Maple-roasted squash with nuts and dried fruit
By Kathryn McLean
My kids and I planted some seeds in paper cups and egg cartons this past spring. Normally we go to the garden centre and buy tomato plants and other seedlings as well as seed packets of lettuces and beans to plant our vegetable garden. But this year I didn’t know what the planting season was going to look like because it was uncertain whether or not the nurseries would be open. Would grocery stores have seedlings and plants out front in their seasonal garden centres built up with temporary fencing? Could I even find seed packets on a rack at the one grocery store I was going to for my weekly shopping?
And so, armed with the remains of the packets I had from last year as well as a few seeds we’d dried for this very experiment, we headed to the sunny kitchen floor and started spooning potting soil into cups and planting what we had.
Most of the planted seeds took to the sunny windowsill with determination and soon we had an army of sprouts poking through. It looked like we’d have a promising garden after all. Come summer, I hoped, we’d be eating fresh salads made from the lettuce and tomatoes we’d pick from our yard. Cucumbers every day and carrots late in the summer. Squash would be ripening through the summer, ready for us when the weather turned and we were ready for soup.
But then some cups stayed too dry for too long and others became waterlogged. In the first week outdoors a few critters decided to take an interest and our count was down again. We had squash and pumpkin plants as well as some herbs and beans, the lettuce seeds were sprouting, and I’d managed to buy some tomato plants: our garden would be good enough this year.
With the harvest of cherry tomatoes came salads and sauces and tomato bruschetta. But what about all that squash?
As Thanksgiving approaches, our minds turn to harvest dinners of roasted turkey, mashed squash with brown sugar and butter, and apple pie. Perhaps you’re getting together with family and you plan to set up a long table outside to allow for a socially distanced dinner. Or maybe it will be a more modest celebration this year. Either way, roasted vegetables, soup and a fresh salad are simple ways to use some of the seasonal vegetables available right now, whether you’ve grown your own or are planning a trip to the grocery store on the long weekend. So let me suggest some dishes that may help to use those vegetables and the leftovers.
My family tends to favour butternut squash soup, but let’s not forget about roasting squash, too.
Maple-roasted squash with nuts and dried fruit
1 acorn or buttercup squash, washed, halved and seeds scooped out; slice into 1½-inch wedges1 Tbsp. olive oil
2 Tbsp. maple syrup
¼ cup dried fruit such as cranberries or raisins
¼ cup chopped nuts such as peanuts or hazelnuts
Preheat oven to 425°C. Prepare squash as above.
Drizzle oil and maple syrup over squash wedges and toss to coat. Spread evenly on a baking sheet and bake for 20 minutes.
Once fully roasted, remove to a serving plate and scatter dried fruits and nuts over. Serve hot or at room temperature.
Whether you serve salad at the start or the end of your meal, the fresh, crisp vegetables are always a refreshing addition. Consider adding sweet fall fruit, such as apples or pears, as well as seeds or nuts as another crunchy element. And a simple homemade dressing will change up your salad routine.
Fall salad with sliced apple and kale
8 cups or one 142g package of mixed salad greens
4 stalks kale, leaves removed from the stem and thinly sliced
2 medium apples, cored, seeded and thinly sliced
60g or a 1” x 2” piece of feta, broken into large pieces
¼ cup salted pumpkin seeds
3 Tbsp. olive oil
2 Tbsp. white wine vinegar
1 tsp. honey mustard
To ensure your salad is fresh and crisp and not soggy, prepare it just before serving. The kale can be sliced ahead of time and you can make the dressing earlier, but don’t slice the apple or dress and assemble the salad in advance.
Now for those leftovers
If you find yourself with leftover roasted vegetables, you don’t need to reheat and eat them as they were the first time around. Enjoy some room-temperature roasted vegetables later in the week by adding them to a plate of veggies and dip, such as hummus, and serve as part of dinner. Or straight from the fridge, toss some into a salad along with crisp components, such as cucumber or grated carrot.
And what about soup? Whether you have turkey and vegetables or vegetables alone left over, the easiest way to use them up in a new way is to make a pot of soup. Soup is a fairly simple dish to create from scratch because you can add what you have on hand.
Tear or cut turkey into bite-sized pieces. Cut leftover vegetables into similarly sized pieces. Use root vegetables (potatoes, carrots, parsnips, turnips, sweet potatoes), greens (spinach, kale, Swiss chard, bok choy or other hearty greens), bell peppers, eggplant, zucchini, beans. If you have unused veggie sticks or cherry tomatoes from a vegetable and dip tray, you can use them, too.
Cut and cook a small onion in a spoonful of oil in a large pot. Add any raw veggies, chopped. Once softened, combine remaining chopped turkey and vegetables and add enough chicken broth or water to cover by 1 inch; season with salt and black pepper. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, cover and simmer for 1 hour. Add any leftover rice or noodles that you want to include for the final 5 minutes. Stir in chopped fresh parsley if you have it, and serve.
Also, don’t forget to send extra food home with guests, whether a squash or some leftover stuffing. Friends or neighbours may also be eager recipients: consider packaging up a couple portions of dinner or bagging up salad components and giving them to a neighbour who isn’t getting together with others this fall.
I’m wishing everyone a nice Thanksgiving, enjoying time with family and friends, whether in-person or via screen. We may not be marking the occasion in our usual way but I think we still have things to be thankful for, including the wonderful fresh produce that autumn has to offer.
Kathryn McLean is a local food writer and recipe developer. Visit her website at allfoodthoughts.com