Monday, December 15, 2008

Beta Carotene, Please

I'm generally a pretty balanced, healthy eater. But last Friday, I realized that it had been days, nearly a week since I had eaten vegetables in any significant quantity. I don't know how this happened, but between houseguests, work and a busy extra-curricular schedule, it did.

With Paul out of town, I was having one of those wonderful, solitary Friday nights in. Mine generally consist of wearing Paul's big, ugly Marks & Spencer bathrobe, eating things for dinner that under normal circumstances wouldn't strictly be considered dinner (i.e. red velvet cake, bread and cheese, peanut butter, etc.) and watching guilty pleasure TV. Winter is a perfect backdrop for these nights, I find they don't tend to happen much during the summer.

Anyway, I was casting about for something to eat, and the only vaguely vegetal thing I had was an acorn squash. Given that I'm not the hugest fan of squash (I like the flavor but generally not the texture, so unless it's pureed I tend to give it a pass) it was a little odd that I had it at all, but I guess I must have been won over by its autumnal cuteness at the Greenmarket or something.

I was racking my brain for squash recipes that included something other than cutting it in half and roasting it, as that is a preparation I'm a little bit over after months and months of roasted cold weather vegetables (mostly beets, carrots, sweet potatoes and potatoes). But at the same time, I was eager to get to the task at hand (sitting on the couch), so was not interested in anything particularly complex.

I recalled a recipe that I had seen Mario Batali make on TV a while back that consisted of sauteeing butternut squash with red wine vinegar, honey and thyme. I had tried to make it myself based on the five minutes of the show I had caught, and let me tell you it was one of my most disastrous cooking experiences EVER. It took several days to get the burnt on crap off of my favorite sautee pan. But, I do remember liking the idea of the vinegar with the squash. And I also remember thinking that Ann Burrell's idea of cutting the squash in slices crossways was a nice way to get some caramelization on a larger than normal proportion of the surfaces.

So I preheated the oven to 400 degrees, cut the thing such that I was left with bicycle wheels of acorn squash, cut out the seeds in the middle of each slice, rubbed olive oil on each side of each slice, laid them out on a cookie sheet, and sprinkled Maldon salt and a bit of pepper over the lot. After 45 minutes in the oven, these slices were gorgeous. Browned and soft.

So I took them out, drizzled red wine vinegar over them, and settled in for my non-dinner on the sofa.

Somehow, I think because there were so many lovely brown bits, the texture didn't bug me at all, and the vinegar adds an unexpected fresh note, and also cuts what can sometimes be a cloying sweetness.
It turns out I may actually like squash after all! But I'll keep in mind that it is best eaten while vegetating on Friday nights.


Terry at Blue Kitchen said...

What a lovely, unexpected presentation, Laura! I could see filling the centers of the "bicycle wheels" with a mix of other roasted vegetables.

Laura said...

Thanks, its cute isn't it? I love your blog by the way, and congrats on the Bon Appetit recognition!

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