by Renu Chhabra
Food is capable of feeding far more than a rumbling stomach.–Anthony Beal
I have seen this acorn squash change from deep green to light golden on my kitchen counter over the last two weeks. Waiting for my much needed attention, it endured the neglect. I had a new idea about how to cook it every time I looked at it, so I would set it aside for yet another day. I loved seeing it sitting there turning into this beautiful objet d’art with a new stroke of color every day.
I enjoyed the the entire process, from start to finish, just as Monet enjoyed painting the same haystacks and façades day after day, in different lights.
Who would have thought a simple experience like this could also bring such curiosity? Every time I looked at it, I wondered if it would survive another day. Or would another stroke of green be lost. I touched it, inspected it, and set it aside, saying to myself, “I will make something tomorrow. Definitely.”
And it waited patiently for me, just like the Rouen Cathedral waited for Monet, looking more beautiful each day, and maintaining its freshness!
With half a dozen ideas in my mind about how to cook it, I settled for a simple recipe of roasting it and flavoring with some sweet and fragrant flavors like orange zest and toasted fennel seeds. I then combined the two with sweet paprika and sea salt to make a spice blend to toss into after roasting. Another wonderful spice blend with citrus! My new year started with spice blends.
After tossing the roasted squash, I finished it with a garnish of freshly ground cumin and parsley and a squeeze of lemon (optional). Simple and flavorful, this recipe takes very little time to make. If you have any left over, use it in your favorite grain or salad.
Herbs and spices are good for our health. Fennel seeds have wonderful healing qualities. They help digestion and have antioxidant properties. Fennel is also chewed as mouth freshener. I sometimes make fennel tea that is quite relaxing. Have it with a little honey. It’s delicious and calming.
Ingredients1 small acorn squash Olive oil Sea salt Zest of one orange 1 teaspoon fennel seeds 1/2 teaspoon paprika Pinch of chili flakes (optional) Garnish 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin Parsley, chopped Lemon (optional)
- Heat oven to 400° F.
- Cut acorn squash in half. Remove seeds and cut crescent shape pieces.
- Place in a large bowl. Toss in a one tablespoon olive oil and a pinch of salt.
- Arrange on a sheet pan in a single layer.
- Roast for 20-22 minutes or until done.
- While the acorn squash is roasting, dry toast fennel seeds in a skillet for 1 minute, taking care not to burn the seeds.
- Let them cool for 5 minutes and pound coarsely in mortar and pestle.
- Add orange zest and crush just a little. Transfer to a bowl.
- Add paprika and salt to it. Mix and set aside.
- When squash is done, transfer it to a large bowl and sprinkle the spice mixture on it. Coat gently. Drizzle a little oil and adjust salt.
- Transfer to a serving bowl or platter. Garnish with ground cumin and parsley. Serve with lemon slices (optional) on the side.
- Serve hot.