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Caramelized winter squash with wheat berries, dried cherry relish and roasted onions

Time 3 hours 30 minutes
Yields Serves 12.
Caramelized winter squash with wheat berries, dried cherry relish and roasted onions
(Kirk McKoy / Los Angeles Times)

Wheat berries

1

In a heavy saucepan, melt the butter over medium-high heat. Add the onion, carrot, celery and garlic and cook, stirring frequently, until soft and fragrant, about 5 minutes. Season with 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper, or to taste.

2

Stir in the wheat berries and cook until they are lightly toasted, about 2 minutes. Stir in the wine and cook until it evaporates, 2 minutes.

3

Add the thyme and enough water to cover by one inch, cover the pan with a lid and gently simmer until the wheat berries are tender, about 1 hour. Check the berries occasionally, adding additional water as needed so the berries do not dry out. Once the berries are tender, remove from heat and drain any excess liquid. This makes a scant 8 cups wheat berries.

Dried cherry relish

1

Simmer the cherries, orange juice, zest and red onion in a small pot over medium-low heat until the liquid is almost evaporated, about 15 minutes. Add the pistachios, parsley, chives and red wine vinegar and season with 3/8 teaspoon salt, or to taste. This makes about 2 cups relish.

Roasted onions

1

Heat the oven to 350 degrees. Lay a large sheet of aluminum foil on a work surface. Place the whole onion, or the whole bulbing onions, in the center with the butter and sprinkle with salt and pepper and thyme leaves. Seal tightly into a package and roast until the onions are soft, about 40 minutes.

Onion jus

1

Heat the butter in a nonstick pan over medium heat. After the butter foams and subsides, add the onions and thyme and cook, stirring occasionally, until they begin to soften, about 10 minutes. Reduce the heat to low and cook, stirring occasionally, until they are a deep mahogany color, 1 1/2 to 2 hours.

2

Transfer the onions to a 2- to 3-quart saucepan, cover with water by 2 inches and simmer until the liquid is deeply flavored, about 1 hour.

3

Strain the liquid into a 1 quart saucepan and press liquid out of the solids before discarding them. Simmer gently until the liquid is reduced to a sauce-like consistency, about 1 hour.

4

Before using, correct the seasoning with sherry vinegar and salt and pepper.

1

Heat oven to 375 degrees. Halve the squash lengthwise through the stem, scooping out the stringy center and seeds (save the seeds for next year’s planting). Brush the cut sides and cavity with 1/4 cup butter and season each half with 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1/4 teaspoon pepper and 2 teaspoons brown sugar, or to taste.

2

Lay the squash cut-side down on a parchment-lined sheet pan and wrap the pan tightly with aluminum foil.

3

Bake in the oven until you can poke a paring knife into the flesh with only slight resistance, 1 to 2 hours. Cool to room temperature.

4

Cut the squash into 2-ounce wedges.

5

Heat the remaining 1/4 cup butter in a nonstick skillet with the olive oil over medium-low heat. Add the squash wedges. If using the whole roasted onion, cut it in thin wedges, leaving the wedges attached at the root end. Add the onion wedges or the whole spring onions to the pan with the squash. Add the sage leaves and thyme sprigs. Slowly brown the squash and the onion, basting with the butter every few minutes, until the squash is deeply caramelized on the cut sides and the onion is lightly browned. If the pan looks dry, add more olive oil and butter. Set aside.

6

When ready to serve, spoon 3/4 cup wheat berries onto a plate. Top with 3 wedges of caramelized squash. Garnish with 3 tablespoons of dried cherry relish on top of the squash, spoon over some of the onion jus and serve with a roasted onion wedge beside the squash.

Adapted from a recipe by Gary Menes. Roasting the squash, preparing the onion jus, making the dried cherry relish and cooking the wheat berries can all be done several days in advance and assembled just before serving.

Russ Parsons is a former food writer and columnist at the Los Angeles Times.
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