I’ve always been impressed with cooks who can prepare a meal and entertain guests at the same time.
I’m not one of those cooks, unfortunately.
I’m pretty good at making multi-dish meals and chatting with friends, but not simultaneously. It’s probably because I haven’t had enough practice — dinner parties stop being so much fun when you add little kids and a tiny house in the mix — but I’m trying to take notes from people like Shawn Harrison, a 25-year-old Austinite I met at Con ‘Olio earlier this year.
He’s a Texas native who has been cooking for more than half his life, and his creativity in the kitchen is infectious. He was leading an olive oil tasting class, and within a few minutes of talking to him about what kind of food he likes to make (everything) and where he learned confidence in the kitchen and in a retail setting (four years of studying abroad when he was in high school), I knew I wanted to profile him as part of our Austin360Cooks project, which aims to highlight what everyday Austinites are cooking in their own kitchens.
We finally got together for a little dinner party he hosted at a friend’s house in South Austin late last month, which I wrote about for today’s food section.
Here’s one of the many recipes he’s developed over the years, and one that he served at that party a few weeks ago.
Butternut Squash, Sage and Honey Puree
1 whole butternut squash
Salt and pepper, to taste
6 Tbsp. olive oil, divided
1 large shallot, peeled and quartered
2 cloves garlic, peeled
3 Tbsp. honey
2 Tbsp. roasted butternut squash seed oil
1/2 cup almond milk
6 large leaves fresh sage, chopped
1 Tbsp. balsamic vinegar
Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Peel the butternut squash and cut it into 1-inch cubes. Place in a large baking dish and cover with a pinch of salt and pepper and 2 Tbsp. olive oil. Add the peeled shallot and peeled garlic cloves to the roasting dish as well. Roast for about 45 minutes or until a fork slides easily in and out of the pieces.
Remove from the oven and let cool for about 15 minutes. In a food processor, add the roasted vegetables, butternut squash seed oil and honey. Pulse for about a minute. Then add the remaining olive oil, almond milk, chopped sage and balsamic vinegar to the mixture and pulse until smooth. (You might need to add additional almond milk based on the size of your butternut squash. You are looking for a consistency like a baked potato soup where you can insert a spoon and the spoon will be evenly coated.)
Add salt and pepper to taste and serve. Serves 6.
— Adapted from a recipe by Shawn Harrison