Have you noticed that fall vegetables are hard? It’s as though Mother Nature is providing a protective shield for her bounty to hunker down for the winter. Unlike the squishy, juiciness of summer berries and tomatoes, autumn’s pumpkins and squash can double as paperweights and door stops; drop a butternut squash on your foot, and you might break a toe.
This is why I love to cook pumpkins and winter squash. Before my eyes, they undergo a culinary transformation. Their ugly-frog exteriors, all bulbous, mottled and flecked, morph and soften with roasting, exposing their innate sweetness. What was once an impermeable skin becomes an edible, toothsome texture that compliments the buttery, vividly colored interior flesh. No sloucher in the nutrient department either, winter squash and pumpkins, are treasure troves packed with iron, potassium, Vitamin A, and rich sources of beta-carotene.
So go ahead and continue to use these rock-hard seasonal sculptures as table decorations or bowling balls. But, I promise you, if you cook them they will transform into the Prince Charming of autumn vegetables.
Spiced Acorn Squash with Coriander and Lime
Do not even think of peeling the squash. It’s skin will soften while roasting and add texture and nuttiness to the dish.
Serves 4 as a side dish
2 small or one large acorn squash, stem ends removed, halved and seeded
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon paprika
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 Freshly ground black pepper
1 red serrano chile pepper, stemmed, seeded, ribs removed, finely chopped
Juice of one lime, about 2 tablespoons
2-3 tablespoons chopped fresh coriander/cilantro leaves
Pre-heat oven to 425 F. (200 C.)
Cut squash in 3/4″ wedges. Toss squash with oil, sugar, paprika, cumin, salt and pepper in a large bowl so squash is evenly coated with spices. Arrange squash in one layer on baking tray, flesh-side down. Roast in oven until tender and golden, about 45 minutes. Remove and cool slightly. Transfer to large bowl and toss with chile pepper, lime juice and cilantro leaves. Serve warm or at room temperature.