Have you noticed that fall and winter vegetables are often rock-hard? It's as though Mother Nature is providing a protective shield for her bounty to hunker down for the colder weather. 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.
Yet appearances can be deceiving. Cook a winter squash and before your eyes it will undergo a culinary transformation. Its ugly-frog exterior, all bulbous, mottled and flecked, morphs and softens with roasting, exposing its inner sweetness. And with some squash, such as acorn and delicata, what was once an impermeable skin becomes edible, complimenting its 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 winter vegetables.
Spiced Acorn Squash with Coriander and Lime
The spice and citrus add brightness to the buttery squash. Do not even think of peeling the skin. Acorn squash skin is edible once cooked, adding texture and nuttiness to the flavors of the dish. Serves 4 as a side.
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 teaspoon 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 until 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.