Owner of Oak + Rowan, Ceia Kitchen + Bar and BRINE
Ceia, one of Nancy Batista-Caswell’s long-running, well-received Newburyport restaurants, was named after the Portuguese word for “feast.” But even as she branched out with Oak + Rowan, her Boston debut celebrating its one-year anniversary in Fort Point this month, the restaurateur never forgot that feast and family are the intertwined roots of her passion. She chooses to close her restaurants on Thanksgiving and Christmas, giving staff time to spend with loved ones—or volunteer with the Greater Boston Food Bank, one of her favorite local nonprofits. Here, Batista-Caswell taps chef Justin Shoults to put an Oak + Rowan twist on a traditional side dish.
1. This Tiffany crystal candleholder was a wedding gift from her sister-in-law, who sadly died a few months later. To Batista-Caswell, when it’s aglow on the table, it represents the permanent presence of all loved ones who have been lost: Seats forever saved.
2. Tablescapes are an art form to Batista-Caswell, and ivy garlands are a favorite flourish come holiday time. Not only do the greens have a seasonal sensibility, but she also likes that garlands, unlike stemmed floral pieces, are malleable and able to stylishly wind around other table elements.
3. The restaurateur likes adding fresh produce to tables (here, seasonal selections such as cranberry and cauliflower romanesco) as a nod to treating regional farmers as extended family. Oak + Rowan gets much of its heirloom-variety fruits and vegetables from Forts Ferry Farm, an organic farm owned by chef Shoults’ friends and former culinary schoolmates.
1 acorn squash
1 butternut squash
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1 tablespoon cider vinegar
1 delicata squash
1 cup homemade lime and maple vinaigrette
1 head radicchio, cut into 2-inch-by-1/2-inch strips
2 cups homemade cranberry puree
1 cup homemade sage granola
Salt to taste
• Carefully cut the acorn squash into four pieces. Scoop out and discard the seeds and pulp. Using a Japanese mandolin, slice the quartered acorn squash into very thin ribbons.
• Peel the butternut squash. Cut off the bottom, then cut that in half to scoop out the seeds and pulp. Dice the bottom part into medium-sized pieces and reserve for puree. Use a large melon baller to scoop out squash balls from the squash neck. Blanch the squash balls in boiling salted water for 1 minute, or until slightly tender. Allow the balls to cool to room temperature. Cut the scraps from the balled-out squash into medium-sized pieces to also use for the puree.
• In a saucepot, heat two tablespoons of vegetable oil. Add the diced butternut squash pieces and a pinch of salt. Cook the squash down until it becomes soft and aromatic. Add enough water to just cover the cooked down squash. Add a pinch of salt and bring to a boil; reduce heat to a simmer and cook for 5 minutes. Strain off the liquid and reserve. Put the cooked squash into a blender, add some of the reserved liquid and blend on high until smooth. Adjust the consistency with the reserved liquid if the puree is too thick. Season the puree with the cider vinegar and salt. Taste and adjust the seasoning if necessary. Chill the puree completely and place it into a squeeze bottle.
• Cut the delicata squash into 1 / 2-inch rings. Using a spoon, clean out the inside of the rings. Heat up a large saute pan. Add a thin layer of vegetable oil and allow the pan to get hot. Add the rings of delicata squash and cook until they get a nice caramelized color and become tender. Season with a little salt, remove from the pan and allow to cool at room temperature.
• To assemble the four salads, make sure all the ingredients are at room temperature. Toss the shaved acorn squash with the homemade lime maple vinaigrette and a pinch of salt. Once the squash begins to break down slightly, add in the radicchio and toss until it is well coated.
• Place a couple spoonfuls of cranberry puree in a circle on a plate. Put two rings of cooked delicata squash in the center of the circle. Take a handful of the tossed acorn squash and radicchio and put it in a line across the plate. Squeeze out a couple of large dots of the butternut squash puree. Nestle three or four butternut squash balls into the acorn squash ribbons. Sprinkle each of the four salads with a couple of tablespoons of sage granola. Serve immediately.
1 cup fresh or frozen cranberries
2 tablespoon maple syrup
¼ cup water
¼ cup orange juice
1/8 teaspoon xanthan gum
• Place all ingredients in the blender and mix on high for 1-2 minutes. Taste and adjust seasoning if necessary.
2 limes, zest and juice
2 ½ tablespoons maple syrup
1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
½ cup vegetable oil
• Blend everything except the oil. Slowly drizzle in the oil to emulsify. Taste and adjust seasoning if necessary.
10 large sage leaves
1 cup vegetable oil
½ cup. rolled oats
1 tablespoon sunflower seeds
½ tablespoon sesame seeds
1 tablespoon pumpkin seeds
2 tablespoons unsweetened coconut flakes
1 tablespoon maple syrup
½ teaspoon salt
• Heat the vegetable oil in a small, deep pot to 325 degrees. Deep-fry the sage until crispy. Drain onto paper towels to soak up the excess oil. Cool the oil as you will use 1 tablespoon of this sage oil in the granola.
• Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Add the oats, seeds, coconut, maple syrup, salt and tablespoon of the sage oil in a large bowl and toss thoroughly to combine. Spread the mixture out on a baking sheet. Bake the mixture in the oven for about 15 minutes or until it reaches a golden-brown color. Allow the granola to cool.
• Break the granola into small chunks and place into a bowl. Crumble up the fried sage and mix into the granola