Totally Squashing It

In the past few weeks, I’ve wrapped up my final assignments (and even a few Christmas gifts), and proceded to run around the city to say a quick chau to friends in Boston. Goodbyes always feel temporary—see you later, nos vemos— although I don’t know exactly when I’ll be back in town—or living anywhere else in proximity to a Justin Bieber mural—again.

IMG_4254

Over the past four months, the enormous kitchen in my rental opened up all kinds of late-night meal opportunities. I may have left some brown rice, hot sauce, and hemp seeds behind in the refrigerator, but I pray that someone can put them to use. Now at my parents’ house, I’m reminded that there’s something so comforting about cooking at home. (For one thing, I usually know where the shared baking sheet and mixing bowl are hiding.)

Back in Baltimore as of 18 hours ago, I’ve started to unpack and avoid planning what will be “the rest of my life.” But please, one thing at a time. First, we have all those holiday thoughts on the mind: hoping family members aren’t totally bored with the gifts I picked out, finding a decent outfit to wear, and trying to remember to eat greens amidst all of the dessert spreads.

In Baltimore for Thanksgiving last month, we whipped up some roasted carrots, brussels sprouts, vegan cornbread stuffing, and this butternut squash bake, which I wouldn’t mind making again for another holiday season.

butternut squash

The recipe is originally from Minimalist Baker, intended for delicata squash, with its festive, striped outer skin. But when you’re last-minute like my family, we’ll take whichever squash is left in the grocery store the morning before dinner is supposed to be served.

The creamy baked butternut squash and juicy pomegranate seeds counter a tart lemony tahini drizzle and dry, roasted hazelnuts. The parsley’s just there for some subtle color, you know? I’m afraid it received mediocre reviews from the 12-year-old present, who chewed cautiously before spitting it back out on her plate (tahini isn’t for everyone). But I still was happy to eat cold leftovers the next day. Serve it room-temperature, or quickly throw the toppings all around the moment you pop it out of the oven, and serve ASAP so your guests have a chance to burn their mouths.

Sure, we all like our squash/potatoes/root vegetables topped with marshmallows, soaked in brown sugar, or roasted in a honey glaze. But if you try something different—a little more tart, with a nutty crunch—you might surprise yourself.

Lemon-Tahini Squash Bake

What you need:

  • 1 large butternut squash
  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • salt and pepper
  • 3 Tbsp tahini
  • 1 lemon, juiced
  • 1 Tbsp maple syrup
  • 1 tsp water
  • ¼ cup pomegranate seeds
  • ¼ cup dry roasted hazelnuts, roughly chopped
  • ¼ cup fresh parsley, chopped

Instructions:

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
  2. Peel and slice squash into ½ inch rounds, and then cut in half (into semi-circles). Toss with olive oil, salt and pepper, and then arrange in rows in a 9 inch x 11 inch baking dish. Bake for 35 minutes, or until softened and tender. (Just grab one with a fork and taste it first!)
  3. In a measuring cup, whisk together the dressing ingredients (tahini, lemon juice, maple syrup, and water). If the dressing is too thick for a light drizzle, add another teaspoon of water.
  4. Drizzle the dressing across the rows of baked butternut squash—this is the delicious shit that sticks everything together. Then sprinkle with pomegranate seeds, hazelnuts, and parsley.
  5. Then take a look at your vibrant work of art. You’re a wondrous holiday chef, working miracles. And you peeled a butternut squash on your own, likely using an enormous, sharp knife. Cheers! Go celebrate something.
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