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.

Cucumber Soup with Mint

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A while ago I was at the New York Vegetarian Festival. It takes place once a year and the objective is for branded vegetarian food items to get showcased. So you can find anything and everything related to vegetarian cooking. It was at that expo where I discovered the VITAMIX. That machine can do it all. It makes smoothies, soups, ice cream, nut butters…. you name it. I was sold.

Since then, every opportunity I get to pulverize down the proliferation from my CSA, I pull out my Vitamix and hit, pulse. One week this passed summer, I received 6 giant cucumbers. (Sorry for the late post, just found these photos in my camera) While cucumbers are a welcome respite from the hot summer months, it was just too much of a good thing. That’s when I decided to stir up this cucumber mint soup. I grow mint in my garden and use it regularly when I want to freshen up a dish and it especially pairs nicely with yogurt. What I love about this soup is its simplicity and yet its layers. The ginger and cumin seeds form the undertone in the soup, with just the right amount of bite, while the yogurt cools you down with its creamy tang. As in all soups, it’s best slurped the day after, when the flavors have had a chance to marry.

From the Silk Road, I present this chilled cucumber mint soup.

Ingredients

1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground cumin seeds
3/4 cup scallions (green onions), finely chopped
1 tablespoon freshly grated ginger
4 medium sized cucumbers
1 cup Greek yogurt
1 teaspoon sea salt
3/4 cup fresh mint leaves
Freshly grounded black pepper, to garnish

Directions

  1. Heat the oil in a saucepan. Add the cumin seeds and cook until fragrant, about 20 seconds. Add the scallions and grated ginger and saute for about 5 minutes or until the scallions have turned a dark green color and wilted.
  2. In a blender, like a Vitamix, combine the cucumbers, yogurt, fresh mint and salt. Slowly stir in the scallion mixture and blend until smooth.
  3. Chill the mixture for a least 2 hours in the fridge and serve with freshly ground black pepper and a few sprigs of mint.

Korean Scallion Pancakes ~ Pa Jun

Photo by Jennifer Jagusak

Korea is not officially part of the Silk Road, but East-West trade extended there, and as a result, Korea’s cuisine influenced and was influenced by the travelers on the Silk Road. Pa Jun is a Korean pancake that can be served as a snack, appetizer, or side dish and is commonly found in Korean street markets. It’s a crispy scallion pancake that is chewy and moist on the inside, with fillings of carrots, mung beans and seafood. Today you can find it made in many different variations in most Korean restaurants, where it is served as a starter with a dipping sauce. Though Pa Jun is typically made with a pancake like batter, my Pa Jun is gluten free, made with rice flour. It’s speckled with zucchini and carrots and served with a ginger-soy dipping sauce–all together, a sure recipe for no leftovers. These pancakes can be eaten alone without the dipping sauce, just make sure to add some salt to taste to the batter.


Serves 8 to 10


Ingredients


Pancakes

1/4 cup rice flour

2 eggs, lightly beaten
2 tablespoons vegetable oil

1/4 cup water
5 scallions, green parts only, cut into 3-inch lengths on the bias
1 medium carrot, grated
1 small zucchini, trimmed and grated


Dipping Sauce
3 tablespoons gluten-free or regular soy sauce

2 tablespoons water

1 tablespoon rice vinegar

1 teaspoon minced fresh ginger

1 teaspoon red pepper flakes

1 teaspoon granulated sugar



Directions
       1  In a medium-sized bowl, whisk the flour, eggs and 1 tablespoon of the oil with the water until a smooth batter is formed. Stir in the scallions, carrot, and zucchini and mix to combine. Chill in the refrigerator for 30 minutes to allow the rice flour to swell.

                       2   Coat the bottom of an 8-inch nonstick skillet with the remaining oil. Set over medium heat. When the pan is hot, ladle in about a quarter of the batter and spread it out into a circle, tilting the pan slightly to spread it evenly. Cook for about 8 minutes, or until the bottom is browned and you see holes in the pancake. With a spatula, flip the pancake and press firmly on the top to squeeze out any remaining batter that is not cooked.

                      3      Cook for another 8 minutes, or until the batter is cooked thoroughly and the pancake is browned. Repeat with the remaining batter.

                      4      In a small bowl, whisk together the soy sauce, water, vinegar, ginger, red pepper flakes and sugar.
           5      Cut the pancakes into small triangles and serve with the dipping sauce.