OF ALL THE local produce available in the winter, squash is one of the most delicious. Sweet and nutty, rich and warm, squash has a satisfying depth of flavor and silky texture. Nutritionally, it’s high in potassium, has a low glycemic index, and is a guilt-free pleasure with only 45 to 90 calories per cup cooked.
“There are so many varieties to work with!” says Chef Sarah Stegner of Prairie Grass Café in Northbrook. “Each of the local farms I source squash from seems to have one type that it specializes in: Froggy Meadow grows beautiful Black Futsu and Blue Hubbard. Three Sisters does giant Butternut. And Nichols—while offering some of the more traditional squashes such as Acorn and Delicata, also grows Butterkins with really intense flavor.”
Honoring the Native Americans’ long history of growing squash as a staple of their diet, Stegner featured this beautiful roasted squash medley as the opening course for a special dinner during Native American Heritage Month.
Simply roasted with olive oil, salt and pepper, the squash is very easy to make at home. So is the brilliant green arugula-tahini vinaigrette Stegner created to drizzle over it. And for added texture and flavor pops? Garnish with fresh pomegranate arils, toasted pumpkin seeds and fresh fried sage leaves.
“A lot of home cooks shy away from fresh sage because it has such a powerful flavor,” says Stegner. “But frying it transforms the herb and perfectly mellows it.”
Note: Depending on the size of the squash you purchase, you may have enough to fill two sheet pans. If not all of the squash on the ingredient list are available, try to use at least three varieties.
For the squash medley:
- 1 – 2 small acorn squash
- 1 – 2 small Delicata squash
- 1 – 2 small Butterkin squash
- 1 Butternut squash
- 1 Blue Hubbard squash
- 1 Black Futsu Squash
- 3 Tbsp olive oil
- 1 tsp salt
For the fried sage:
- 1/2 cup olive oil
- 2 sprigs fresh sage (about 10 leaves)
For the arugula tahini vinaigrette:
- Oil from frying the sage (above)
- 1 cup arugula, loosely packed
- 1/2 cup baby spinach leaves
- 1/4 cup parsley, loosely packed
- 2 cloves garlic, peeled, ends trimmed and discarded
- 2 heaping tablespoons tahini. (Note: stir tahini well to ensure oil and tahini are blended)
- 1 tablespoon honey
- Juice from 2 lemons
- 1/2 tsp sea salt
For the garnish
- 1/4 cup toasted, salted pumpkin seeds
- 1/4 cup fresh pomegranate arils
- Fried sage
Roast squash Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Peel squash, discarding seeds and membranes. Slice squash into similarly sized rings and/or small wedges. Toss in olive oil and salt. Lay out in single layer on a sheet pan. Bake at 350 degrees for approximately 20 to 25 minutes or until golden brown and tender.
Fry sage leaves
While the squash roasts, fry the sage leaves. Place half cup of olive oil in a medium pan over medium-high heat. Add sage leaves to hot oil and fry until leaves are crisp. Remove pan from heat. Using a slotted spoon, remove fried sage leaves from the pan and place on a paper towel to blot oil. Sprinkle leaves with salt. Cool the oil and reserve.
Place the cooled olive oil from frying the sage leaves in a blender. Add all remaining vinaigrette ingredients. Blend well. Taste to adjust seasoning; add salt if desired.
Arrange roasted squash on a large serving platter. Drizzle with vinaigrette. Sprinkle with toasted pumpkin seeds, pomegranate arils and fried sage leaves. Serve warm or at room temperature.
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