Wednesday, October 4, 2006

acorn squash with chile-lime vinaigrette

acorn squash, chile lime vinaigrette

A firm believer in balance, or some fumbling approximation of it, if I tell you about the bewildered, exhausted and terrifying, it is only fair that I tell you that today — a day I was certain was Monday the whole day long (as in, “hey, why is the Times updating their food section a day early?”) — was a knock-it-out-of-the-park great day. Sparing you all the driveling details, suffice it to say there has been a raise, bragging rights and even the ability to make someone else’s day. I took this string of greatness to the store (not jeans, or course, I know better than to rub my luck in the face of the narrow-hipped crowd) where I found a sweater I suspect I love enough to wear it until it’s threadbare and a pair of heels that (crosses fingers that they will continue to) almost feel comfortable.

Although I initially eschewed our first taste of it in August, I am unbelievably excited that fall is here, especially now that September and October have been so very kind to let us hang onto an open-toed cardigan-ed existence for all of these bonus weeks. Guilty as charged, I’ve been busy cooking and eating things I haven’t photographed, and I’m here now to confess my food blogging sin so we can all move on to the things I wasn’t so remiss about.

Last Thursday night, in celebration of the arrival of two of the most fiercely sharp and stunning knives from two of the most fiercely sharp and stunning friends, I made Molly’s version of one of my favorite dishes, the mighty onion tart. The last time I made an onion tart, that time a la Julia Child, I diced in some bacon and gruyere, but this time there was none of that and I loved it more. Some people enjoy finding extra flavors to tuck into dishes; I get excited when I find out they taste just as good with less. The only thing I altered was that I added a pinch of cayenne, not enough to make you grimace but enough to occasionally prod you awake from your sweet, buttery coma. Being awake is important when your dinner tastes this good and there are crumbs, delicate crumbs!, that need attending to.


Sunday night brought us sweet potatoes and baby brussels sprouts from the Abington Square farmers market, as well as field greens so good in a salad I’m just going to announce right now that I’m going to at least try to not buy bagged or boxed ever again. The brussels were roasted with olive oil and salt until crispy and flaky like phyllo on the outside and nutty on the inside. The potatoes were wedged and sprinkled with this blend of spices that if you’re like me, you’ll probably assume you’ll hate, but then you’ll like it so much you’ll have to reconsider you’re relationship with fennel and cilantro. Only good things could come of this. It should be noted that everything we bought at the market was grown in New Jersey – like me! – so I must arrogantly presume that’s why they were so good in every way.

Now that we’re all caught up with the un-photographed and I’ve hopefully whetted your appetite, two more things to consider: roasted acorn squash wedges with chili-lime-garlic vinaigrette and roasted haricot vert with toasted acorn squash seeds. Finding a stash of energy where I was certain it was depleted, I cooked these things at an illogical 9 p.m. tonight while my husband played volleyball. (He didn’t win, don’t ask.) I know eating dinner at 10:45 p.m. is ridiculous, irresponsible and obviously badly planned, but you know what? I’ll take a perfect dinner at the very end of a perfect day over average take-out on a well-timed terrible day any time, and I suspect you would too.

Maybe even tomorrow, you know, because I have a sneaking suspicion that it’s your turn next for an uber-spectacular one.

roasted haricot vert, toasted acorn squash seeds

Roasted Acorn Squash with Chile-Lime Vinaigrette
Adapted from Gourmet, October 2006

Makes 4 servings.

2 (1 1/2 – to 1 3/4-lb) acorn squash
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons olive oil
1 garlic clove
1 1/2 tablespoons fresh lime juice, or to taste
1 to 2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh hot red chile, including seeds
2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro

Put oven racks in upper and lower thirds of oven and preheat oven to 450°F. Halve squash lengthwise, then cut off and discard stem ends. Scoop out seeds and cut squash lengthwise into 3/4-inch-wide wedges. Toss squash with black pepper, 3/4 teaspoon salt, and 2 tablespoons oil in a bowl, then arrange, cut sides down, in 2 large shallow baking pans. Roast squash, switching position of pans halfway through roasting, until squash is tender and undersides of wedges are golden brown, 25 to 35 minutes.

While squash roasts, mince garlic and mash to a paste with remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt. Transfer paste to a small bowl and whisk in lime juice, chile (to taste), cilantro, and remaining 1/4 cup oil until combined. Transfer squash, browned sides up, to a platter and drizzle with vinaigrette.


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