A dish rooted in the earth’s bounty

Dear SOS: I recently dined at Rustic Canyon Wine Bar & Seasonal Kitchen in Santa Monica. I had the root vegetable shepherd’s pie with butternut squash puree main course. It was wonderful.

Jacqueline Shubitowski Sherman Oaks

Dear Jacqueline: This is just the dish to eat right now, while we are still enjoying the last of that cool spring weather. Note that the recipe can be made ahead of time up until Step 10, then finished just before dinner so it’s served piping hot.



Root vegetable shepherd’s pie

Total time: 1 1/2 hours, plus baking time for the squash

Servings: 8 to 10

Note: Adapted from Rustic Canyon Wine Bar & Seasonal Kitchen.


1 large butternut squash


7 1/2 tablespoons butter, divided


3/4 teaspoon grated nutmeg

1/4 cup fingerling potatoes, diced

1 clove garlic

1 sprig thyme plus 2 tablespoons chopped thyme, divided


1 sprig rosemary plus 1 tablespoon chopped rosemary, divided

1 celery root, peeled and diced

2 cups heavy cream

2 tablespoons chopped sage

4 carrots, peeled and diced

3 parsnips, peeled and diced

Freshly ground black pepper

2 apples, cored and diced (peels left on)


1 kohlrabi, peeled and sliced

1/4 cup sliced leeks

3 small turnips, peeled and diced

1 cup chopped shallots

1/4 pound spinach

1 cup diced fresh brioche or challah

1/2 cup creme fraiche

1/2 cup fresh bread crumbs

1. Heat the oven to 400 degrees.

2. Halve the squash lengthwise, then scoop out and discard the seeds and fibers. Place the halves on a baking sheet, cut side up, and season each half with one-fourth teaspoon salt. Place one-half tablespoon butter in the hollow of each half, then cover the sheet with foil and bake until the squash are tender, about 1 hour. Set aside to cool slightly, then scoop the flesh out of each half and discard the outer shell.

3. Brown the butter: Place 2 tablespoons in a large, heavy-bottom saute pan and cook over medium-high heat until the butter browns and has a nutty aroma, about 3 minutes. Be careful not to burn. Stir in the squash and sprinkle over the nutmeg. Reduce the heat to medium-low and cook for 5 minutes, stirring constantly to break the softened squash into a puree. Watch carefully so the squash does not burn on the bottom of the pan. Remove from heat and set aside to cool.

4. While the squash cools, cook the potatoes. Bring a small saucepan of lightly salted water to a boil. Stir in the potatoes, garlic and 1 sprig each of thyme and rosemary. Cook until the potatoes are just tender, about 8 minutes. Drain the potatoes, discarding the garlic and herbs and set aside in a large bowl.

5. In the same saucepan, combine the celery root with the cream and 1 1/2 teaspoons salt. Bring the mixture to a boil, then reduce to a simmer and cook until the celery root is tender, about 10 minutes. Strain out the celery root and place in the large bowl with the potatoes. Reserve one-fourth cup of the cream in a separate container.

6. Place 1 tablespoon butter in a large saute pan and brown over medium-high heat. Stir in the sage, carrots and parsnips and season with one-fourth teaspoon salt and a pinch of pepper. Cook over high heat, stirring frequently, until the vegetables are tender, 4 to 5 minutes. Remove the vegetables to the large bowl and set aside.

7. Clean the saute pan and brown 3 tablespoons butter over medium-high heat. Stir in the chopped thyme, apples, kohlrabi, leeks and turnips. Season with one-half teaspoon salt and a pinch each sugar and pepper. Increase the heat to high and cook, stirring frequently, until tender, 6 to 8 minutes. Remove the vegetables to the large bowl.

8. Clean the saute pan and melt the remaining one-half tablespoon butter over medium-high heat. Stir in the shallots and brown slightly. Stir in the spinach and cook just until wilted. Season with one-fourth teaspoon salt and a pinch of pepper. Remove from heat and add to the large bowl.

9. Add the diced brioche and creme fraiche to the vegetables and stir gently but thoroughly to combine. Taste and adjust the seasoning as desired.

10. Place the mixture in a baking dish so the filling reaches approximately one-half inch from the top of the dish. Using a rubber spatula, spread the butternut squash puree evenly over the top. Sprinkle the breadcrumbs evenly over the top.

11. Place the baking dish on a baking pan (to catch any drippings) and bake until the breadcrumbs are lightly browned, 20 to 25 minutes. Remove from heat and serve hot.

Each of 10 servings: 475 calories; 7 grams protein; 46 grams carbohydrates; 8 grams fiber; 32 grams fat; 20 grams saturated fat; 111 mg. cholesterol; 849 mg. sodium.