As the holidays approach, people start to ask me more and more about making something delicious and inventive for their vegetarian dinner guests. Nowadays, vegan and gluten-free guests are also becoming common! I’m always up for the challenge of diet-restricted guests. This is just one of the many items I have had fun creating for the Skirball’s unique catering menu. I work hard to make every dish look as good as it tastes, and this very elegant-looking (if I don’t say so myself) vegetable tower is a creative and hearty alternative to the simple salad and is easy to make. Even the non-vegetarians will enjoy it!
Tower of Butternut Squash, Beets, and Arugula
1 butternut squash (select one with long stem neck)
1 large red beet
1 large Hass avocado, cut into cubes
Cherry balsamic vinaigrette (Alternative: regular balsamic vinegar that has been reduced to syrup)
Salt and pepper
1 bunch basil
1 bunch Italian parsley
Extra virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper
- Peel butternut squash and cut into half-inch thick rounds. Coat with olive oil, season with salt and pepper, and sprinkle with a pinch of sugar on both sides. Bake at 350 degrees until soft, for approximately 20 minutes.
- Coat the beet with olive oil, season with salt and pepper, and wrap it in foil. Bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes.
- Roughly chop 1 bunch of basil to make a half-cup. Set aside. Chop the Italian parsley and blanch in boiling water for 30 seconds. Shock in a bowl of ice water. Then place parsley and the chopped basil in a blender, add half-cup of olive oil, and blend until smooth. Pour into a very fine mesh strainer, and let it sit for 30 minutes.
- Take the beet out of oven, and rub with paper towel until skin comes off. Cut the beet into 6 half-inch wide disks, and cut the remainder into small cubes.
- Cut the squash and beets into disks with a round cookie cutter, and season with balsamic and salt and pepper. Assemble two layers in a ring mold as follows: 1 beet disk, 1 inch in height of arugula, diced avocados, 1 squash disk. Refrigerate for 30 minutes.
- Remove from molds and place in serving plate. Sprinkle the diced beet cubes on top, drizzle with cherry balsamic vinegar, and then basil oil.
- Garnish with fresh basil leaf, and enjoy!