Autumn is always such a special time of year. A beautiful transition season during which change is evident all around us. Temperatures start to drop, days become shorter, and a delightfully crisp air returns with a reminder that winter is on the way. The arrival of autumn also means the reappearance of the season’s produce. Though every season’s bounty satisfies in its own way, there’s an unmatched comfort to autumn’s fruits and vegetables. My favorite of which just might be the ever so versatile butternut squash. Recipes like butternut squash soup, creamy butternut squash pasta, and even a butternut squash tart are some of my beloved ways to transform this ingredient into the ultimate fall meal. Although now that entertaining season has arrived, I thought I’d set my sights on easy appetizer recipes to help you make holiday hosting a breeze. Enter: my savory butternut squash crostini with whipped feta.
An Easy Appetizer: Butternut Squash Crostini with Whipped Feta
These crostini are super simple to prepare. All the components, except for the whipped feta, are prepared in the oven. So, if you already have the oven going while prepping dinner, these crostini will be even more of a breeze. However, if there is no additional space in your oven, worry not. The crostini components can be prepared in advance and assembled right before serving. Though you’ll want the toasted bread and butternut squash topping to be warm when serving.
The butternut squash roasts in the oven seasoned with olive oil, spices, and fresh sage. There’s something so delectable about the combination of nutty, caramelized butternut squash with aromatic sage. Yet this classic flavor combination reaches new heights when served on slices of warm, toasted baguette topped with tangy whipped feta. A pop of crunch from seasoned, toasted walnuts completes the crostini topping.
I’m not sure if you’ve tried whipped feta before, but there’s no going back once you do. It’s divine. If you’re a fan of feta, this will be your new favorite way to enjoy this Greek cheese. I’ve added another layer of flavor here with roasted garlic, which makes it even more irresistible. You’ll likely have leftover whipped feta after assembling your crostini. The leftovers can be used for vegetable dips and sandwich spreads. Alternatively, whipped feta can be drizzled into an omelet, or just plain eaten with a spoon. Yes, it’s that good.
If you’d like to make this a vegan appetizer, forego the whipped feta. Instead, roast a head of garlic in the oven and spread this on the toasted baguette as a base for the butternut squash.
Southern Rhône Red Wines for Fall
These crostini deliver a symphony of flavors which effortlessly come together in a nutty, savory, tangy bite. They’re begging to be paired with an earthy yet fruit forward red wine, ideally one with herbal or mineral qualities, too. A Southern Rhône red blend does just the trick. These French red wines are always my go-to for fall.
Southern Rhône reds are typically made from a blend of Grenache, Syrah, and Mourvèdre, plus other grape varieties like Cinsault or Counoise depending on the appellation. The result is a well-balanced red wine with red fruit flavors and hints of dried herbs or orange peel from Grenache. Syrah contributes an earthy intensity and Mourvèdre brings deep black fruit or meaty flavors. They also offer enticing aromas of wild Mediterranean shrubs, known as garrigue, thought to come from the terroir of the region. Plus, Grenache contributes a delicious roundness and alcoholic richness to the blend, balanced by the tannin and structure of Syrah and Mourvèdre.
It’s easy to image how these flavor characteristics favorably pair with autumn ingredients. Think savory sage, sweet and nutty butternut squash, or other root vegetables and seasonal greens. Southern Rhône red wines are also hearty enough to satisfy the palate during cooler weather. Yet they’re not so intense in tannin or body that they need to be paired with a robust meal for optimal enjoyment.
Château de Rouanne
The perfect wine pairing for my butternut squash crostini serendipitously arrived on my doorstep by way of a Winebow. I’m such a fan of this importer and distributor. They truly have a portfolio of the utmost quality. Anyways, this time around I absolutely fell in love with the Château de Rouanne Vinsobres 2019.
Château de Rouanne is a sister estate to the legendary Château de Saint Cosme in Gigondas. This hidden gem is a historic estate situated on a classified ancient Roman site with a 12th century medieval castle in the Southern Rhône Valley. The original Roman owner of the estate was called Rugius, the inspiration behind the winery’s current name.
The wine world is anxiously waiting to discover what Château de Rouanne has in store in years to come thanks to a recent change in ownership. Winemaker Louis Barruol, owner and winemaker at the famed Château de Saint Cosme, purchase Rouanne in May 2019. Barruol used Château de Rouanne as a source for some of his négociant wines and sees enormous potential in the estate.
“It reminds me a lot of Saint Cosme when I took it over in 1992. It’s an unknown sleeping beauty waiting for a vigneron to truly love it.” – Winemaker Louis Barruol
The estate vineyard is an atypical single block planted with 50+ year old vines, namely selection massale of Grenache, Syrah, and Mourvèdre. Soils here are limestone and sandy marl dating back to the Pilocene epoch.
Established in 2006, Vinsobres is a relatively new appellation with respect to other French AOCs. The appellation rests on the northern end of the Southern Rhône Valley. A position which lends itself to a relatively cool-climate region. The cold, nocturnal wine called the Pontias blows down from the Alps into Vinsobres, culminating in a trademark freshness in the Grenache-dominant wines of the AOC.
Château de Rouanne Vinsobres 2019
Barruol implemented whole cluster fermentation and used indigenous yeasts for his inaugural Vinsobres vintage at Château de Rouanne. Including the stems in fermentation helped retain acidity and tannin in the wine, as the stems absorb some of the alcohol. The wine aged for 16 months in concrete vats. It’s unfined and unfiltered for the truest expressions of terroir. 50% Grenache. 40% Syrah. 10% Mourvèdre.
- Deep ruby with purple reflections.
- Beautifully aromatic nose with notes of strawberry, violet, lavender, blackberry, lingonberry, baking spices, leather, garrigue, and juniper.
- One of those wines you just can’t stop smelling.
- Medium bodied with medium+ acidity and fine-grained tannins.
- Velvety smooth palate, luxurious yet fresh mouthfeel with similar flavors.
Wine Pairing for This Easy Appetizer
The characteristics of the Château de Rouanne Vinsobres 2019 paired brilliantly with the flavors of the butternut squash crostini with whipped feta. The sweet nuttiness of the butternut squash and toasted walnuts enhanced the red and black fruit flavors of the wine. Whereas the sage made the herbal garrigue notes of the Vinsobres pop. Tangy whipped feta complemented the wine’s vibrant acidity and bright fruit flavors. While the wine’s baking spice aromas paired with the seasoned nuts and herbs in the butternut squash. This is a food and wine pairing sure to wow your guests this season.
Savory butternut squash with toasted walnuts top a warm crostini spread with garlic infused whipped feta.
- 1 small butternut squash, peeled and cubed
- 1 tsp dried rosemary
- 3 tbsp olive oil
- 1 tbsp fresh chopped sage
- salt, pepper, red pepper flakes to taste
- 3 garlic cloves, peeled
- 1 cup crumbled feta
- 1/2 cup sour cream
- 1/2 cup cream cheese
- 1/2 cup walnut pieces
- 1 tbsp avocado oil
- 1 tsp coconut sugar
- 1/3 tsp cayenne
- 1 fresh baguette
Preheat oven to 375°F. Peel butternut squash; cut in halflengthwise and remove seeds. Cut into small cubes. Toss butternut squash cubeswith 2 tbsp olive oil, dried rosemary, fresh sage, pinch of salt, pepper, andred pepper flakes to taste. Bake for 40-50 minutes or until tender, turning occasionallyto avoid browning.
While the butternut squash is roasting, peel 3 cloves ofgarlic. Place on a piece of tin foil, drizzle with olive oil, then wrap the tinfoil to close. Place the tin foil wrapped garlic cloves in the oven to roastfor approximately 8 minutes.
Season the walnut pieces with avocado oil (or olive oil),salt, pepper, cayenne, and coconut sugar. Place on a small parchment-lined bakingdish and bake in the oven for 3-4 minutes until toasted.
In a food processor, blend the roasted garlic cloves with thefeta, sour cream, and cream cheese. Season with salt and pepper. Blend until aspreadable consistency is reached. Place the whipped feta in the refrigerator. (Useless sour cream for a denser consistency.)
Cut 1-inch-thick slices of baguette on a diagonal to havemore spreadable surface area. Brush with olive oil and place under a broiler onhigh for 1-2 minutes. Watch carefully and remove when desired toast level isreached.
To serve, spread the whipped feta on the semi-cooled crostini.Top with butternut squash and toasted walnut pieces.