Tag Archives: Winter Squash

Roasted Squash Wedges with Pomegranate, Chermoula and Tahini

3 platesPeople tell my husband all the time how lucky he is. They imagine that being married to a food blogger is heaven, with something fresh and exciting for dinner every night. I’m here to dispell that image. I like to shoot in natural light. The optimal time for shooting in my kitchen is between 11 am -2 pm. By dinnertime, the food is cold and has been manhandled so much, nobody would want to eat it.

Often he will arrive home to a kitchen that looks like a tornado went through it. When I’m shooting, I try out different plates, bowls, and assorted props to get the right look. Those dishes pile up on the counter and in the sink. He generously and uncomplainingly washes those dishes. Curiously, he is opposed to drying dishes. He just likes to pile them up to let them air dry. But I’m not criticizing.

On days when I’m not shooting a new post, I’m just like you. I have a small repertoire of meals that I make on a weekly basis. Roasted squash is one of those items in the rotation. I either cut it into french fries or round circles. I always use butternut squash. I’m in a squash rut.

On a visit to the market last week, I was inspired to up my squash game and try some different varieties. Assorted Squash The jade green ones with the light green stripes are Kabocha squash. They are a Japanese squash that is fairly new to North America. Kabocha squash has a delicate honeyed sweetness and a smooth, almost fiberless texture. No need to peel this baby as the skin is very thin and roasts up crispy and delicious.

The deep orange ones, that look like they are topped with a Turk’s turban are aptly named Turban Squash. They have so much personality. The taste is quite mild and the texture is floury, making it perfect for soups. Mostly it’s used as a decorative squash because it’s just so cute.

The smaller orange and yellow squash are known as Sweet Dumplings. Diminutive in size but mighty in flavour, these little guys are sweet and delicious. Bonus points because the skin is edible and you don’t have to peel them. I sliced a Kobacha and a Sweet Dumpling into wedges and removed the seeds.cutting turban squashThe October issue of delicious magazine was the source for this gorgeous dish. I adapted it slightly. spices

ready for roasting Once roasted the dish is garnished with toasted salted pumpkin seeds and pomegranate. I added some salty ricotta salata cheese, but feta or goat cheese would also be great.Pomegranate There are two sauces to drizzle on top. The first is a chermoula sauce, a spicy herb sauce often used in Moroccan cuisine.The second sauce is a tahini-based mixture. While you could certainly serve this without the sauces, they really elevate the dish to something special.

Click here to print recipe for Roasted Squash Wedges with Pomegranate, Chermoula, and Tahini.

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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.

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Winter Squash and Arugula Salad

plated 2 625 sqBig sisters have a very important job to do in this world. It is their mission to pave the way for their little sisters, teaching them the ropes and ensuring that they do not stumble through life’s little land mines along the way. My big sister taught me where babies come from, (I didn’t believe her!), how to shave my legs, and, with instructions whispered through a locked bathroom door, how to use tampons. She taught me how to hide cigarettes from our mom as well as how to sneak out of the house, late at night, when boys came calling, by throwing pebbles at our basement bedroom window. Sadly, I never had to use that last one. I was a late bloomer and the boys only came for her!

Now that we’re all grown up, she is still passing on lots of valuable lessons. She works for the popular blog, “Yummy Mummy” and is quite knowledgeable about the business side of running a blog. She is always going on about Search Engine Optimization (SEO), and how important it is for my blog.  SEO is the practice of improving and promoting a web site in order to increase the number of visitors the site receives from search engines.

She explained that the title of your blog posts is of utmost importance. Beginning the post title with a number assists in making the post’s content more actionable. It also reassures those readers, whose attention span matches that of a gnat, that they can scan through your list post quickly if needed. My sister also emphasized the need to use exciting adjectives that promise audacious results.

As I was writing this post, I thought about some of her tips and tried to put them into action. “Seven mind blowing ways to roast winter squash.” Or, “Four essential steps to cutting squash without hacking off your finger.”  (On that note, check out this very helpful video on cutting winter squash) Somehow, they just seemed too sensationalist, and not really very “me.” However, I do promise you a delicious squash salad, that while perhaps not exactly mind blowing, will make dinner time at your house a very happy place to be.cutting squashready to assembleI was inspired to make something with winter squash after a visit to my neighbourhood Farm Boy store. If you don’t have Farm Boy in your city, I am just a little bit sad for you. Entering the store you are heartily greeted by a life-size animatronic singing Farm Boy and his dog Barndoor Buddy. (Not sure if it’s just me, but some days it feels like he’s mocking me!) Perched in the produce section, resides a mischievous monkey who performs endless backflips over the banana display. Rounding the corner into the dairy section, you will encounter Lulu the cow who moos every time you open the dairy case to get milk and Rusty, a crowing rooster, standing guard over the eggs. My kids and I spent a lot of time there when they were little. It was the lazy mom’s version of taking your kids to the petting zoo. And, it had the added bonus of not stinking like a zoo.

The produce bins were overflowing with a myriad of winter squash. Unable to decide what to get, I excitedly filled my cart with about 35 pounds of assorted varieties. As the cashier was ringing me through, her curiosity got the best of her. She just had to know what I was going to do with all these squash. When I told her I was going to take their picture she looked at me like I was a bit crazy. And yes, perhaps you might agree, when I confess that I spent the better part of a very happy afternoon, arranging squash.assortment 3

Click here to print recipe for Winter Squash and Arugula Salad.close up

 

Roasted Winter Squash Salad with Warm Cider Vinaigrette

salad 2 625 sqI have made this salad four times in the past month, and I am just now getting around to telling you about it. Before you go and accuse me of holding out on you, let me explain. My reluctance to share this recipe does not come from a place of greed (as in not wanting to share), but rather, from a place of shame.

I discovered this recipe while reading In Style Magazine. I could tell you that I happened upon it while reading a copy of the magazine at my dentist’s office, but that would be a lie. The truth is that I have a subscription to In Style Magazine and that I get quite giddy when a new issue arrives. I read with meticulous attention, from cover to cover, folding over many pages with inspirational ideas on fashion and decor. I love to see how the celebrities dress and what their homes look like. I wholly confess to this guilty pleasure. There, now my secret’s out. I hope you don’t think any less of me!

In the November issue of In Style, Ina Garten shares tips and recipes for a stress free Thanksgiving. While Ina is fond of saying “How easy is that?”, this recipe, while not difficult to make, does require a few more additional steps than a simple green salad. But the additional work to prepare it is definitely worth it.

dicing squashmaking dressingroasted squashshaving parmThis is a salad with layers of contrasting flavours and textures. The peppery, slightly bitter arugula is perfectly balanced by the roasted squash coated in maple syrup. The crunchy pecans provide a perfect textural contrast to the tender roasted squash. The tangy, salty Parmesan provides a perfect foil to the sweet cider vinaigrette. It is destined to become your guilty pleasure!

Click here to print recipe for Roasted Winter Squash Salad with Warm Cider Vinaigrette.

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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.