Savory Roasted Acorn Squash

More often than not, it seems, winter squash is prepared as a sweet addition to the meal. The addition of brown sugar, maple syrup, or <shudders>marshmallows</shudders> leave us wanting to skip dessert, arguably the best part of the meal.

We tend to head to savory end of the spectrum for winter squash prep. Here’s one of our simplest takes savory winter squash.

Savory Roasted Acorn Squash
Servings: 6-8
Prep time: 10 minutes
Total time: 35-45 minutes

Ingredients:

  • 3 acorn squash, all close in size
  • 2 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 2 tsp. kosher salt
  • 1 tsp. freshly ground black pepper

Directions:

  1. Place a rack in the center of the oven and preheat the oven to 375°F. Locate and set aside 2 13″x9″ pans. There’s no prep needed in the pans.
  2. Halve the acorn squash through the stem; scoop out the seeds and fibrous pulp. Cut each half in half once again so that each squash yields 4 pieces.
  3. Toss the squash with the oil and then sprinkle the interior of each piece with salt and pepper. Lay the squash, cut side up, in the 13″x9″ pans.
  4. Bake for 35-40 minutes. Squash is ready when a fork easily pierces the squash.

Notes:
Any number of savory spices could be sprinkled over the squash before baking. Cumin, coriander, sumac or a spice blend such as za’atar would all be tasty.

Za’atar Roasted Sweet Potatoes

Za’atar is a spice blend used in Middle Eastern cooking consisting of sumac, thyme, white sesame seeds and salt. In this recipe it lends a slight lemony flavor to, and enhances the earthy scent of, some lovely sweet potatoes.

Sumac Roasted Sweet Potatoes
Servings: 4-6
Prep time: 5 minutes
Total time: 30-35 minutes

Ingredients:

  • 3 lbs. sweet potatoes
  • 3 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 2 tsp. za’atar
  • 1 tsp. ground sumac

Directions:

  1. Place oven rack in the center of the oven and preheat it to 425°F. Line a rimmed baking pan with parchment.
  2. Peel sweet potatoes and dice into 1″ cubes.
  3. Toss sweet potatoes with the olive oil and spices. Transfer to the prepared pan and spread into a single layer.
  4. Roast for 25-30 minutes, tossing the potatoes and redistributing into a single layer half way through cooking.

Cucumber and Bean Salad with Citrus Dressing

I wanted a side dish that would combine some fresh vegetables (cukes/peppers) with some easy protein (canned beans). The dressing is based on one from FoodTV; they used it on a different salad however I liked the sound of it and it worked out well.

Cucumber and Bean Salad with citrus dressing
Servings: 8-12
Prep time: 15 minutes
Total time: 15 minutes

Ingredients:

  • 1 14.5 oz. can chickpeas
  • 1 14.5 oz. can black beans
  • 1 cucumber, peeled, quartered, seeded and cut into 1″ pieces
  • 1 red pepper, seeded and cut into 2″ pieces
  • 1 lemon, zested and juiced
  • 1 lime, zested and juiced
  • 2 garlic cloves, pressed
  • 1 Tbsp. granulated sugar
  • 2 tsp. kosher salt
  • 1 tsp. red wine vinegar
  • 1 tsp. ground cumin
  • 1/2 tsp. ground black pepper
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

Directions:

  1. Rinse the chickpeas and black beans, add to a bowl with the cucumbers and red peppers.
  2. In a jar combine the remaining ingredients, shake well. Pour about half of the dressing over the vegetables, toss to combine. Taste and adjust salt and pepper to taste.
  3. Serve with remaining dressing available for those who want it.

Notes:
The vegetables can be combined up to 2 hours in advance and the the dressing can similarly be made up to a day in advance. Store both in the refrigerator until 30 minutes before serving.

I used Goya low-sodium chickpeas and black beans in this dish. If you aren’t using low-sodium beans then you might want to cut the kosher salt by half in the dressing.

Chimichurri

Chimichurri is a bright green sauce with a heavy punch of garlic. It originates from Argentina and is great along side grilled meats of all varieties. The garlic, and small amount of red pepper flakes, give it a bit of heat on the tongue as well.

This is best if you make it about 30 minutes ahead so that the flavors can meld. Don’t bother refrigerating if you plan to use it within an hour.

Chimichurri
Servings: a generous cup of sauce
Prep time: less than 5 minutes
Total time: ~10 minutes

Ingredients:

  • 2 lg. cloves garlic, peeled and quartered (about 1/8 cup of garlic)
  • 2 bunches fresh parsley, washed and dried, rough cut (stems and leaves)
  • 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 cup red wine vinegar
  • 2 Tbsp. water
  • 1 tsp. sea salt
  • 20 grinds coarse black pepper
  • 1/4 tsp. red pepper flakes
  • juice from 1/4 lime

Directions:

  1. Add garlic and parsley to the bowl of a food processor. Process in 10 1-second pulses and scrape down the bowl.
  2. Add oil, vinegar and water to the bowl, process for an additional 5 1-second pulses. Scrape down the bowl.
  3. Add salt, peppers, and lime juice. Process for 5 seconds. Taste and adjust seasoning as desired.

Notes:
The bunches of parsley at my grocery store are kind of puny so I used 2. If you find (or grow) generous bunches of parsley then you’ll need less. Given that this is made in the food processor I used the stems as well as leaves. After cutting into about 3 sections each the 2 bunches totaled maybe 4 loose cups.

You could substitute a bunch of cilantro for one of the bunches of parsley.

We had leftover grilled chicken breast, chimichurri and sour dough left over. I think a chimichurri chicken salad might be in our future.

Based on this recipe from Cook’s Illustrated (May ’01). I’ve modified it for what I had on hand, and general laziness.

Sauteed Cauliflower with Pancetta

Growing up there were always 3 side dishes on the table for ‘holiday’ dinners. One was mashed potatoes; the other two were something green and then something not green. Two green side veggies was just not done. Salad didn’t count by the way. Don’t ask me why, it just didn’t.

As an adult I try not to have two green veggies as side dishes. Witness the traumas inflicted upon our childhood psyche without effort or intent. 🙂 Carrots get boring, yellow summer squash is for summer time and pureed butternut squash leaves me wanting something more. Today I turned to cauliflower; which I would normally roast. We were roasting asparagus though and I didn’t want all matchy-matchy side dishes. I never claimed my psyche was undamaged.

Sauteed Cauliflower with Pancetta
Servings: 8-10
Prep time: 10 minutes
Total time: 25 minutes

Ingredients:

  • 1 head cauliflower, core and leaves removed, cut into 1″ pieces
  • 6 oz. pancetta, 1/8″ dice
  • 2 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 clove garlic, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 tsp. red pepper flakes
  • kosher salt & cracked black pepper

Directions:

  1. Place in a steamer basket set in a pot and fill with water to just below the basket. Bring water to a boil. Spread cauliflower around basket, sprinkle with salt and steam for 5 minutes. Cauliflower will still have a bit of give to it.
  2. While the cauliflower steams heat a non-stick skillet over medium heat with the diced pancetta in it. Cook for ~5 minutes until fat is rendered from the pancetta; the pancetta should be crispy. Use a slotted spoon to transfer the pancetta to a paper towel lined dish and set aside.
  3. Add olive oil to the skillet to increase total fat to about 3 tablespoons. Add garlic and red pepper flakes. Heat over low heat until garlic is fragrant, 1-2 minutes.
  4. Add steamed cauliflower to the skillet. Toss to coat with oil. Cover and cook for about 5 minutes, stirring every minute or two.
  5. Check cauliflower for doneness. When done to your liking add the crisped pancetta, toss to combine and taste; add salt & pepper as desired.
  6. Transfer to a warmed bowl and serve.

Notes:
I used an orange hued cauliflower. Purple, green or even the original off-white would work just as well. Of course if you use green then you might end up with 2 green veggie side dishes. The horrors.

Bacon can be substituted for pancetta; just cut it into thin strips. You’ll likely get more fat from the bacon. Drain off all but 3 tablespoons before adding the cauliflower.

If the skillet becomes a bit dry while cooking the cauliflower you can add a tablespoon of water after stirring.

Pasta with Pesto and Roasted Cauliflower

This recipe breaks down into 4 basic steps once the prep work is done – make pesto, roast cauliflower, boil pasta and combine. If you cut the cauliflower small enough it disappears a midst the pasta and pesto. That’s not a bad thing if you are feeding children or the cauliflower-phobic.
[Pasta with Pesto and Roasted Cauliflower]
While I made this dish to be served hot/warm it could also work as a cold salad.

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Baked Chicken Thighs

We eat a lot of chicken thighs in this house.  We prefer the flavor over chicken breast.  Often they end up braised or grilled to add a bit more flavor to them.  For this recipe I wanted something very quick to assemble and cook.

Baked Chicken Thighs
Servings: 10-12
Prep time: 10 minutes
Total time: 110 minutes (including a 60 minute rest)

Ingredients:

  • 16 chicken thighs (approx. ~7 lbs.)
  • 2 Tbsp. kosher salt
  • 1 Tbsp. cracked black pepper
  • 2 lemons, zested and juiced
  • 1/2 cup olive oil

Directions:

  1. Arrange the racks in the oven so that one is in the middle and the second is half way between the top and middle. Preheat the oven to 375°F. Line to baking sheets with parchment paper.
  2. Trim the thighs of excess skin and fat. In a large bowl toss the thighs with the salt & pepper.
  3. Add the lemon zest, juice and olive oil to the bowl with the seasoned chicken. Toss with hands to coat well. Cover the bowl and allow it to rest, on the counter, for 1 hour.
  4. Place the thighs, skin side down on the baking sheets; 8 to a pan, . Place the chicken in the oven. Cook for 25 minutes; swapping pan locations half way through the cooking time.
  5. Turn the thighs skin side up and bake for another 10 minutes. Again, swap the pan locations half way through the cooking time.
  6. Check the temperature of the thighs with an instant-read thermometer. If the chicken has hit 160-165°F move on to the next step. If it is lower than 160°F then let the chicken bake for another few minutes and check again.
  7. Turn on the broiler and increase the oven to 450°F. Cook the first pan of chicken under the broiler for about 3 minutes, rotating the pan half way through for even browning. When the thighs are nice browned remove the first pan to a cooling rack and repeat the broiling with the second pan of chicken.
  8. Loosely cover the chicken with foil and allow it to rest for 5 minutes before serving.

Notes:
There’s no need to use extra virgin olive oil here; the flavor will be lost in the heat of the oven.

The parchment serves 2 purposes; it keeps the chicken from sticking to the pan and it aids in clean-up. A silicon mat would work as well; you’ll just have to wash all the chicken fat off it (ick).