I have two people in my life--one big, one small--who do not like vegetables. After eight years of life and eating spent in common, the big one is coming around, but the small one is putting up a vociferous fight.
I hate to break it to you Nicky, but Mommy's going to win.
But winning involves a strategy. I've been pelted with raw baby carrots, steamed edamame, and stir-fried broccoli, so I turned to the vegetable tactic I employed in my initial operatives against my husband: roasting.
Roasting vegetables involves a bit of Halloween magic: a few minutes in the oven and squash, peppers, onions--even turnips and brussels sprouts--are transformed into candy.
Well, candy may be a stretch, but roasting does lead to sweetness. Roasting browns vegetables, which is far more than a cosmetic alteration: the browning indicates a caramelizing of the given vegetable's natural sugars. This subdues any of the vegetable's natural bitter notes, too, and deepens the earthy flavors to a point that even avowed veggie haters find themselves falling in love.
I award extra kudos to roasting for being fairly quick and hands-off, too; moreover, much of the prep can be done ahead of roasting time. You can cut up the vegetables (except potatoes and sweet potatoes) in the morning, if you like, so by the time you’re ready to roast, all you have to do is toss them with oil and seasonings, spread them on a pan, and check on them occasionally as they roast. Yippee!
So given the season of pumpkin, squash and gourds, I put my knife to a butternut beauty and set to cubing, followed by a toss with olive oil, salt and pepper, and finally a quick roasting.
In the meantime, it was on to the doodle test. Fearing a waste of my precious cubes of gold, I offered a small dish with a tiny trio of squash to start. He scowled. He sniffed. He finally gave one a try.
"Yummy!" He ate the the other two in a flash and asked for more.
My squash made about 2 big pans of cubes, enough for Nick and plenty more for an adult dish, too. Feeling like Old Mother Hubbard, I did in fact go to my cupboard, and pulled out some brown rice to make a simple salad. The result is a confluence of a few more favorite flavors (soy, lime, sesame oil) and items on hand (arugula and pepitas). After some adjusting and lots of tasting, I decided I had put together a new favorite.
If tomorrow I'm feeling brave, I may even try it on Nick.
Cut the cubes into relatively uniform pieces so they cook evenly.
Another use for my beloved parchment! But you can certainly skip it or use foil in its place. The parchment and foil options make for extra-easy clean-up, though; can you resist it?
Mmm....it does look like candy...
Brown Rice, Butternut Squash, & Arugula Salad
If the pieces cover the baking sheet sparsely, arrange them toward the edges of the baking sheet for the best browning.
1 medium butternut squash, peeled, deseeded, cut into 3/4- to 1-inch pieces
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 cups brown rice
2/3 cup roasted, lightly salted pepitas (green pumpkin seed kernels)
1/4 cup fresh lime juice
1 tablespoon tamari (or regular soy sauce)
1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil
1 small garlic clove, pressed
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1 5-ounce bag baby arugula leaves, leaves torn
Position a rack in the center of the oven and heat the oven to 475° F. Line a heavy-duty rimmed baking sheet with parchment. In a medium bowl, toss the butternut squash with the olive oil to coat. Season with salt and a few grinds of pepper.
Turn the butternut squash out onto the baking sheet and arrange the pieces so that they are evenly spaced and lying on a cut side. Roast until the squash is browned on bottom, 15-20 minutes. Flip and roast until tender, 5 to 10 minutes.
Meanwhile, cook the rice in a large saucepan of boiling water for ~40 minutes or until tender (do not overcook). Drain in a large colander and set aside for 30 minutes to cool to room temperature.
Whisk the lime juice, soy sauce, sesame oil, garlic and brown sugar in bottom of large bowl Add the rice and toss to coat. Add the arugula, squash and pepitas to the rice mixture and gently stir until well combined. Spoon salad among serving plates and serve immediately. Makes 8 big servings.