Growing up in New England, I’ve always anticipated the arrival and lamented the passing of the seasons. Having lived in Southern California for a few years now, I’ve come to realize that there are no seasons here. Oh, sure, we pretend it’s winter by donning our wooly knitted scarves, but then undermine any attempt at credibility by pairing them with flip-flops and oversized Channel sunglasses.
Now, I realize it’s February, and squash and yams had their leading roles back during Thanksgiving dinner. But, I’m sure most of you still have some around and might like a new recipe or two. If you do, then check out a simply delicious squash soup at Cookiecrumb's hilarious site I'm Mad and I Eat (01.Feb.07 post). I've also got a couple of recipes up my sleeve that will enliven these former ingenues with some seasonal citrus.
This is my recipe for squash; on my next post, I’ll share one for yams. Since roasting vegetables causes their natural sugars to caramelize into a satisfyingly sweet delight, it remains my favorite method of preparation. With the sugary, chewy dates in this dish you could practically call it dessert. Okay, even I don’t believe that. Just eat this, then eat chocolate.
Roasted Acorn Squash with Medjool Dates and Toasted Almonds
Makes 4 servings.
Print recipe only here.
1 medium acorn squash or other winter squash (about two cups)
2 tsp butter
1 shallot, chopped
1 tsp brown sugar
The juice of ½ small lemon (about 1 tsp)
A little bit of lemon zest
A pinch of ground cinnamon
5-6 Medjool dates,* coarsely chopped
¼ cup toasted almonds, coarsely chopped
1-2 tsp fresh parsley, chopped
Some salt and pepper, to taste
To toast the almonds, pre-heat oven to 350 degrees. Spread almonds in a single layer on a baking sheet. Bake for 8-10 minutes, or until slightly golden and aromatic.
Bump up the heat in the oven to 375 degrees. Roast the squash face side down for 35-45 minutes or until tender when pierced with a fork. Remove from the oven, and let cool. Scoop out the cooked flesh, and set aside.
Meanwhile, in a large skillet over medium heat, sauté shallots in butter until slightly caramelized. Add brown sugar, lemon juice, lemon zest, and cinnamon. Add the cooked squash, and mix well by hand. (You can puree it at this point if you like, but I prefer a lumpy texture). Stir in the dates, and season well with salt and black pepper. Remove from heat. Stir in chopped almonds and fresh parsley. Garnish with more almonds and parsley before serving.
*TIP: Medjool dates are sweeter than most varieties, and have a soft, creamy texture and deep amber-brown color. I usually buy them at the farmers’ market, but Trader Joe’s and all major markets sell them. If you can’t find them, then just substitute a different variety.