Debbie's Vanilla and Cardamom Squash

Can I tell you how much I love this book? It's become my bible of late, and I have three truly great dishes to share with you. 

I'm sorely tempted to pack all three into one post but I realize that a good backlog benefits the cadence of the blog, so three separate posts it shall be.

Tonight I'll be telling you about Vanilla and Cardamom Glazed Squash, and this post is dedicated to my friend Debbie. I smile with a great deal of irony as I write that because I do consider Debbie my friend, and certainly my foodie soulmate, but I've never met her. We "met" on Facebook through a mutual friend, got to know each other through various comments on food, NPR, scrabble, and such, and then she friended me and I accepted and there we went and there we were. The bond was only strengthened when I was posting about something or other and made reference to the fact that cardamom is my favorite spice. Debbie commented that I was the only other person she knew whose favorite spice was cardamom.

I really should meet her someday. In the meantime, Debbie, I made this for you...

Vanilla and Cardamom Glazed Acorn Squash Rings

The recipe calls for 1 small acorn squash, which I didn't have. I had 2 smallish "carnival" squashes, seen here. Actually I had 3 and they were part of the Halloween display on my kitchen pass-through shelf, but 1 rotted. I'm still killing the fruit flies. Let's not talk about it.

  • 1 small acorn squash, or 1 to 1 1/4 pounds any type winter squash
  • 2 tbsp unsalted butter
  • 2 tsp pure maple syrup
  • 1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/8 tsp ground cardamom (mmmmmmm...yes...yes...and no, I don't have an 1/8 measuring spoon, I just eyeballed a few judicious sprinkles)
  • Kosher salt

Preheat oven to 475. Line a baking sheet with a piece of parchment paper.

With a sharp axe (aka a chef's knife), cut the acorn squash in half lengthwise (through the stem end and the pointy end). PLEASE be careful! Scrape out the seeds and fibers with a spoon. 

Put each half, cut side down, on a cutting board. Slice off about 3/4" from each end and discard. Slice the squash crosswise into 1/2" half-rings. If you want, trim off any remaining fibers and goo. Put the rings on the parchment paper.

In a small saucepan, melt the 2 tbsp butter over low heat. Add the maple syrup, vanilla and cardamom. Lean over the saucepan and inhale deeply.  Deeply. Make room for the girl who will stagger into the kitchen, eyes glazed, breathing deeply, wondering aloud, "What is that?" 

Breathe it in again, it's divine.

Use a pastry brush to lightly brush the squash pieces with about half the butter mixture. Sprinkle lightly with salt and turn them over. Brush this side with the other half of the butter mixture but save about 1 tsp if you can, or add another tsp or 2 to the pan for later. Season this side lightly with salt.

Roast the squash for 15 minutes. Use tongs to flip the pieces over. Your kitchen is going to smell amazing. 

"What is that?" Jeeps cried when he and Redman came in from soccer practice. Smile knowingly. You are a goddess.

Roast another 15 minutes until they are nicely browned (the bottoms will be browner than the tops) and tender when pierced with a paring knife. Move to a serving dish.

Reheat the butter mixture briefly over low heat if necessary. Brush the butter mixture over the squash slices and serve.

Some quotes from the dinner table:

"This is like pumpkin pie."

"This is like dessert for dinner."

"You could eat this for breakfast."

"It's almost too sweet."

Oh, and most interestingly, "The skin is the best part!" Yes indeed, you can scoop the squash flesh away from the skin and eat, but amazingly, the skin is perfectly edible and really really tasty. Don't you agree, Debbie?

I thought so.

Vegetable Mess

Not really, I just love to say that. But I'll save it for the ratatouille post. Tonight I have a few roasted and grilled yummies to share.

First is grilled radicchio. Radicchio, also known as Italian chicory, is very bitter raw, but the bitterness mellows out when you roast or grill it. It's still on the bitter side, but in an appealing way. Like the girl with the interesting personality.

Grilled Radicchio with Interesting Personality

  • 1 small head radicchio, outer leaves discarded
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/2 tsp kosher salt
  • Few grinds of pepper mill
  • 1/4 tsp dried thyme or 1 tsp chopped fresh thyme

Quarter the radicchio, leaving the stem end intact because this is what holds the wedge shape.  This never works for me but maybe it will for you.

Put wedges in a large bowl, toss with olive oil, salt, pepper and thyme. My friend Rob recommends tossing in bacon fat if you have some left over.

Grill 3-4 minutes per side until lightly charred.  Below it's served with a quinoa salad with cucumber, tomato and feta, and would also be nice with a wild rice salad.


Next is roasted cauliflower. I fell in love with this method from Molly Wizenburg's A Homemade Life, which calls for slicing the cauliflower straight across lengthwise.

Molly's Lengthwise Cauliflower

  • 1 head cauliflower, leaves trimmed but leave stem intact (just trim the nastiest part of the end off)
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/2 tsp kosher salt
  • Few grinds of pepper mill

Preheat oven to 425

Slice cauliflower lengthwise about 1/4" wide. You're only going to get two, maybe three slices that end up looking like this:

The rest will just look like small, flat cauliflower florets but that's OK.

Put all the slices into a large bowl. Toss with olive oil, salt and pepper, turning carefully to coat so you don't break up the nice, big flatties. Place on baking sheet, spreading evenly and as flat as possible—you want as much surface area as possible to caramelize as it roasts.

Roast 20-25 minutes, flipping pieces halfway through, until golden brown.  Below we have some lengthwise cauliflower served over coconut rice and beans and jicama slaw.  A spectacular Meatless Monday Meal if you are so inclined.

Beet a Path to my Door

Ha. Thanks to Betty, my Punmaster neighbor, for the title. The beet crop hath indeed arrived: Golden, Chiogga and Detroit Reds. I really only like beets two ways: roasted most of all, and pickled a very distant second. I don't like canned beets, and I don't like borscht (which annoys me because I hear great things about it. It seems like something I should like, but I just don't).

As I posted once before, Croton Creek does an amazing salad with golden beets, heirloom tomatoes and gorgonzola. I've tried replicating it several times but can't quite match it, I think they put crack in theirs or something.

But the other day I teamed up some thyme-roasted beets with arugula and gorgonzola and it was out of this world. And the most satisfying thing was that everything except the cheese came from my garden.

Everything but the Cheese Beet Salad

(And by the way, if beets are not your bag, baby, just substitute carrots, they are delicious roasted with thyme)

  • 9 beets of choice (I used 3 golden, 3 Chiogga, and 3 Detroit Reds)
  • 5-6 sprigs of fresh thyme (I grow lemon thyme which is awesome for roasting root vegetables)
  • Olive Oil, Kosher salt and ground pepper (be generous with all. The more seasoned the beets, the less of that "earthy" flavor there is. The oil you roast them in then serves as the dressing for the greens)
  • 1 bunch arugula or greens of choice
  • Gorgonzola cheese, crumbled

Preheat oven to 375. Scrub and trim the root and stem ends from the beets. Peel if you're obsessive (I am). Cut in half lengthwise, and then each half into 3 wedges. Put beets in bowl with thyme stems, drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle with kosher salt and ground pepper, toss well.

Lay out a sheet of aluminum foil.  Dump the beets into the center and fold up the sides to make a packet.

Roast for 30-40 minutes until fork tender. Remove packet from oven and leave open to cool. Pick out thyme stems and discard.

Put the arugula into a salad bowl. Dump in the contents of the foil packet—beets, oil, and bits of herbs, scrape it all in there. Add Gorgonzola and toss well.



Jerusalem Artichokes

As I wandered through the produce section of DeCicco's, I saw them suddenly on the shelf, like a vision from Heaven: Jerusalem artichokes. This guy in my office, Pete, is a foodie extraordinaire. A real gourmand. And we're always talking shop about menus, particularly around the holidays. A couple of years ago at Christmas, I was planning to make a beef tenderloin, and I asked Pete what I should serve alongside. He came back with roasted brussels sprouts with Jerusalem artichokes. Brilliant, I thought, for I'd long wanted to try these things.

Foist of all, the Jerusalem Artichoke is neither from Jerusalem nor an artichoke.


These are actually the roots, or tubers, of the wild sunflower Helianthus tuberosus. I'd heard them described as a cross between a potato and a water chestnut, and always described as very, very good. After Pete's suggestion, I wanted so much to make them for Christmas dinner, except there was one problem: I couldn't find them. I searched grocery stores and Asian food markets, high and low. Here was one of the most prolific, nearly-invasive plants in the country and I couldn't find one tuber.

And now here they were at DeCicco's, packaged as "Sunchokes" and smiling at me benevolently, seeming to say, "Take me home, darling..."

So I did.

There were nine chokes in the package, and one thing I've learned over the years is never to make a lot of something you're making for the very first time. So I scrubbed up four of the chokes and sliced them 1/4" thick. Then I peeled and sliced three carrots, peeled and smashed three cloves of garlic, and cleaned the outer leaves off a handful of the teensiest, tiniest brussels sprouts I'd ever seen in my life (did I mention I love DeCicco's?)

I tossed all with olive oil, sea salt and pepper, and roasted on a baking sheet for an hour at 375, tossing occasionally so that the sliced sunchokes got good and browned on both sides.

Delicious with the tarragon chicken!! I snuck a slice of sunchoke on each kid's plate and they ate them, no questions asked, thinking they were potatoes.

Brussels Sprouts (Abandon all hope, ye who enter here)

For those of you who hate Brussels sprouts with the white-hot intensity of a thousand suns, I am not going to try to sell you on them. I realize this is a loathing that is deep and instinctive and I thoroughly respect your right to eschew these small cabbages. Go in peace. (Wuss-bags)

Sorry. For those of you who love the Brussies, welcome. For those of you who are not crazy about them but suspect you could like them if prepared in some palatable way, I hope you'll stick around.

I have one surefire recipe for "Conversion Sprouts" that has won over many doubters but I'm not going to unveil that just yet. Instead let's talk about roasting sprouts. Brussels have a strong and bitter bite which I think is the reason most people are averse to them. Roasting, however, caramelizes them and gives a sweeter edge.

They are simple to prepare: slice the end off, halve the sprouts, toss with olive oil, kosher salt, and pepper. Spread on a baking sheet and roastez-vous.

Brussies cozy up nicely to other vegetables. Tonight I paired them up with small yellow potatoes and onions to go alongside the skirt steak.

I roasted them at 400 for about 25 minutes, shaking the tray a few times. All the little loose leaves that fell off the the sprouts got all crisped up like chips and they were great together with the roasted onions. A terrific addition to this dish would be red grapes. Roasting vegetables with red grapes is something Stacey turned me on to and I highly recommend trying it, click here for details.

Stacey and the Roasted Broccoli

Get used to the name Stacey. She is Stacey of StaceySnacksOnline. Her amazing food blog upped my cooking game like nothing else. I had no idea you could do so much with cauliflower, but suddenly I was buying a head every other week and roasting it with red onions and grapes (click it, try it, it's insane). Everything I have made from her blog has been easy and delicious. No strikeouts. So click here for her recipe for roasted shrimp and broccoli. Roasted broccoli, have you tried it? It's killer. Stacey said she made it once for her husband and thereafter he wanted it no other way. I made it once for JP and now we're both addicted. I served the shrimp and broccoli over coconut rice and it was fantastic.


The very next night, JP asked for roasted broccoli again. So I made it but this time tried it with salmon. We get great boneless salmon steaks from Horizon Foods and I usually broil them and often for too long, resulting in somewhat dry salmon. This time, in following the recipe, the broccoli roasted first for 10 minutes at 425. Then I put the salmon on the hot baking sheet and put it in the oven for five minutes. Perfection. Perfectly perfect salmon, I was so happy. I tried the technique again to make sure it wasn't a fluke but no, it works perfectly. So regardless of the vegetable, here's how salmon goes down at our house:

Preheat oven to 425 with the baking sheet in the oven

Drizzle salmon steaks or fillets with olive oil, brown sugar and dill.

When oven reaches 425, take out tray, put salmon on it, and put back in the oven for 5 minutes.