Sep 10, 201211:19 AMFood & Dining
Tasty Tidbits and Food For Thought
Baked Butternut Squash Delight
I am not a vegan. Not even close.
The mere mention of substituting a turkey with a block of shaped tofu at Thanksgiving is a concept I find not only mind-boggling, but repulsive.
Nope. I like things that swim and run and fly, and subsituting a substance derived from a damn bean absolutely does nothing to quench my carnivoristic cravings.
Yeah, yeah, I like my veggies as well, but there's no getting away from the fact that I'm a carnivore through and through and I find those PETA-types a mere impedient standing between me and a good meal.
However, I may be a carnivore but I am not a dopey carnivore. I have no intention of keeling over with a cheeseburger and fries crammed in my gullet.
Now in my fifties, I try to quench my cravings eating wisely - lean meats, less fat, lots of fish packed with omega-3. And being from a large Italian family dependant on that big pasta dinner at least once a week, I've learned to accept the value (and taste!) of whole wheat pasta or the low-carb versions such as Dreamfield's Pasta.
And lately, less and less frequently is my pasta smothered in that high sugar red sauce of old, but more often than not, tossed with a bit of extra virgin olive oil, a dash of sea salt, freshly cracked pepper, and my favorite steamed veggies.
I'm learning. Slowly but surely, I'm coming around.
On December 24th, I was rehashing my Roman Catholic and Italian upbringing in regards to my family's tradition of the Meal of Seven Fishes on Christmas Eve. My family is not as big as it used to be and neither are my meals.
However, I remain staunchly committed to the "No Meat" on Christmas Eve tradition of my upbringing. Since my Italian family is in New Jersey, I don't see the need to saddle any table guests with my seemingly dated beliefs. I'll cook perhaps two or three fishes for the table and all to enjoy, and a meat or pasta for the sake of those not crazy about fish.
I was describing the menu to my step-son Christopher - shrimp, calamari, and flounder - but explained that everyone else would be enjoying a surf and turf offering as I was preparing filet mignon as well. It was at this point he reminded me that his wife, Aileen, was a vegan and proceded to hand me a shopping list. Though I could be labeled the ultimate Anti-Vegan, I respect her lifestyle.
I took the list and headed to the supermarket.
Still, old habits die hard and I couldn't help but roll my eyes as I threw each item into the cart - sprouted wheat bread, almond butter, shallots, brussel sprouts, butternut squash. BLECH!! What the hell was she going to find to eat in this mess?
I returned home and began the preparation of our Christmas Eve feast.
I watched as Chris prepared Aileen's menu - some God awful little pile of miniature cabbages and an orange gourd that would be better served as a maraca than food - and tossed it in the oven.
I snickered to myself.
Now I may be a carnivore, but I'm an open-minded carnivore if nothing else, and my healthier lifestyle always leaves me on the lookout for tasty vegetable side dishes which don't make me feel like I'm being force fed something that is supposedly good for me and tastes like it.
I watched Chris remove his creation from the oven and I had to admit, it smelled wonderful. I glanced down and was surprised by its golden, carmelized goodness and instinctively grabbed a fork for a taste.
I was amazed at the simple preparation and terrific flavor.
It has since been one of my favorite recipes. For that reason, I thought it a great recipe to share.
I may not be a vegan, but this dish fits nicely into my healthy lifestyle... particularly if it's next to a grilled salmon steak!
10 oz - Butternut Squash cut into 1/2" cubes
8 oz - Small Brussel Sprouts cut in half
2-3 Shallots halved and cut into thin slices
4-5 cloves of garlic cut in half
1/2 teaspoon parsley
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 Teaspoon Sea Salt
Freshly-Cracked Black Pepper
Preheat oven to 385.
Combine butternut squash, brussel sprouts, shallots, and garlic bulbs, and spread evenly in a 8" x 11" baking dish.
Drizzle with extra virgin olive oil and sprinkle on salt and parsley.
Add pepper to taste.
Place on bottom rack of oven and cook approximately 50 minutes or until the squash is soft and the edges of shallots and brussel sprouts begin to darken and carmelize.