We try our best to eat as seasonally as possible, within reason. Now that we’re into mid-March the pantry is getting a little low on stuff but we still have delicata squash, winter kale, and root veggies like parsnips. But how much can you really do with them? Well, quite a lot in fact. I made this tower of winter vegetables – delicata squash, steamed kale, parsnip sage risotto, baby beluga lentils, toasted squash seeds, and micro-greens – for a nice dinner the other night with friends in front of the fire. It’s not complicated but there are a number of steps so it’s best made when you’ve got a little extra time and you want to make something special. I put some absolutely outstanding squash jam with lavender on the side. It’s made by Stasis Preserves in Toronto and might just be one of my new favourite condiments.

For the sqaush

1 delicata sqaush

1 tbsp olive oil

1/4 tsp ground nutmeg

sea salt

Cut delicata squash into 1 – 2 inch slices. Scoop out the sqaush seeds and set the seeds aside. Place sqaush in a heavy-bottomed, oven-friendly frying pan. Drizzle with olive oil, nutmeg, and salt. Roast in a preheated oven at 375F until soft and slightly browned. Once done, remove the sqaush from the pan and set aside.

Clean the squash seeds. Pat dry with a tea towel. Heat a drizzle of olive oil in the same frying pan used for the squash over medium-high heat. Add the seeds and sauté them until they are crispy and nicely toasted. Let cool.

For the steamed kale

1 bunch of curly kale or other greens like chard, collard greens, spinach

1 tbsp lemon juice

sea salt

Clean the kale thoroughly. Tear it into large chunks and place in the top of a steamer. Steam over high heat until the kale is softened but not gone totally flacid. You want it to have some texture and presence to it. Once done, transfer to a bowl and season with a little lemon juice and sea salt. Set aside.

For the parsnip sage risotto

2 tbsps olive oil

1 onion, diced

2 large parsnips, diced

3 cloves of garlic, minced

1.5 cups of arborio rice

4 cups of veggie stock, heated

1 cup white wine, heated

a small bunch of fresh sage, chopped finely

sea salt and pepper to taste

Heat the olive oil in a heavy-bottomed dutch oven. Add the onion and sauté until tender. Add the parsnips and minced garlic and sauté another minute or two until the garlic is fragrant. Add arborio rice stirring constantly until evenly coated. Begin to add the stock and wine slowly. Remember, the key to good risotto is to 1) start with heated stock and wine, 2) stir constantly, and 3) add the liquid slowly until the rice is just covered. Let the rice absorb the liquid and then add a little more, again, until the rice is just covered. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat. Once the rice has reached the perfect state of al dente-ness add the sage and toss. Season with good sea salt and pepper to taste. Set aside.

For the baby beluga lentils

1 cup baby beluga lentils

1 carrot, quartered

1 celery stalk, quartered

1 onion, quartered

1 bay leaf

olive oil

sea salt

Clean and rinse lentils thoroughly. Place them in a saucepan with the carrot, celery, onion, and bay leaf. Cover with twice as much water, about 2 cups. Bring to a boil over high heat. Once boiling, turn the heat down and simmer until the lentils are tender, about 20 – 25 minutes. Once done, remove the bay leaf and vegetables. Drain the lentils. Put them back into the saucepan and drizzle with a little olive oil and sea salt. Set aside.

To assemble

Start with the roasted squash. Put it on the plate you are going to use to serve. Fill the cavity with risotto. Next, on a cutting board, pack the steamed kale into a circular cookie cutter about the same diameter as your squash. Use a wide knife to lift it off the chopping board and gently place on the squash. Do the same with the risotto – pack it into the cookie cutter and place it gently on the kale.

Next, add some squash jam or other condiment (onion confit, red pepper jelly) beside the squash in a nice presentation. Then drizzle the whole dish with the baby beluga lentils and toasted squash seeds. Finally, top with some micro-greens and serve with pride and a smile on your face.

 

 

I have a confession to make – I have never cooked with lemongrass. I like lemongrass but it’s just never entered my lexicon or, more practically speaking, my pantry. I decided to change that last night by trying out Nigel Slater‘s recipe called chickpeas with pumpkin lemongrass and coriander. Since I don’t stock pumpkin but do stock all sorts of squashes I decided to make it with butternut squash instead. It was great over basmati rice with a few steamed sugar snap peas on the side.

200 grams dried chickpeas, soaked in mineral water for several hour, (or two cans cooked chickpeas)

2 medium onions

2 tbsp groundnut oil

4 cloves garlic

thumb-sized ginger

3 large stalks lemongrass

2 tsps ground coriander

2 tsps ground tumeric

6 green cardamoms

2 hot red chillies

500g butternut squash, peeled and seeded

250ml vegetable stock

400ml coconut milk

1 tbsp yellow mustard seeds

handful cilantro, chopped

2 limes, halved

Drain the chickpeas and bring them to the boil in deep, unsalted water. Let them simmer for 40 to 50 minutes, till tender.
Peel the onions and chop them quite finely. Pour the oil into a deep casserole and add the onions, letting them cook over a moderate heat till soft and translucent. Meanwhile, peel the garlic and the ginger, remove any tough leaves from the lemongrass, then make all into a rough paste in a food processor. Stir into the softened onions and continue to cook. Add the ground coriander and turmeric, then lightly crush the seeds of the green cardamoms and deseed and finely chop the fresh chillies before stirring them in.

Keep the heat fairly low and on no account allow the ingredients to brown.

Chop the pumpkin into large chunks, though no larger than you would like to put in your mouth, then add to the pan, along with the drained cooked chickpeas and the stock. Bring to the boil, then turn down to a simmer and continue to cook at a gentle bubble till the pumpkin is tender. Stop as soon as the flesh is yielding to the point of a knife, you don’t want it to collapse.
Stir in the coconut milk and continue to simmer. Put a splash of oil into a nonstick pan and tip in the yellow mustard seeds. As soon as they start to pop, add them to the pumpkin together with the coriander leaves. Serve with the rice and the lime halves, ready to squeeze over at the last minute.