Tag Archives: GINGER

On the Menu: Roasted Butternut Squash with Cranberry-Ginger Butter and Toasted Walnuts

A few weeks ago I mentioned my imaginary friend Shorty. Things have gotten worse. Now I have a whole bunch of imaginary friends. I had a party and invited them over two nights ago. It was a spur of the moment thing, so there was no time to invite real friends.

I had been making my black bean chili all afternoon—one of the last recipes for the new book, and one I’m particularly excited about. But once I had a big pot of the stuff on my hands around 6 o’clock, I realized I needed to get an accurate read on the portion sizes—not just of the chili, but of the rice, the vegetables, and the garnishes that go with it. So I made all the accompaniments and then started putting out little bowls (each for a half-size portion), figuring I’d kill many birds with one stone. (Our pet, Ellie the Lovebird, with whom I have a tenuous relationship, did not like this analogy.)

Not only did I want to test proportions, but I wanted to test different taste combinations. So I put little name cards next to the bowls as a fun way to indicate the different combinations. “I think I’ll blog about this,” I told Roy, who was looking at me with amusement. “No, I think I should write the next blog,” he said, “about what it’s like to live with a cookbook writer on deadline.” Needless to say, I’m keeping him far away from the keyboard.

Happily both Roy and I and all of the imaginary guests (or as best as we can figure) liked all of the chili combinations. But everyone’s favorite vegetable topping for the bean chili was roasted butternut squash. I nibbled on the squash as we were cleaning up (the guests did not hang around to do the dishes), and I thought about what a delicious side dish roasted butternut is, simply diced up and cooked on high heat. But even better, a super-quick flavored butter (my favorite has lots of chopped dried cranberries, fresh ginger, and a little lime in it) turns this earthy-sweet vegetable into a real star. So I’m passing along that recipe—since I can’t share the chili recipe just yet.

The only problem with this recipe is portion size (ack—the bane of my existence!). Even if you scooch up the amount of raw squash to 1 1/4 lbs. (any more than this amount on one large sheet pan will steam, not roast), you still only wind up with about enough to serve 3 people as a side, because this is so tasty. At least you won’t have to invite any imaginary friends to eat the leftovers.

Roasted Butternut Squash with Cranberry-Ginger Butter & Toasted Walnuts

______________________________________________

1 to 1 1/4 lb. peeled butternut squash, cut into 1/2-inch dice

3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

Kosher salt

2 tablespoons unsalted butter

3 tablespoons chopped dried cranberries

1 teaspoon chopped fresh ginger

1/4 teaspoon finely grated lime zest

½ teaspoon fresh lime juice; more if needed

2 tablespoons finely chopped toasted walnuts

2 teaspoons chopped fresh cilantro (optional)

________________________________________

Preheat the oven to 450°F. Line a large heavy-duty rimmed sheet pan with a piece of parchment paper. In a mixing bowl, toss the squash with the olive oil and 1 teaspoon salt. Spread the squash in one layer on the sheet pan. Roast, flipping once with a spatula after about 18 minutes, until the squash are tender and  brown on the bottom and around the edges, about 12 minutes more or 30 to 32 minutes total.

Meanwhile, melt the butter in a small saucepan over low heat and add the cranberries, the fresh ginger, and the lime zest. Stir well and cook to soften the cranberries a bit, about 1 minute. Take the saucepan off the heat while waiting for the vegetables to finish roasting.

Transfer the squash to a mixing bowl. Reheat the cranberry butter to loosen it up if necessary. Add the ½ teaspoon lime juice, stir, and pour and scrape all of the cranberry butter into the bowl with the squash. Toss thoroughly but gently. Taste and add up to ½ teaspoon more lime juice if desired. Add the walnuts and cilantro (if using) and toss again. Serve right away.

Serves 3 (maybe 4!) as a side

The Perfect Match: Carrots + Stir-Fry Pan

I didn’t always love carrots, but two things changed that.  First, I grew my own carrots last summer—and toted home fistfuls of freshly dug carrots from my CSA farm every week. These sweet and crunchy little wonders bore no resemblance in taste or texture to the poly-bagged grocery store carrots harvested light-years ago and shipped from a galaxy far, far away.

Secondly, when I started writing my vegetable cookbook, Fast, Fresh & Green, I figured the familiar and friendly carrot would need to star in at least a few side dishes. So I cooked carrots—a lot. In the back of my mind were bad memories of overcooked (mushy) and under-flavored (wan and vegetal) carrots from bad convention dinners and childhood TV dinners.

I needed to erase that memory. I figured that any method that let the carrots brown up a little first (caramelization=deep, sweet flavor) and then just cook through until barely tender would do the trick. Stovetop braising, roasting, sautéing—these methods all worked, but I discovered that the hands-down easiest and most efficient way to get great carrot flavor fast is stir-frying.

By stir-frying, I don’t mean leaping flames and a professional wok. I mean a wide, round, bowl-shaped non-stick stir-fry pan (my favorite is a Circulon) on a home burner. These pans are great for two reasons—the large surface area lets more vegetables come in contact with the hot pan for more browning, but at the same time, the depth and slope of the bowl allows the vegetables to steam a bit while they cook, too.  (The pan should be moderately full for the veggies to do that steamy thing—too empty, and the veggies will tend to burn.)

Cooking carrots in a stir-fry pan is such a no-brainer that I was sort of embarrassed to espouse the technique in my book. But who doesn’t like easy? And the result is so fabulous—deeply browned around the edges and just cooked through,  the carrots are nutty and sweet tasting. You can finish off the carrots simply with chopped fresh ginger and a squeeze of lime, or go crazy with flavors.

I do get a teensy bit fussy (or so my mother says) about how I cut my carrots for a stir-fry. I like slender sticks; they don’t have to be perfect—just try to keep them all about the same thickness.

Gingery Stir-Fried Carrots with Cranberry and Orange

Serves 3

1 pound carrots

1 tablespoon cranberry juice (unsweetened)

1 tablespoon fresh orange juice

1/8 teaspoon balsamic vinegar

½ teaspoon kosher salt

1 tablespoon vegetable oil

¼ cup (about 2 small) sliced scallions, white and green

2 teaspoons minced fresh ginger

pinch red pepper flakes

1 teaspoon unsalted butter

Trim and peel your carrots and cut them into sticks that are 2 to 3 inches long, and between ¼ and 3/8 inch thick. Combine the cranberry juice, orange juice and balsamic vinegar in a small bowl.

In a large (12-inch) nonstick stir-fry pan, heat the vegetable oil over medium-high heat. When the oil is hot (it will loosen up), add the carrots and salt and stir well with tongs. Cook, stirring only occasionally and spreading out the vegetables after every stir, until the carrots are browned in places (they should have lost their stiffness; some will be slightly blackened), about 10 minutes. Adjust the heat up if the carrots are not browning after a couple minutes; lower the heat if the carrots are browning too much after five or six minutes.

Turn the heat to low, add the scallions and ginger, and stir until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Turn off the heat, add the cranberry/orange/balsamic combo and stir until the liquids have mostly reduced and been absorbed. Take the pan off the heat, add the butter, and toss and stir gently until it melts. Serve warm.