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.

Afghan Ratatouille

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Might seem odd to call a french dish, Afghan. After all, Ratatouille is a stew of simmered summer vegetables usually with tomatoes, peppers, zucchini and eggplant. Interestingly in Afghanistan, and really in the entire Central Asian region there are notorious for stews as well – all utilizing seasonal ingredients, excepting that the spices and herbs rule in the stews. My mother regularly made this version of Ratatouille and always called it Choresh, which basically means in farsi – stew. Probably the closet cousin to this dish is the Persian Eggplant dish called Choresh Badjeman. The emphasis on my dish is on the spices: cumin and turmeric, which gives it more color and more of an earthy, slightly smoky flavor that I love so much. Traditionally the french cook each vegetable in separate pots, tending to each vegetable’s needs before bringing them together at the end. I use one pot for everything, just like all Central Asian cooks. We cook everything in one pot and let it cook slowly over a low flame.  It’s not just that it’s easier, the results taste better because all the vegetables have plenty of time to get acquainted in the pot. I also don’t peel or seed the tomatoes. Generally speaking ratatouille needs time. Time for the garlic, onions and bell peppers to caramelize, making them sweet. Time for the thick-cut vegetables to soften, and of course time to illicit the essence from each ingredient, allowing them to mingle and reduce before being reabsorbed by the zucchini and eggplant. I like to serve this over basmati rice so that the rice can absorb the flavors and get soaked into each grain.

Serves 6

INGREDIENTS

1 medium eggplant, cut into 1/2-inch dice
2 medium onions, sliced
4 tablespoons olive oil, divided, plus more to taste
6 garlic cloves, roughly chopped
2 bell peppers,  (preferably sweet) cut into 1/4-inch slices
on the horizontal
2 medium zucchini, cut into 1/2-inch rounds
3 ripe medium tomatoes, cut into 1/2-inch dice
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground turmeric
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
Sea Salt to taste

Directions

  1. Toss the eggplant cubes with a teaspoon or so of salt. Set the cubes in a colander to drain for about 20 minutes.
  2. Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a heavy-bottomed pot over medium heat. Stir in the onions and cook until translucent, about 7 minutes. Add the garlic and cook until the garlic starts to brown.
  3. Pat the eggplant dry, add to the pan, and cook stirring frequently, until golden. Add a bit more oil if the eggplant absorbs all the oil and sticks to the bottom of the pan.
  4. Sprinkle in the rest of the spices and adjust the seasoning with salt.
  5. Then stir in bell peppers. Cook for a few more minutes, then stir in zucchini. Cook for a few more minutes, then stir in tomatoes and cook for 10 to 15 minutes more, until all the vegetables are soft.

Roasted Squash with Sunflower Seed Dressing over Wild Rice

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I need to have a good breakfast before I make this dish because I need all the power in my arms to hack away the skin off the squash. I use an 8 inch Wusthoff knife to slice away the the thick layer of skin that is protecting the sweetest moist orange flesh that is the star of this dish.

It is Fall and I love autumn produce. This giant dish is a seasonal favorite of mine. How do I describe this dish to you… there is so much going on here and it is one the best recipes out there for squash, thanks to Heidi Swanson’s 101 cookbook vegetarian website. I have been following her vegetarian blog for sometime and am quite impressed with some of the dishes she has created. This is one of them.

This wild rice dish with roasted squash features two of my seasonal favorites; squash and tiny red onions.  Topped with a sunflower cilantro dressing and you have a healthy hearty and incredibly complex dish.  So many exciting flavors… sweet, salty, nutty, crunchy all in one that just creates a POW in your mouth and stomach.

Now you may not be able to tell from the picture, but the wild rice is under the squash. I did not want to mix it to much because I did not want to break apart the soft roasted squash. I also used Sweet Dumpling Squash which looks like a miniature pumpkin with a hint of orange skin. You can use any squash you have for this dish.

Serves 4

              Ingredients
3 cups Sweet Dumpling Squash (or other winter squash), peeled and cut into 1-inch cubes
extra-virgin olive oi
fine grain sea salt
12 tiny red onions or shallots, peeled (OR 3 medium red onions peeled and quartered)
2 cups cooked wild rice*
              Dressing 
1/3 cup sunflower seeds
1/3 cup olive oil
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon sugar
2 tablespoons warm water
1/2 cup cilantro, finely chopped

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 375F.
  2. Toss the squash in a generous splash of olive oil along with a couple pinches of salt, and layer onto a baking sheet. At the same time, toss the onions with a bit of olive oil, sprinkle with salt, and layer onto a separate baking sheet. Roast both for about 45 minutes, or until squash is brown and caramelized. The same goes for the onions, they should be deeply colored, caramelized, and soft throughout by the time they are done roasting. You’ll need to flip both the squash and onion pieces once or twice along the way – so it’s not just one side that is browning. This could take about 40 minutes. You should keep an eye on the onions because they will roast faster then the squash.
  3. In the meantime, make the dressing. With a food processor puree the sunflower seeds, olive oil, lemon juice, salt, and sugar until creamy. You may need to add a few tablespoons of warm water to thin the dressing a bit. Stir in the cilantro, saving just a bit to garnish the final plate later. Taste and adjust seasonings (or flavors) to your liking.
  4. In a large bowl, toss the wild rice with a large dollop of the dressing. Add the onions, gently toss just once or twice. Scoop the rice and onions out onto a platter and top with the roasted squash (Gently toss to disperse the squash a bit). Finish with another drizzle of dressing and any remaining chopped cilantro.
 
* To cook wild rice: Rinse 1 1/2 cups wild rice. In a medium sauce pan bring the rice and 4 1/2 cups salted water to a boil. Reduce to a simmer. Cook for 40 minutes or until rice is tender and splitting open, stirring occasionally. You’ll have enough for this recipe and some leftover.

Baked Spaghetti Squash with Parmesan (Gluten Free)

Does anyone remember a commercial that Ronzoni had over 25 years ago of Italian woman carefully selecting spaghetti strands from trees? That commercial left such an impression on me when I was a child that I actually thought spaghetti grows on trees! Stop laughing at my naivete…. you thought so too, no?

Apparently that commercial was a spook that the BBC played in 1952 on April Fools Day about the spaghetti crops in Switzerland.


The program feature a family from Ticino in Switzerland carrying out their annual spaghetti harvest. It showed women carefully plucking strands of spaghetti from a tree and laying them in the sun to dry.

Although some viewers did not find this program too amusing as it was intended to be, others were so intrigued they wanted to find out where they could purchase their very own spaghetti bush. So, I was not alone in this. I too wanted to know how to buy a spaghetti bush.

Well, as it turns out… we really don’t have spaghetti bushes, but we do have Spaghetti Squash. It is an oblong seed-bearing variety of winter squash. The fruit can range either from ivory to yellow or orange in color or green with white streaks. Its center contains many large seeds. Its flesh is bright yellow, and orange or white for the latter variety. When raw, the flesh is solid and similar to other raw squash; when cooked, the flesh falls away into strands like spaghetti. The taste is quite bland and like spaghetti needs a really good sauce to enhance the flavor.

This main dish is like eating a spaghetti con pesto, minus the carbs. The strands are delicately tossed with herbs and then topped with parmesan cheese.

Serves 2

Ingredients

1 medium spaghetti squash
1 stick vegan butter
3 tablespoons mixed herbs, such as parsley, chives and oregano (chopped)
1 garlic clove, crushed
1 shallot, chopped
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1/2 cup parmesan cheese, freshly grated
Salt and ground pepper to taste

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 F. Cut the squash in half lengthwise. Place the halves cut side down, in a roasting pan. Pour a little water around them and bake for 40 minutes or until tender. Do not allow to burn- cover with foil if necessary.
  2. Meanwhile, put the butter, herbs, garlic, shallot and lemon juice in a food processor and proces until smooth and creamy. Season with salt and pepper.
  3. When the squash is tender, scrape out any seeds, and place a thin slice from the base of each half so that it can sit level.
  4. Using a fork, pull out a few of the spaghetti like strands in the center to make room for filling. A a dollop of herb butter, then sprinkle with a little grate cheese. Serve the remaining herbed butter separately adding more as you pull more strands.