When the side takes center stage

2014-11-10 19.10.51It feels like I’ve run into quite a few people lately who are recent transplants to San Diego. They all seem to have landed here from areas that experience more “weather” than we get here, so it’s been interesting to hear their perspectives on our late-season warmth, lack of green landscaping, and what we call “cold weather”. Having lived all my life in Southern California (although, not in San Diego), I suppose I’m just used to our “mild Mediterranean climate” (a phrase I’ve been typing a lot in reports when describing the region). But, as mild as our weather is, I’ve been here long enough to know what’s coming. Winter is cold (you know, like 60-degree cold), dry, and wet if we’re lucky. Spring is where weather gets confused and it could be sunny, rainy, warm, or cold, otherwise known as keep a light jacket in your car all the time season. And that moves into a mild and sometimes chilly summer that leads into a 2-week (or more) heat wave. The weather starts to cool down, only to trick us (and my plants) with another warm spell, which might explain why Halloween costumes get smaller and shorter every year. Then comes warm days with chilly nights (my favorite) that signals fall. This is when we get maybe a month of scarf-wearing season (for warmth, not style) and I feel justified ordering a hot peppermint mocha because it’s actually cold enough. Iced peppermint mochas just aren’t the same. We get to fire up the fireplace and get cozy, and the electric blanket even makes an appearance. Even though the winter solstice is just a little over a month away, to me, fall is just getting going.

The colder weather makes me crave roasted vegetables, squash, and soups. It also makes me want to slim down to counteract the extra layers of clothing I’ll have to pile on to stay warm. And so, I make roasted veggie “salads” that don’t involve persky lettuce leaves.

Melissa’s Produce was kind enough to host another Food Blogger Challenge, delivering a box of autumnal goodies to my doorstep. I wasn’t expecting to see so many ready-to-eat foods, but I like that it’s an option and an alternative to canned beans.

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I got into a cooking frenzy one night and what started as a side for later ended up being my favorite dish. I was going to showcase the produce by roasting chicken thighs over the pearl onions, baby potatoes, and some shallot (and I did, using up some lonely carrots and throwing in garlic cloves because, well, you never turn down an opportunity to eat roasted garlic). Note to self: peeling the skin off pearl onions is kind of a pain even when they’re roasted, so maybe just suck it up and peel them before cooking so the eating experience isn’t so fussy.

Toss potatoes, carrots, garlic, and onions with olive oil, salt & pepper.  Place chicken thighs on top, roast at 450 for about 45 minutes.

Toss potatoes, carrots, garlic, and onions with olive oil, salt & pepper. Place chicken thighs on top, roast at 450 for about 45 minutes.

I had planned on just roasting cubes of butternut squash and using it for something later, since it seemed like a great time to just throw it in the already-on oven and get the roasting out of the way. But then I saw the pine nuts and wanted to toast them. The cranberries would have gone nicely in a salad, so I figured I’d turn it all into a salad and use the fava beans to add some protein. I’m eyeing up the ready-to-eat garbanzos for a hummus test.

Half a butternut squash mostly fits on a quarter-sheet pan. Why I didn’t just use a half sheet pan is beyond me… probably because I didn’t think I was actually going to do anything with the squash yet. I don’t know how you prep butternut squash, but I peel it, cut it in half, use an ice cream scoop to get the guts out, then chop it up.

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My favorite recipes are non-recipes, where you throw things together and don’t have to measure. I’m sure this drives non-cooks insane, so I kind of eye-balled the measurements and offer the reassurance that a little more of this or that won’t ruin anything.

In the end, the roast chicken and veggies were great (letting veggies roast in chicken juices and fat is brilliant) and just needed a sprinkle of salt to liven it up. But the butternut squash “salad” was comforting and filling and I’m pretty sure fairly healthy. It’s a little sweet from the squash, tart from the cranberries, with a nice crunch from the pine nuts. And the fava beans give it a little more bulk.

This linkup button will take you to a page to see all of the other San Diego Food Bloggers who took on the Melissa’s Produce Challenge!

Roasted Butternut Squash Not-salad

1 butternut squash, peeled and cubed
1 shallot, minced
1/4 c pine nuts
1/3 c dried cranberries
1 package ready-to-eat fava beans, drained
olive oil

Toss the butternut squash and shallots with olive oil and spread onto a pan, preferably a half-sheet pan or at least a cookie sheet. Season with salt and pepper, then roast at 450 for about 30 minutes, or until tender.

In a small skillet with a dash of olive oil, toast/fry the pine nuts until, well, toasty. Move the pine nuts to a bowl and add the fava beans to the pan to warm them up and toast the outsides.

Once the squash is tender, sprinkle the pine nuts, fava beans, and dried cranberries over the pan and toss to combine. Add more salt to taste.

Pour a large helping into a bowl and snuggle into the couch with some fuzzy slippers, a blanket, and preferably a dog to pick up the cube of butternut squash that inevitably misses your mouth and falls to the floor. Or is that just me?

Disclosure: Melissa’s Produce provided me with a box of produce as part of the San Diego Food Blogger Challenge but was not compensated for my review. As always, all opinions are mine.


3 responses to “When the side takes center stage

  1. Roasting veggies and chicken is a very very good idea. Mmm, chicken fat! 🙂

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