Caramelized butternut squash wedges with sage hazelnut pesto

Butternut squash:
2 butternut squashes (about 3.5 lbs), peeled, quartered, seeds removed
2 Tbsp. olive oil
1 tsp. sugar
1 tsp. salt
1/4-1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper, to taste

Cut each squash quarter into 1 inch wedges and place in a bowl. Toss with olive oil, sugar, salt, and cayenne. Arrange in a single layer on baking sheet lined with baking parchment. Roast at 500F for 10 to 15 minutes, until caramelized, rearranging as needed for even roasting. Remove from oven and flip squash pieces. Bake another 10 to 15 minutes until caramelized on the other side and cooked through, again rearranging as needed. Remove to a large bowl and toss with pesto.

Sage hazelnut pesto:
1/4 cup fresh sage, chopped
4-5 Tbsp. olive oil
1 clove garlic, crushed
1/3 cup hazelnuts, toasted
6 Tbsp. ricotta salata, crumbled or chopped to a medium-fine crumble
salt to taste

Warm 3 Tbsp. olive oil, sage, and garlic over very low heat until the oil begins to bubble. Pour into a small bowl, reserving the garlic clove. Place the toasted hazelnuts and reserved garlic in food processor, blender (using a small container if available), or mortar and process/grind into a coarse meal; add to the bowl. Add the cheese and 1-2 Tbsp. more olive oil and stir until combined; add salt to taste.

(Note: Since I can’t eat squash, I’m thinking this could be made with chunks of sweet potato by modifying the roasting time. dh.)

Adapted from food52.com

Versión en español: this post is also available in Spanish.
Esperanta traduko: this post is also available in Esperanto, because Dana is a language geek.

Quinoa

native to: the Lake Titicaca region (Peru and Bolivia)

Although quinoa (pronounced KEEN-wah) is used like grain, it is actually the seed of the goosefoot plant, a relative of spinach, chard, pigweed, and beets, and is referred to as a pseudocereal. It was an important crop for the Incas, to whom it was sacred, and is now considered a “superfood.” The name quinoa comes from Quechua’s kinwa or kinua. Most of its popularity stems from its lack of gluten, although it’s also a very nutritious food. It comes in three colors, red, white, and black, has a low glycemic index, and tolerates drought and a wide range of temperatures. It can be cooked much like rice, boiled in twice as much water as quinoa for 15-20 minutes. Quinoa grows with a protective coating of saponin, which is bitter and needs to be rinsed off before cooking; most quinoa sold in the US comes pre-rinsed, but another rinse doesn’t hurt if there’s any doubt. Toasting quinoa before cooking gives it a richer flavor. Quinoa leaves are also edible, but not currently available around here.

Perhaps the most interesting thing about quinoa is that it’s not only high in protein, it contains a good balance of all nine essential amino acids, even lysine and isoleucine (which are hard to get from plant sources). It has large amounts of the popular flavonoids quercetin and kaempferol, shown to have anti-inflammatory, anti-viral, anti-cancer, and anti-depressant effects in animal studies. Quinoa also provides lots of magnesium, potassium, zinc, and iron, which can be made easier to absorb by soaking or sprouting the seeds before cooking. It is also high in fiber, although most of that is the less useful insoluble kind. Although there haven’t been a lot of studies, there is some evidence that eating quinoa instead of more traditional gluten-free products improves metabolic health, which is both good in itself and helpful for weight loss. While quinoa is higher in fat than most true grains, much of the fat is healthy stuff like oleic acid and omega-3 fatty acid.

In fact, quinoa is so nutritious and easy to grow, NASA has been looking at it as a crop for long-term space flights.

Read more:
label-style nutrition information for cooked quinoa
Authority Nutrition
whfoods
history of quinoa
short article with recipe links

Versión en español: this post is also available in Spanish.
Esperanta traduko: this post is also available in Esperanto, because Dana is a language geek.