Side Recipe: Roasted acorn squash tossed with spicy vinaigrette

Roasted Acorn Squash with Spicy VinaigretteAcorn squash is often a surprise “volunteer” arrival in my spring compost bin, when the scooped out seeds from winter’s enjoyment sprout with the warmth of the season. I’m able to grow a couple squashes before the plant realizes that summer heat is upon it and it goes dormant. Normally, acorn squash grows in winter but it’s available year-round in grocery stores. It’s a transplant from South America, where squash is abundant in the cooking and in the culture. Full of vitamins A, C, and B, they’re also rich with potassium, fiber and magnesium.

I prefer winter squash roasted or baked and this recipe cooks quicker than many others since it’s cut into wedges. If you’re not in a hurry, another easy recipe to try has 3 ingredients: Heat oven to 425 degrees, cut acorn squash in half, remove seeds, then salt and pepper the flesh. Roast for about 45-50 minutes or until squash is soft and creamy. Remove from oven and add 1/2 Tablespoon of butter and 1/2 Tablespoon of blue cheese crumbles into each squash “bowl”. They melt into wondrous harmony. Enjoy.

This recipe takes a few more steps but it is well worth the effort. Eat the skin and all… it turns into a delicious, savory/sweet candy. The tart vinaigrette gives it a brightness that is not to be missed.

Roasted Acorn Squash Tossed with Spicy Vinaigrette
Serves 2, doubles easily

Ingredients:

1 Acorn squash
1/2 teaspoon black pepper or 8 turns of a pepper mill
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cumin
6 Tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon fresh garlic, minced
1 1/2 Tablespoons fresh lime or lemon juice
1 Tablespoon sambal oelek or red chile paste
2 Tablespoons fresh cilantro

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 450F.
2. Wash squash. Carefully halve them lengthwise, then cut off and discard ends. Scoop out seeds and cut squash into 3/4-inch-wide wedges. Place on a large roasting pan. Sprinkle wedges with black pepper, 3/4 teaspoon salt, cumin and 2 Tablespoons oil. Toss well to distribute the spices. Then arrange them, cut sides down, on the roasting pan.
3. Roast squash for 15 minutes then turn over the wedges. Roast for another 15-20 minutes. They are done when a knife inserted goes in easily and both sides are golden brown.
4. While squash roasts, add garlic and remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt to a small bowl and mash into a paste with a pestle or the back of a spoon. Whisk in lime juice, chile paste, cilantro, and remaining 1/4 cup oil until combined.
5. Transfer squash, browned sides up, to a platter and drizzle with vinaigrette.

Enjoy with any number of main courses, like Easy Meatloaf or Shrimp with Sliced Fennel.
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