Okay so it's almost December, and that means the end of food bloggers obsessed w/ every iteration of the gourd category, right? Wrong! Just when I thought Thanksgiving was the last time I'd want to eat squash all year, Martha Shulman at the NYTimes convinced me I needed to give acorn squash a try. All I can say is: Thank you, Martha! I will be eating acorn squash all winter long.
I changed her recipe up quite a bit, but conceptually it's the same: roasted acorn squash with a grain and a green. I used a blend of spices that gave the squash a Middle Eastern flair, but if you don't have all of these on hand, coarse sea salt and ground black pepper will do just fine. Roasting the squash brings out its natural sweetness, and when it comes out of the oven it is fork-tender. After you try this recipe, you'll be thanking Martha, too.
Here's what I used to make dinner for two:
- 1 medium acorn squash
- 1 cup of dry quinoa
- 1/4 cup of crushed almonds
- 1/4 cup of dried cranberries
- 6-8 oz of fresh spinach
- 2 cloves of garlic
- 1 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- Sea Salt
- Ground Black Pepper
- Ground Cinnamon
- Red curry powder
- Ground coriander
- Ground cardamom
First, preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Place the whole acorn squash on a baking sheet and put it in the oven to roast for 35 minutes.
While your squash is roasting, place the dried cranberries in about 1/2 a cup of water. This will help them rehydrate and plump up a bit.
If you already have chopped or slivered almonds on hand, toss them in a dry pan over medium heat and toast them up.
If, like me, you only have whole almonds on hand, put them in a plastic baggie, find something hard, and start smashing.
See, so easy! No need to run out to buy crushed almonds when you can crush your own. I have to admit that we had a lot of fun smashing them up. Stressful day? Break out the almonds.
Once you place the almonds in the pan, keep a close eye on them. They will toast pretty quickly, in about 2-3 minutes. As soon as they start to char around the edges, take the pan off the heat and set the almonds aside.
Cook the quinoa according to the directions on the package. While the quinoa is cooking, wash the spinach and dry it well. Extra water left on the spinach will make it soggy. So, if you have a salad spinner, this is a great time to pull it out. If not, just take a paper towel and pat it dry. Then, finely chop the garlic cloves. When the quinoa has 5 minutes left, heat 1 Tbsp of extra virgin olive in a medium-sized sauce pan, toss the garlic in the pan, and let it turn golden brown for 2-3 minutes. Then, place the spinach into the pan, stir it into garlic and olive oil and let it wilt for 1-2 minutes.
You want the spinach to keep its bright green color - not that icky dark green goop that some people serve. We like bright, crisp vegetables! As soon as the spinach starts to wilt, take it off the heat. Drain the liquid from the cranberries, and then toss the spinach and the cranberries into the quinoa.
Take the quinoa off the heat. At this point, your acorn squash should be just about finished roasting. Once the 35 minutes have passed, pull the acorn squash out of the oven and let it cool for 2 minutes. Then, slice it in half and scoop out the seeds. Here is where the Middle Eastern seasoning comes in. The measurements aren't precise, so just go with your gut. And if you have questions, leave them in the comments section below. I lightly sprinkled all of the spices over the roasted squash: sea salt, black pepper, cinnamon, nutmeg, red curry, coriander, and cardamom.
Then, using a large serving spoon, scoop the quinoa salad into the middle of acorn squash. We paired this with a cabernet sauvingnon. It was the perfect complement and made for a healthy and delicious dinner on a cold winter night!
|The perfect bite.|