes longer until reduced and thickened. Add apple cider vinegar to deglaze the pan and cook a couple minutes longer, until liquid has reduced.
  5. Remove squash from the oven and gently smash with a fork.
  6. If serving as a meal, leave sourdough as whole slices. If serving as appetizers, cut in half or into thirds. Scoop a heaping tablespoon of ricotta onto half slices (or a couple tablespoons onto full slices). Add butternut squash to toasts (1 per half slice or 2 per full slice) followed by a heaping tablespoon of onions (again 1 per half slice or 2 per full slice). Garnish with thyme or microgreens. Serve immediately.

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