Sixth Crumb: Winter Squash
“When you get your first asparagus, or your first acorn squash, or your first really good tomato of the season, those are the moments that define the cook’s year.” – Mario Batali
I’ve been feeling under the weather this week (too much fun last weekend!) and it’s really finally feeling like fall outside, which means I’ve been focusing on the delicious fall bounty in New England – all kinds of squash, nuts, apples, pears and maple syrup.
Fall is my favorite time of year, by far. Even though spring is the typical season of new beginnings, I always feel like that time comes in mid-September for me. Maybe it’s because I still feel like I should be starting a new school year or maybe it’s because I turn another year older. Maybe I just love hoodies and jeans. Whatever it is, when the temperatures drop into the 60s I get feelings of calm and joy. Plus, pumpkins! Who doesn’t love pumpkins?! And gourds – decorative gourds. [Beware of language when clicking that link!)
On a separate note, it’s been a quiet week so far in food policy and news. And I think that’s too bad in the homestretch of a presidential election cycle. Food policy and systems have barely been mentioned in the context of the campaigns. The next debate is coming up on Sunday (October 9) and I’ve submitted a question to be considered for the debate. If you’re interested in learning the candidates’ positions on food policy and access, you can vote for my question here: https://presidentialopenquestions.com/questions/11842/vote/ The top 30 questions will be included in the debate.
With the weather and my sniffling in mind, I’ve been trying to eat a lot of nutrient-rich foods to get my body back on track. Winter squash varietals (acorn, butternut, pumpkin, Kabocha, Blue Hubbard, Delicata, etc.) are extremely healthy, filling and delicious and so that has been the starting point for all of this week’s meals. Perhaps I’ll feel differently by the time January rolls around, but for now I’m gourd(ging) myself. Yes, I did just put that in writing. You’re welcome.
Autumnal Bowl of Fun
Serves 4 hearty meals. This has several different components, but is well with the extra effort. So delicious, so hearty and so healthy.
- ½ shallot, minced
- 1 cup of apple cider
- 1 tablespoon of Dijon mustard
- 2 tablespoons of apple cider vinegar
- 1 large sweet potato, peeled and cut into ¼ inch thick rounds.
- 1 acorn squash – cut top off, scoop out seeds, cut into ¼ inch thick half rounds.
- 1 cup quinoa, cooked according to package directions.
- 2 cups chickpeas (about two cans, drained and rinsed)
- 1 tsp cumin
- 1 tsp paprika
- ½ tsp salt
- ¼ tsp cayenne
- ½ tsp chili powder
- 2 cups, roughly chopped baby kale (or another green like spinach or arugula)
- 1/3 cup pomegranate seeds (about a half a pomegranate)
- 2 oz fresh chevre, cut into rounds
- ½ cup roughly chopped pistachios
- Olive Oil
- Make the dressing first. Heat a saucepan over medium heat and add ½ tablespoon of olive oil.
- When the oil is shimmering, add the shallot and cook 2-3 minutes until translucent.
- Add the apple cider and the Dijon mustard and let the liquid cook uncovered until it has reduced by about half.
- After the cider has reduced, remove from the heat and whisk in ½ teaspoon salt, ½ cup of olive oil and 2 tablespoons of apple cider vinegar.
- Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 350.
- Cut the acorn squash and toss with ½ tablespoon of olive oil, ½ teaspoon salt and ½ teaspoon pepper. Add in a single layer to a rimmed baking sheet.
- Cut the sweet potato and toss with ½ tablespoon of olive oil, ½ teaspoon salt and ½ teaspoon pepper. Add in a single layer to a rimmed baking sheet.
- Roast both vegetables for 20-25 minutes until soft and just starting to brown.
- Meanwhile, cook the quinoa according to the package directions.
- While the quinoa and vegetables are cooking, mix the spices together and set aside.
- Heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a frying pan on medium heat. When the oil begins to shimmer, add the chickpeas and the spice mix, coating thoroughly.
- Lower heat to medium-low and cook for 5-7 minutes until thoroughly incorporated, stirring regularly so they do not stick.
- When the squash, sweet potato, quinoa, and chickpeas are done, remove from oven and start to assemble the bowls.
- Mix the quinoa and kale first. The heat from the quinoa will wilt the kale slightly.
- Add squash, sweet potato, chickpeas, goat cheese, pomegranate seeds, and pistachios to the quinoa mixture.
- Pour warm dressing over bowl and mix!
Serves 4 as a meal or 6 as an appetizer
- 2 – 1.5-2 lbs sugar pumpkins (alternately you could use 2 cans of pumpkin but NOT pumpkin pie filling!)
- 1 can unsweetened, full fat coconut milk, shaken vigorously (I like Thai brand)
- 1 medium onion
- 1 medium shallot
- 1 teaspoon of fresh sage or thyme, minced
- 16 ounces chicken or vegetable stock.
- ¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper (optional)
- 2 Tablespoons white balsamic vinegar
- 1/3 cup pomegranate seeds (about half a pomegranate)
- 1/3 cup unsweetened coconut flakes, lightly toasted.
- Olive Oil
- If using sugar pumpkins, preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Cut the top and bottom of each pumpkin off and cut and half.
- Seed all four pumpkin halves. Save seeds for roasting!
- Slice pumpkin into 1-inch thick wedges, toss with olive oil, salt and pepper on a rimmed baking sheet.
- Roast pumpkin for 25-30 minutes, or until soft.
- When the pumpkin is tender remove and let cool until cool enough to handle. Pull the skin from the flesh and discard the skin. It’s ok if a little gets into the flesh mix. Set aside.
- Meanwhile, dice the onion and shallot.
- Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a dutch oven over medium heat. Add onions, shallot and sage or thyme. Sautee until the onions have softened and are beginning to brown.
- Add the pumpkin, the stock, the coconut milk, the cayenne (if using) and the vinegar and mix to integrate. Bring to a boil and then let reduce, uncovered, for about 5 minutes until well mixed.
- Let the soup mixture cool for a few minutes, and then puree in batches in a blender. Don’t add too much at once – blending hot liquids will cause steam to build up pressure and the lid of the blender can blow off if you aren’t careful.
- When all of the soup has been pureed, return to dutch oven and bring temperature back to a simmer, covered. (Unless you want a thicker soup, in which case leave the pot uncovered.
- Serve when sufficiently hot, and top with pomegranate seeds and toasted coconut flakes!
Pear-Goat Cheese Panini
Serves 2 but is easy to multiple! I served with the Pumpkin-Coconut Soup.
- ½ baguette cut into two pieces or 2 crusty rolls
- 2 ounces fresh chevre (goat cheese)
- ½ ripe pear (I used a red Anjou), in ¼ inch slices
- ½ cup baby arugula
- 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
- ½ teaspoon real maple syrup
- Warm up the bread, lightly toasting the inside.
- While the bread is warming, mix the Dijon and maple syrup together.
- Assemble the sandwich: Bread, Maple Dijon, Arugula, Pear, Goat cheese.
And, a special thanks to HET for taste testing recipes and exploring Eastie with me this week!