SPRING. It's happening. Sort of.
Last week 8 inches of snow hit the DC region and then a day later the sun came out, the temperature sooooared to a balmy 56°F, and I took great big strides around the apartment discussing how it was time to start bringing out sandals and dresses. Premature, I know.
I don't really believe in Spring cleaning- I like to waltz into the warmer months feeling organized, all my ducks in a row. I reserve the last few cold weeks of the year for sorting through unread magazines, paying off straggling bills, and destroying evidence of money thrown into the bowels of the Target Corporation during fruitless attempts at cheering up in frigid weather. For the record this winter left me with: 5 grey sweatshirts, 15 pairs of socks, 3 bowls, 4 spatulas, 10 lip glosses- all same color...
In other words, basic Spring cleaning activities but earlier and at a very slow, deliberate pace. The last of my winter purge is reserved for a vast stock of root vegetables acquired in December through late January. It's during this time of year that things get dim and I imagine myself a lonely homesteader on the Russian steppe- headscarf, all grey and taupe wardrobe, looking for inspiration in beets and potatoes.
I took inventory of my kitchen last week and realized that I tend to fall into a pattern. Every winter, without fail, I buy squash. Every year, I think that this will be the year that I master this mysterious, turtle shelled, indigenous vegetable. Every year, like clockwork, I put it on the counter and it stares at me. Day in, day out... Week in, week out... Month in, month out... After I purchase my first winter squash it's only a matter of time before a different, gorgeous variety tempts me. By February I have no less than 3 varieties of squash sitting there, side by side, watching me cook up every other kind of winter vegetable. The situation got so bad at one point that I found myself actually saying out loud to someone that "squash is only for decor, I don't even like how it tastes". What's the word for convincing yourself you dislike that which you do not understand? Yeah, that's me and squash. By March, warmer weather has arrived and I either throw the squash away or continue to watch it watching me... hoping one of us will just find a way to deal with the other. It's a tumultuous relationship.
This year, while doing my pre-Spring cleaning, I decided that the status quo was going to change. I am in the possession of three types of squash and I vowed to learn how to cook, clean, and enjoy them. One of my New Year's resolutions was to cut out food waste and I am really trying to stick to it. If you share my irrational fear of squash, then you know it's gone on too long. Together, let's stop objectifying squash only for it's outside beauty and learn to feast on the substance within.
Squashing Fear of Squash:
1. Consult this handy article to find out what kind of squash you purchased.
2. Wash the outside of your squash with a brush or sponge.
3. Cut the squash with a large, very sharp knife. Scoop out the insides.
4. Brush the inside with olive oil and roast cut side up in the oven for 30 min at 350°F until the skin is fork tender then peel/stuff the squash with your favorite mix of grains/meats/veggies.
It's that easy. Seriously, four steps and you're ready to crack open and enjoy a vegetable that has been feared far too long. Squash is awesome because it's not super expensive, loaded with nutrients, and a great substitute for meat in dishes that call for something hearty. During the cold months it's great mashed and pureed into soups. Now that the weather is warmer and I'm craving lighter foods my favorite recipe has quickly become these Mediterranean inspired salad wraps. Easy to make and full of flavor they're great for lunch and dinner!
Mediterranean Squash Salad Wraps
Ingredients (makes 4 wraps)
- 1 acorn/ butternut squash
- 4 large pitas OR tortillas
- schmear of hummus (optional)
- 2 cups spinach leaves, roughly chopped
- 3/4 cup orange/red bell peppers
- 1/2 cup pickled beets, sliced
- 1 small red onion sliced thin
- 1/4 cup olives
- 1/4 cup feta
- 1/2 cup olive oil
- 1/4 cup balsamic OR red wine vinegar
- salt + pepper to taste
- Preheat oven to 350°F. Cut your squash in half and scoop out the insides.
- Bake, cut side up for 15 min. until the skin is fork tender and skin peels off easily.
- Cut into cubes and place on baking sheet, drizzle with olive oil, s+p. Bake for 15 more minutes.
While your squash is baking:
- Combine spinach, bell peppers, olives, beets, onion, feta in a bowl.
- Drizzle with olive oil, balsamic or red wine vinegar, s+p to taste.
Once the squash has finished baking and is fork tender, assemble the wraps by spreading hummus on your pita/tortilla, place the warm squash in the center, and add the salad on top. Fold the sides together or wrap like a burrito, enjoy!!