Recently, a dish that made my heart beat faster was a stacked column of colorful winter squash slices topped with sauteed greens and a savory curl of Parmigiano cheese. It was so beautiful and lovingly assembled that I decided to recreate it myself on Valentine's Day.
Served at the James Beard Foundation Food Conference about sustainability and promoting local agriculture, it was both dramatic and delicious. Happily, the chef at the Convene Conference Center who created it shared his recipe. Like many chefs' dishes, this one requires patience to prepare, but the steps are simple.
Once you cut slices of the same size from butternut, Delicata and yellow squashes, and a sweet potato (a.k.a., Jewel or Garnet yam), lots of lovely orange vegetables will be left. Tossed into a pot with vegetable broth, a leek, an onion and an apple, they make a delicious soup.
Called a Winter Squash Napoleon on the conference menu, this was presented as a vegetarian main course. I would scatter some sauteed mushrooms around it - chunky-cut creminis sauteed in olive oil - to complete the plate. For meat-eaters, the indulgence of pan-seared filet mignon or a juicy lamb chop would be perfect with this squash stack.
To start this dinner, a light salad of whole endive leaves, long watercress sprigs, baby arugula and baby spinach is perfect. Dress it with a light vinaigrette of balsamic vinegar, lemon juice and extra virgin olive oil and sprinkle on shelled pistachios.
For a romantic finish, serve big, long-stem strawberries and melted dark chocolate. Dip and share…you get the picture!
Dana Jacobi is author of "12 Best Foods Cookbook" and contributor to American Institute for Cancer Research's "New American Plate Cookbook: Recipes for a Healthy Weight and a Healthy Life."