MAY IT PLEASE THE PALATE: "Squashed and Stuffed"

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There is nothing like a hearty serving of roasted winter vegetables, sitting on a plate. Nothing that can’t be improved on, that is.

Because this is the “Please the Palate” way - there is no food, no dish, that can’t endure an extra step - to take it from merely normal, to ethereal, where the angels sing in culinary supplication, drooling a little bit onto their harps.

Today we please the heavens by taking those pedestrian roasted vegetables, roasting them with a touch of exotic spices, and stuffing them into a winter squash.

For this recipe, it’s best to cook the squash and roast the vegetables separately, and then assemble before serving. Each dish can also be cooked in advance, then brought up to room temperature and reheated, still delicious.

Let’s give it a fancy-pants name and begin the recipe, shall we?

Stuffed Acorn Squash with Cilantro Pesto and Roasted Moroccan Vegetables
(8 servings)

INGREDIENTS:
 
4 acorn squash (others can be substituted – butternut, delicata)
olive oil
1 bunch cilantro, chopped
1-2 cloves of garlic
kosher salt 
1 lb. sweet potato
1 lb. carrots
1 lb. parsnips
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp. paprika, smoked paprika, or mild chilé pepper
½ tsp coriander
1 TBS sweet balsamic vinegar such as fig vinegar

DIRECTIONS:

Make the squash: Slice lengthwise; scoop out seeds; trim off tips and stems as necessary. Preheat oven to 400º, and make the pesto: puree the garlic, ¼ cup olive oil, 1 tsp kosher salt, and 2 TBS cilantro in a food processor. Rub this concoction over the flesh of the squash halves. Bake for one hour on a shallow roasting pan.

Make the roasted vegetables: Peel and chop the sweet potatoes, carrots and parsnips into 1” dice. Toss with 3 TBS olive oil, 1 ½ tsp kosher salt, cumin, paprika, and coriander. Bake for 30-35 minutes (at 425º, or if you just have one oven like me, into the 400º oven with the squash will do). Turn during cooking and try to get a bit of caramelization going. When done, toss with the balsamic vinegar.

To serve: mound the roasted veggies in the squash, garnish with chopped cilantro. Excellent warm or even at room temperature.
 
If this recipe is too simple, serve with a side of harissa or red curry sauce (see prior installments of this column!). I promise you, the angels will drool regardless.
 
Nick Roumel is a principal with Nacht & Roumel, PC, a firm in Ann Arbor specializing in employment and civil right litigation. He also has many years of varied restaurant and catering experience, has taught Greek cooking classes, and wote a food/restaurant column for “Current” magazine in Ann Arbor. Follow him at @nickroumel.