Roasted Squash with Tahini

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I love combining different  elements from different regions into one dish. I suppose this is an amalgamation of moi. Born in New York, raised as a globe trotter, dotting all across Asia and Europe. How do I make sense of my whirlwind of a childhood?? By gravitating to dishes that are just that. Pulling ingredients and vegetables from polarized places in the world to create one cohesive dish. The acorn squash, which looks just like it’s namesake is indigenous to North America whereas tahini is Mediterranean. What you get is a symphony in it’s subtlety. Bursts of a creamy lemon sauce on browned edged squash, which caramelizes the flavor.

Just in time for Thanksgiving, the squash which is so quintessentially Fall! Really any squash can be substituted for this dish and in fact, you can use a variety of squashes. I think the trick is peeling and cutting these tough skins. First, get a long serrated knife. Cut along the center on the squash. Remove all the seeds, in that way you can get your hand in there to cup it, while the other hands peels. Then you can chop to your preference.

Roasted Squash With Tahini

SERVES 6

Ingredients

2 large acorn squash (2 pounds), scrubbed, cut into 1-inch-thick wedges, seeded
7 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided

1 1/2 teaspoons cumin seeds, divided
Kosher salt, freshly ground pepper
4 scallions, cut into 2-inch pieces

2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon tahini (sesame seed paste)
Red pepper flakes, to taste

Directions

  1. Preheat to 425°. Place squash on a rimmed baking sheet. You might need two baking sheets. Divide 3 tablespoons oil and 1 1/4 teaspoons cumin between sheets. Season squash with salt and pepper; toss. Roast for 15 minutes.
  2. Combine remaining 1/4 teaspoon cumin, 1 tablespoon oil, and scallions in a small bowl; season with salt and pepper and toss to evenly coat. Scatter scallion mixture over squash, dividing evenly between sheets, and continue to roast until squash is tender but not mushy, about 15 minutes longer (time may vary depending on squash).
  3. Meanwhile, whisk lemon juice, tahini, and 1 tablespoon water in a small bowl to blend. Gradually whisk in remaining 3 tablespoons oil. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
  4. Transfer squash to a platter. Drizzle tahini sauce over and sprinkle with red pepper.

Moroccan Swiss Chard Carrot Salad

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It’s winter in New York. The weather has been vacillating between cold and colder or snow and slush. While yesterday was snowing, today it’s all being washed away with rainy slush. So I am home with a cold and I just want something easy to eat that will be fulfilling and yet wash out my system from this cold. That being said, at this time of year a lot of root vegetables are in. In particular, carrots and celery. Couple that with swiss chard and harissa (to burn out this cold) and a bright sprinkling of lemon and we have a medicinal dish.

According to Chinese medicine and basically all ancient food traditions, we should be eating to the seasons and during the colder seasons, increase the heat in our body. Makes sense. So this Swiss Chard & Carrot salad, which is not only delicious, has tons of garlic (which acts as an antibiotic) and harissa, which is a hot and spicy red pepper sauce that will dry out this cold. If you can’t find harissa, which is usually available at an ethnic supermarket, then replace it with hot sauce. Or you can purchase from my dear friend, Osi at Osi Living, here. You can be sure, it’s organic and made with the finest ingredients.

This recipe has been adapted from Wolfgang Puck’s contribution to The New York Times Passover Cookbook.  On these colder days, when you wrap a thick cardigan around your thick wool sweater, it’s the perfect recipe.

Yields 4 (as a side dish)

Ingredients
1∕3 cup olive oil
4 large cloves garlic, minced
6 thin long carrots, peeled and cut into 1/4 inch rounds
2 ribs celery,
peeled and cut into small chunks
1 large bunch Swiss chard or spinach, ribs and leaves, sliced thin

Dressing
Juice of 2 lemons
1 tablespoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon to 1 teaspoon of Harissa (depending on your level of heat preference)
Freshly ground Sea Salt and pepper to taste

Directions

  1. Heat the half oil in a large skillet. Add garlic and sauté until just fragrant.
  2. Then add the celery and carrots. Cook until the carrots start to soften or sweat. Add the Swiss chard and cook an additional 10 minutes, until very reduced and very tender.
  3. Whisk the dressing ingredients in a small bowl, and pour over the vegetables, mixing thoroughly. Serve Moroccan Swiss Chard Carrot Salad at room temperature.

Crusted Lemon Tofu

A simple marinade for tofu that has a bright and fresh lemony flavor. Pan frying the pressed tofu in arrowroot flour creates a crispy outside that is so tender on the inside. This recipe can be used year round with a side of any vegetable of your choice forming a complete meal. You also might want to check out a blog post I wrote a little while back on how to successfully press tofu so that you always have a fabulous tofu.

Ingredients

2 blocks extra firm tofu, pressed and drained
1 tablespoon brown rice vinegar
1 tablespoon agave
½ tsp sea salt
½ tsp ground black pepper
1 cup arrowroot powder, for dredging
2 tablespoon neutral tasting oil (refined coconut or canola preferred)

Sauce Ingredients

½ cup vegetable broth
1/3 cup fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon agave
2 tablespoon sesame oil 

1 inch knob finely grated ginger
1 tablespoon arrowroot powder, diluted with 1 ½ tablespoon water
2-3 sliced lemon wedges, for serving

Toasted Sesame Seeds, for serving

Directions

  1. Press the tofu over a rack for about 10 minutes, or check out this product I reviewed on pressing tofu, which I now use regularly.
  2.  Slice into about ¼ inch thick strips. Drizzle the strips with the rice vinegar and agave and sprinkle with sea salt and pepper. Allow the marinate to coat the tofu for 10-30 minutes.
  3. While the tofu is marinating, create your lemon sauce by combining all ingredients except arrowroot and water in a sauce pan. Heat for approximately 3 minutes and add arrowroot slurry. Whisk and cook for only one additional minute. Set aside, covered to keep warm.
  4. Pre-heat a large skillet and add the oil.
  5. Place 1 cup arrowroot powder in a large dish and dredge each piece of the tofu in the arrowroot.
  6. Sauté coated tofu on each side for approximately 3 minutes, or until the tofu is golden.
  7. When the tofu is finished, place on platter and top with lemon sauce. Sprinkle with toasted sesame seeds and lemon wedges.