The Last Good Thing I Ate

November 22, 2010

Whatever else my life may bring in the future, 2010 is going to go down as a banner year for travel.  I went skiing in Sun Valley in February, got a tattoo in Provincetown in May, went copper pot shopping in Paris in June, had a quick weekend getaway in New York City in October (story coming soon), and just spent a week drinking fruity rum cocktails in the Bahamas.

Yes, a few of you actually guessed right.  Which amazes me because I gave very little information.  I could have also told you that I was on an island where people drive on the left side of the road.  I could also have told you that I was just off the coast of Florida but that would have made it too easy.  But yes, ladies and gentlemen – I was in the Bahamas.

It’s better than that actually.  I was at (in?) Atlantis.  As an almost lifelong West Coaster, the Bahamas were never really on my radar.  I was actually not even sure where they were and mistakenly thought they were much farther away than they are.  Which is why, when Randy told me he had won a work incentive trip and we were going for four days, I insisted suggested that we extend.  Atlantis, if you have never had the good fortune to go, is a huge resort.  The kind of place that can house thousands of people at one time, where there are something like 11 pools and over 20 restaurants.  There are palm trees and cocktails everywhere and a spa where you can get a massage to work out the kinks from laying on a beach chair all day.

Atlantis has restaurants from some celebrity chefs.  There is a Nobu, a Mesa Grill, two Jean-Georges restaurants, and a pair of well-regarded steak houses.  There is also a deli, a pizza place, tons of casual pool-side dining and a couple of Italian restaurants.  This will probably not surprise you, but I did not eat well on this trip.  I must admit that my expectations were a little higher than usual.  With chefs of this caliber, there would be some decent veg food, right?  Alas, I ate veggie burgers, poorly dressed salads, and baked potatoes basically the whole time.  My worst meal was at Mesa Grill which is really a shame since the restaurant is beautiful and Randy liked his $55 steak – the one that did not come with any side dishes.

Now, don’t cue the small violins.  I am a lucky lucky woman.  I got a week in the sun with my husband.  A week to read four books and to see the sun which was absent much of this year in Seattle.  A week to meet lots of people Randy has worked with for years, and to spend a morning sailing on a catamaran.  It is just a bummer that the food was so disappointing and so incredibly expensive.  To have been in France and New York this year and to be shocked by the prices tells you how ridiculously high they were.

I dreamed of my cooking.  This pasta is the last thing I made before we left.  I had planned to post about it before taking off but my to-do list got to be too long.  This dish is something that came to me as I was thinking about leeks.  I was planning to make a leek tart for a friend (and in making it, decided to also make it for Thanksgiving this year) and remembered a creamy leek pasta I made long ago.  Rather than track down the recipe, I decided to do it my own way which means adding slightly caramelized chunks of squash and a good dose of red pepper flakes.  And fresh herbs, always fresh herbs.

I made this nice and creamy by using a bit of goat cheese and a lot of pasta cooking water.  I have given the tip about scooping noodles directly out of their water and into the pan with the “sauce” a couple of times, but it is essential to making this dish work right, and lessening your clean-up along the way.

One Year Ago: Holly B’s Gingersnaps, Gianduja Mousse, Maple Roasted Delicata Squash
Two Years Ago: Pumpkin Whoopie Pies, Cranberry-Walnut Braid (which is cooling on my counter right now)

Orecchiette with Creamy Leeks and Winter Squash
Dana Treat Original
Serves 4-6

I used delicata squash because I love it and I love not having to peel it.  Butternut would be a fine substitute, just be sure to peel it.  Orecchiette is my pasta shape choice here because it holds the sauce perfectly, but I sometimes have trouble finding it.  Another small shape would be fine.  I would not use long strands.

1 pound delicata squash, cut in half, seeded, and cut into ¾-inch chunks
Olive oil
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
2 large leeks, white and pale green part only, cut in half and thinly sliced
2 tbsp. fresh sage, chopped
1 tbsp. fresh thyme, chopped
¼ cup white wine
½ tsp. red pepper flakes
1 pound orecchiette pasta, or similar shape
2 ounces soft goat cheese, such as Montrachet
¼ cup freshly grated Parmesan, plus additional for garnish
¼ cup fresh parsley, chopped (for garnish)

Preheat the oven to 400ºF.  Place the squash on a small rimmed baking sheet and drizzle lightly with olive oil.  Sprinkle with a pinch of kosher salt and a few grinds of pepper.  Using your hands, mix well.  Place in the oven and roast until lightly browned and caramelized, turning once, about 15 to 17 minutes.  Remove and set aside.

Place a large skillet over medium heat.  Drizzle in just enough olive oil to coat the bottom.  Add the leeks and a pinch of salt and turn the heat to medium-low.  Sauté for several minutes, stirring often, until the leeks soften but do not allow them to brown.  Stir in the sage and thyme.  Cook for another couple of minutes, until fragrant.  Pour in the wine and allow to cook, uncovered, until the wine evaporates.  Turn the heat down to low.

Meanwhile, bring a large pot of salted water to boil.  Add the pasta and cook until al dente, using the package directions as your guide and tasting to make sure.  Place the pasta pot and the sauté pan on burners right next to one another.

Once the orecchiette is done, use a slotted spoon to scoop the noodles directly from the pot into the sauce pan.  Immediately add the goat cheese, the roasted squash, and the red pepper flakes.  Scoop a ladle-ful of pasta cooking water from the pot into the saucepan, and give everything a good stir.  Add the Parmesan cheese and another ladle-ful of water.  Taste for seasoning.  You may need more water, so just keep adding it until the dish is the consistency that you want.  Garmish servings with additional Parmesan and parsley.


  1. Once again your writing is so warm and well done, and as always so is the recipe. I can’t stop looking at the photographs. I’m hungry now! Have a wonderful week!

    Comment by tiina { sparkling ink } — November 22, 2010 @ 1:12 pm

  2. This dish looks so comforting and delicious!

    Comment by Maria — November 22, 2010 @ 3:16 pm

  3. It’s so disappointing having food experiences like that, especially when you expect so much more. Unsurprising that it makes you dream of simple, good home cooking. This pasta looks so good – I’d never have thought of leeks and squash together but it sounds so right!

    Comment by Angharad — November 22, 2010 @ 3:23 pm

  4. oh no! sorry to hear of your disappointment. but i’ll say, i’d be dreaming of a pasta like this too. it sounds perfect.

    Comment by tara — November 22, 2010 @ 3:35 pm

  5. I love love love your recipe for fettuccine with ricotta and peas, so this is going on my must make soon list! Maybe tonight :)

    Comment by Holly E — November 22, 2010 @ 4:09 pm

  6. Sounds delicious! Glad you had such a sunny and relaxing week!

    Comment by Anna — November 22, 2010 @ 4:11 pm

  7. Oy! I’m so sorry that you had a bad eating experience in the bahamas. I went there on a cruise a few years ago so I didn’t really experience local cuisine but the cruise food was…ugh…yeah I wanted to go home and drown myself in broccoli. This pasta looks glorious and like it more than makes up for any veggie burgers you had to endure!

    Comment by Joanne — November 22, 2010 @ 5:49 pm

  8. Definitely making this one! I’d like to eat that right now on this snowy day. Must be a shock for you after last week. What a relaxing, if not culinarily outstanding, vacation.

    Comment by Katie — November 22, 2010 @ 7:17 pm

  9. Food can be so challenging when traveling as a vegetarian. Glad you soaked up some sun though! This pasta sounds so incredibly creamy and full of goodness, yum!

    Comment by Jacqui — November 22, 2010 @ 7:48 pm

  10. Dana this looks so good! Might be perfect for dinner tonight! We are off to the Bahamas this year too, were not staying at Alantis..but just down the street! Thanks for the info…:)

    Comment by Eva — November 22, 2010 @ 7:48 pm

  11. I’d take a week away from mom/work duties if it meant eating *less than* food. But that’s because it’s been two years since I’ve had a PROPER vacation ;) Glad you are back, missed you around these parts.

    and HELLO! this dish looks fab. Putting it on my to do list.

    Comment by tracy — November 22, 2010 @ 10:28 pm

  12. I cannot wait to make this!! Maybe I’ll get lucky and my CSA will have winter squash soon.

    Side note – My local Whole Foods always has orechiette pasta available :)

    Comment by Kathy — November 23, 2010 @ 5:56 am

  13. This is my kind of pasta dish. Just divine. I use the pasta water trick too, it does help thicken a sauce. What a great holiday too, although I am sure you were really pleased to get back to your own kitchen. I bet your first meal once you were back tasted heavenly.

    Comment by Jacqueline — November 23, 2010 @ 12:44 pm

  14. Ohhh man..I knew it was the Atlantis!!!!!
    You have been a traveling fool! That is awesome

    Comment by leslie — November 24, 2010 @ 12:31 am

  15. For sure a Dana original worth nothing. So many great things in this dish! Squash, leeks and WINE!? Yum :)

    Comment by Sara — November 25, 2010 @ 12:31 pm

  16. I’m so so so envious of all your travels! I’d love to be on a beach somewhere, though I’m definitely not interested in spending time in a resort – I’ve never heard anyone talk about the quality of food (mainly just the amount of food). But this dish sounds lovely and I’ve got leeks in my fridge right now just begging for something as comforting as this meal.

    Comment by kickpleat — November 26, 2010 @ 5:41 pm

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