Tag Archives: Roasted Squash

Roasted Butternut Squash and Israeli Couscous Salad

in white round bowlHope life is treating you well this week. We are in full-on purge mode around here. We’re planning to downsize shortly. It’s amazing the amount of junk you can accumulate in 23 years.  Getting rid of stuff is not my husband’s forte. He still has all his high school essays. (He got an A+ in his Family Studies paper on “The cost of setting up a home for newlyweds” – it was the 70’s!) He kept all the cards from our wedding. We have been married for over 30 years. He also kept every birthday and father’s day card from me and the kids.

I wasn’t hopeful that he would be able to dispose of very much. But once he began shredding, he couldn’t stop. And then he discovered Kijiji. Things have been flying out of here at an alarming rate. It has become quite cathartic for him. I’m afraid that if I stay still for too long he might put me up for sale on Kijiji. I can just imagine the ad:

“Pre-owned, but very well-maintained wife for sale. All parts original. A little slow to start up in the morning, but motor begins purring after an extra-hot latte.” Will accept any reasonable offers.”

This salad was inspired by a forgotten bag of Israeli couscous I discovered sitting at the back of my pantry in a cleaning spree. The addition of roasted butternut squash is the clever idea of Daniel Gritzer over at seriouseats.com. Start by toasting the uncooked Israeli couscous in a bit of olive oil.Toasting cous cousAdd boiling water and salt and cook couscous.adding boiling waterI recently learned that squash is an excellent source of potassium. Apparently acorn squash is the champion, but butternut is a close second, and I find it much easier to peel. All those ridges in acorn squash scare me. If you need a primer on peeling and cutting butternut, check out the video in this post.chopping squash Toss squash with some olive oil, salt and pepper. Add some smoked paprika too, because everything is better with smoked paprika.ready for roastingA jolt of freshness is provided by lots of green (scallions, mint and parsley) and yellow (lemon).lemon and herbsready to assemble

Click here to print recipe for Roasted Butternut Squash and Israeli Couscous Salad.

in white oval bowl

 

Roasted Squash with Smoked Paprika, Maple Syrup and Sage Salt

Roasted squash 2 625 sqWhile home for a visit last weekend, my daughter observed the mess on our dining room table and expressed the opinion that perhaps I may have developed a bit of a hoarding problem. “Don’t you think you’ve acumulated enough food photography props mom?” she asked.DR tableClearly she doesn’t understand. Those are all spring/summer props. Now I need to start acquiring appropriate fall/winter props. While some parents turn their kid’s vacated bedrooms into gift wrapping quarters or perhaps an extra closet to store off season clothing, it is entirely possible that her bedroom may be converted into my props closet, if I continue collecting at my current rate.

Of course it doesn’t help when my sister sends me these charming bowls. They were intended as nut bowls, but they are just perfect as mise en place bowls for a photo shoot!  I let out a squealed with joy when I opened my gift. I have an extreme fondness for bowls! The colour combination of these little vessels is just gorgeous. little bowlsShe found them in Toronto at The Cookery Store. I have since discovered you can also get them online at Fishs Eddy.

I had a glut of winter squash after a recent photo shoot, and I needed to use them up before they went bad. My go-to ingredient for roasting vegetables is smoked paprika. It just makes everything taste better. The inspiration for this roasted squash hails from Melissa Clark’s book, Cook This Now. She mixed smoked paprika with olive oil and honey and smeared it all over squash before roasting. I swapped out the honey for some maple syrup, because that’s just the way we Canadians roll!ingredients

brushing squashMelissa suggests finishing the roasted squash with a sprinkling of homemade sage salt. So simple to make; just bake some fresh sage leaves for about 10 minutes, until crispy. Then crumble them between your fingers with some coarse sea salt. Earthy, and slightly bitter, sage makes a perfect partener for sweet squash. A final sprinkling of toasted pumpkin seeds adds a welcome crunch.

Click here to print recipe for Roasted Squash with Maple Syrup, Smoked Paprika and Sage Salt.

Roasted squash 1 625 sq

A Balanced Life and Autumn Salad

Several years ago I got involved in volunteering at an organization called “Soup Sisters.” It was founded in 2009 in Calgary by  Sharon Hapton. This organization supports women’s shelters across the country with the very simple and heartfelt gesture of providing home-made soup. Their tagline is “Warming hearts, one bowl at a time.”  Sharon’s good friend from Ottawa, Lynne Oreck-Wener attended the Calgary launch, and was so moved by this wonderful program, she decided, along with Lori Thompson and Marien Barker, to start-up a branch of Soup Sisters in Ottawa. They decided to donate the soup to Interval House, a local women’s shelter here in Ottawa. Along with several other volunteers, we assist by arriving early and setting up all the soup stations, or staying late to assist in the clean-up.

The soups are cooked at Urban Element, a cooking studio here in Ottawa that is home to an incredible professional kitchen. What was once a Fire Station has been converted into a charming culinary workshop. They kept the original red brick walls and built a state-of-the-art kitchen, complete with shiny stainless steel counters and appliances, butcher block islands, sharp knives and spoons and whisks of every size and shape.  The drawers are stocked with clear containers neatly labeled, containing just about every pantry item you could imagine.  Five kinds of peppercorns, and six varieties of salt had me feeling slightly jealous.

Each month, a different group of  participants (12-20 individuals) come together to cook. The groups differ each month. One month saw a group of employees from a law firm, using the evening as a team building opportunity.  Other groups have included friends and family getting together to celebrate a special birthday. The groups break into teams of 4, each preparing a huge stock pot of delicious soup. Our job, as volunteers is to wander around, making sure that no one chops off a finger or grates a knuckle, help the participants find what they need, and generally coral the chaos. Once they finish chopping and sauteing, the soups are set on simmer and the group sits down to a little meal of soup, salad, bread and wine.

Each participant pays a $50 fee, for which they receive training from a respected guest chef, the chance to work in a modern, contemporary professional kitchen, some new cooking skills, dinner, wine and most importantly, the glow of gratification from helping others.

Each session begins with a short address from Lula Adam, public education coordinator at Interval House.

“When the women realize someone has taken time from their Sunday night to do something to help them, it really touches them. These are women who haven’t really had a lot done for them, so it really does make a difference. When women first come here, they often feel isolated and alone. This is a gentle reminder that people in the broader community do care.”

After dinner the participants gather back in the kitchen to package the soups.  They are encouraged to write a personal message on the label, such as “made with hugs” or “made with love”. Each month when I volunteer, and watch the groups of women participating, it becomes clear, that these women care about their mission.  They want to make a difference beyond writing a cheque. These are indeed soups made with love. If you are interested in their soup recipes, check out their wonderful new cookbook.

Last month when I was working there, our guest chef was Tara Rajan. She prepared a roasted squash and apple salad for the group. This is my interpretation of her salad.

Perhaps because I am a Libra, (the sign is the scales) when I cook, I am always thinking about balance. I once read a beautiful definition of balance by Jasmin Tanjeloff, on the blog Tiny Buddha.

“To me, it means that you have a handle on the various elements in your life and don’t feel that your heart or mind are being pulled too hard in any direction. More often than not, you feel calm, grounded, clear-headed, and motivated.”

Balance in cooking is just as important as balance in the rest of your life.  When creating a dish I look for all the flavour elements to be in balance. These elements include salt, sour, sweet, spicy and bitter. I like to include the textural elements of creamy and crunch as well. Of course, not every dish needs all these elements, but when you do hit them all, sometimes it can be an incredible culinary party in your mouth.

I started with some obvious fall staples, squash and apples.

I like acorn squash because it looks like flowers when you slice it. Plus, the skin, when roasted is quite tender, so I never bother peeling it. I used Honeycrisp apples. Empires or Royal Galas would also work well.

The apples and squash are brushed with a little vegetable oil and maple syrup. Sprinkle with a little salt and pepper and they are ready for the oven.

I prepared a dressing using sunflower oil, apple cider vinegar, white wine vinegar, Dijon mustard, maple syrup, salt and pepper.  In order to give the salad a hit of heat and some crunch, I prepared spiced pumpkin seeds. Shelled pumpkin seeds were coated with egg white and then tossed in a mixture of chipotle chile powder, sugar, and salt. They went into a moderate oven until they were toasted to perfection.

To assemble the salad, I started with a base of roasted squash and apple slices. I topped that with a few radicchio leaves, and a big pile of tender mache (lamb’s lettuce). I drizzled the salad with dressing, and topped it with some spiced pumpkin seeds and a few shavings of salty white cheddar.

Click here to print recipe for Autumn Salad.