Saturday, November 11, 2017

Elf November + Hearty Autumn Salad with Squash, Radicchio, Pecans, and Pomegranate Seeds (vegan)

To be clear, Halloween is not an enjoyable observance in our household. Our dogs routinely go berserk over squirrels and lizards so it’s easy to understand that the sounds of strange voices and the sight of masked children at the door would cause panic. Then there’s the leftover candy…

As a very young child, I used to hide behind a large upholstered chair in our living room on Halloween night because the trick-or-treaters made me nervous. Michel doesn’t have childhood Halloween memories because it wasn’t part of his culture. (Spoiler alert: We are not fans of pumpkin pie, pumpkin bread, etc., and we’ve never tasted a Starbucks “pumpkin spice” beverage. Can’t do it.)

Dutch children have a much less frightful way of soliciting treats from neighborly adults, i.e., an alternative Halloween. In some parts of Holland and other Northern European countries, November 11th is observed as Saint Martin’s Day. 

Amsterdam, 11 november 1954.
Collectie AHF / Ben van Meerendonk / negative number AHF 12900

The story goes that, while riding his horse through a snowstorm, St. Martin used his sword to slash his cloak in twain and gave half of it to a freezing beggar. That night Martin had a dream in which Christ was wearing half a cloak and telling his angels that Martin had given it to him.

Tapecaria St. Martin
(Google Images)

That’s all good and well, but how to you get from cloak to candy? Dutch children (kinderen) walk through the streets carrying paper lanterns on the ends of sticks that look like very small fishing poles. Sometimes the lanterns are made at school, sometimes at home. The participants sing familiar songs about Sint Maarten as they go from door to door, whereupon they are treated to candies and fruit--usually tangerines

One of the most familiar tunes is about November 11th (the lantern light) and November 12th (the treats). You might be amused to note that “eleven” translated to Dutch becomes “elf.”

Elf November is de dag,
Dat mijn lichtje
Dat mijn lichtje
Elf November is de dag
Dat mijn lichtje branden mag.

Twaalf november is de dag
dat ik mag snoepen
dat ik mag snoepen
Twaalf november is de dag
dat ik mag snoepen de hele dag.

Another favorite song has to do with the story of Sint Maarten and his cloak.

No matter how you choose to celebrate the sensory delights of autumn, you will find this colorful salad a satisfying dish. We eat it as a main course but it would also make an impressive side dish for any (dysfunctional) holiday gathering.

You will need:

for the salad
2-3 cups of cubed butternut squash
1 small head of radicchio, cut into pieces
2 cups of baby arugula (or adult arugula cut into pieces)
½ cup pecan halves
½ cup pomegranate seeds (a/k/a arils)

to season the squash before roasting
chili powder
red pepper flakes, preferably smoked
olive oil

for the salad dressing
juice of ½ a lemon
2 garlic cloves, pressed
“a little salt”
balsamic vinegar
olive oil

Heat oven to 350 degrees.

Place squash cubes on foil-lined baking sheet.

Drizzle and sprinkle squash with modest amounts (!) of olive oil, honey, chili powder, smoked red pepper flakes, and salt. Stir gently to coat the squash pieces, adding salt, etc. to taste. Roast for 30-40 minutes.

Meanwhile, prepare the radicchio and arugula. Place in your favorite salad vessel along with pecan halves and pomegranate seeds. 

Mix the salad dressing.* As noted in the previous post (delicata squash), Michel is not picky about measuring when he cooks. He sometimes uses balsamic vinegar infused with fig; it’s especially nice with relatively bitter ingredients like radicchio and arugula. Generally, he puts lemon juice, olive oil, vinegar, salt, and garlic (or whatever he’s using) in a small plastic container with a lid and shakes it up. Then he tastes it. Sometimes he adds a little something to get the result he wants--shaking, tasting, adding as needed. 

*I’m not the boss of you (nor anyone else—not even our dogs) so please make your salad dressing any way you want to.

When the squash has finished roasting, stir in the salad dressing to coat the radicchio and arugula then gently add squash pieces to the mix. Eat. 

Saturday, October 28, 2017

Carpe Delicata: Vegan Roasted Delicata Squash with Leeks, Pine Nuts, and Kale

Michel recently decided to try delicata squash for the first time. The results were so good that he made the dish a second time within the same week. The growing season for Cucurbita pepo 'Delicata' varies by location (duh), hence his urgency to recreate the recipe before the delicata variety disappears from local markets. As of this afternoon, it was still available at our usual haunt, Paul's Fruit Market. 

What’s so delicate about delicata squash? It is easier to work with than acorn, butternut, etc., because it doesn’t require peeling. Its green-striped rind is edible, unlike its less cooperative relatives (unless you unknowingly buy an indurate lookalike masquerading as a delicata squash and you are tempted to use a power saw to slice it—not that we would know anything about such an incident). So here a caveat emptor would be in order; make sure the squash you select from those ubiquitous autumnal displays is edible and not ornamental.

You might be wondering if such a creamy-sweet and obliging fruit (yes, fruit, because veggies don’t have seeds) can possibly be a healthful food choice. Here’s a quick overview courtesy of  

Nutrients? Yes. High in vitamins A and C.
Minerals? Yes. Iron and calcium.
Calories? Low. One ¾ cup serving contains a mere 30 calories.
Carbs? Also low. Only 7 grams per ¾ cup serving.
Fat? Zero. Now we’re talking.

Ready to try it?

Michel’s recipe requires only a few ingredients and yields a generous main dish for two or an ample side dish for more.

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil.

You will need:

1 large delicata squash
2 leeks
5-6 kale stems
¼ cup pine nuts
5-6 garlic cloves
olive oil

To season/coat* the squash slices for roasting:

ground chipotle or red pepper flakes—whatever you like
agave nectar
olive oil

First, the delicata squash.

Wash and slice lengthwise into halves.
Scoop out the seeds (which can be saved for toasting if you’re into that kind of thing).

Slice crosswise into ¾ inch pieces.

To season the squash slices for roasting:

*A cautionary/explanatory word re. this step: Michel doesn’t measure when he cooks. He tastes and tweaks until he gets the result he wants. You might want to approach this seasoning component in the same way you’d put together a salad dressing or similar mixture. Also, he’s no longer sure what’s in his go-to jar of mixed ground peppers (below). His response to my question about this: “It’s just a whole bunch of different peppers.”  If you’re confused, (a) I’m sorry, (b) please see my post about Michel’s way of measuring ingredients when he cooks, and (c) I’m afraid you’re on your own here.

In a plastic container or mixing bowl, combine the following ingredients to taste:

·      Olive oil
·      Ground cinnamon
·      Ground chipotle or red pepper flakes or whatever pepper you prefer
·      Kosher salt
·      Agave nectar

Add squash slices and stir just enough to get an even coating.

Place seasoned slices on baking sheet and roast for 25-30 minutes.

And now the vegetables.

Slice leeks into ¼ pieces.

Chop garlic cloves. 

Heat a tablespoon of olive oil in large skillet.

Add leeks and garlic and allow to cook down for a few minutes.
Drizzle with a bit more olive oil. 

Add pine nuts, stir, and continue cooking over medium heat.


Remove kale leaves from stems, wash and chop into bite-size pieces.

Add ½ the chopped kale to leek mixture, allowing it to wilt a bit.

Add remaining kale and reduce heat.

Remove roasted squash from the oven when done. 

Add to the cooked vegetables and dig in.

That’s it.