Friday, January 24, 2014

Roasted Acorn Squash With Chile-Lime Vinaigrette

The lower the temperature drops, the stronger my craving for starchy cheesy food grows.  I’m sure many of you can relate, and it is taking every bit of self-control I have not to make huge pans of lasagna or vats of buttery mashed potatoes during these major cold spells.  However, I’m counterbalancing my cravings for starchy white food by cooking from my arsenal of favorite roasted vegetables dishes. Roasted Acorn Squash With Chile-Lime Vinaigrette makes me especially happy, as this dish adds a welcome pop of bright color and a good nutritional punch on these cold wintry days.

It’s amazing how so many vegetables are transformed into satisfying comfort food when roasted at high heat with a good glug of olive oil and a liberal seasoning of salt and pepper.  This acorn squash is no exception to that rule, and it couldn’t be easier. 


All you do is cut it in half, scoop out the seeds, and slice the squash into thin wedges.  You don’t even need to peel it.  In fact, the peel gets crispy and candied when roasted, and that crispy-skin is one of my favorite elements of this dish.

While the squash is in the oven, the dressing comes together in a snap.  I love the contrast between the earthy warmth of the roasted squash and this zingy vinaigrette.  Fragrant with lime zest and cilantro, then punched up with minced garlic and chilies, this dressing will wake up your palate and rev up your metabolism as well.

The vibrant orange squash flesh is hearty and comforting, and I love that it doesn’t send me into a carb-coma the way some of my other winter favorites do. Also, I love any combination of chilies with lime and garlic.  (Witness my semi-recent post for my favorite chile-and-lime popcorn.) Add a little cilantro to the situation, and I am a very happy camper.  

With dishes like this in my repertoire, I think I can get through the next polar vortex coming our way!

One Year Ago:  Chipotle Chilaquiles

Adapted, barely, from a recipe in Gourmet, October 2006

I’ve used the little red Thai bird chilies for this, but a jalapeño also works well in a pinch.  If your tolerance for spicy foods is not so high, scrape out the seeds and discard them before mincing the chile.

2 acorn squash (about 1-1/2 pounds each)
6 tablespoons olive oil, divided
½ teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon sea salt, divided
1 large garlic clove, minced
The juice and zest of a fresh lime
1 to 2 teaspoons finely minced fresh hot red chile (see note above about the seeds)
2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro

Preheat the oven to 450°F.  Position the oven racks in the upper and lower thirds of the oven.  Line two baking sheets with foil. 

Cut squash in half lengthwise, scoop out seeds and cut the squash into ¾-inch-wide slices.  Toss the squash in a bowl with 2 tablespoons olive oil, pepper and ¾ teaspoon of the salt.  Stir well to make sure the wedges are well coated and seasoned, then arrange cut-side down on the prepared baking sheet.  Roast for 25 to 35 minutes, switching the position of the pans halfway through the roasting time, until the squash is cooked and the bottoms of the wedges are a toasty golden brown.

While the squash is roasting, mash the minced garlic to a paste with the remaining ¼ teaspoon of salt.  Add this to a small bowl and stir in the lime juice and zest, chile (to taste!), cilantro and the remaining 4 tablespoons of olive oil.  Whisk together, taste for seasonings and adjust as needed.

Arrange the roasted squash wedges on a platter, browned sides up, and drizzle with the chile-lime vinaigrette.  Makes about 4 servings.

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