It is so spring-like in Sonoma these days. The air is warm, trees are in full blossom, and you can't go more than a block without seeing the unfailingly cheerful daffodils popping up, craning their necks, eager mouths turned towards the sky. All that said, I have yet to see a great outpouring of spring vegetables at the market and so I carry on enjoying the tail-end season of the wintry ones. Squash, I have learned of late, is a little discussed miracle vegetable. It is one of the easiest foods to digest, it is packed with potassium and vitamin A, and it is both filling and low in calories. It is a highly alkaline food and, according to Chinese medicine, helps reduce inflammation in the body. Butternut squash is a particular favorite of mine. I like that the texture is less stringy than some other winter squashes and you just can't help but feel great when you eat something that is naturally of that rich, orange hue. This recipe has all the grounding, warming elements of a winter dish and a brightness from lime zest and juice that lightens the flavors a bit as the days lengthen and the chill begins to thaw.
Butternut Squash with Coconut, Lime & Pepitas
serves 4-6 as a side dish
1 large butternut squash, peeled, cleaned of seeds, and cut into 1 inch cubes
1/2 cup raw pumpkin seeds *
1/4 cup unsweetened coconut**
zest and juice of one lime
3-5 Tolive oil
salt & pepper
Pre heat oven to 400 degrees.
Spread butternut squash cubes in one layer on one or two cookie sheets. Drizzle with about 3 T olive oil and salt and pepper. Roast until tender, about 25-30 minutes.
While the squash is roasting, toast the coconut in a dry, cast-iron pan over medium high heat, stirring occasionally until the coconut is fragrant and turning a light brown at the edges.
Put the coconut in a bowl or on plate to cool and return the pan to the stove. Stir the pumpkin seeds, a pinch of salt, and about 1 T of olive oil together and toast the seeds over medium high heat until they brown and puff up. Remove from heat and sprinkle with salt. If you have space in the oven you can also do this in a small roasting pan while the squash cooks, about 5 minutes.
Combine the squash, coconut and pepitas in a mixing bowl. Zest a lime over the bowl, then cut the lime in half and squeeze the juice over the mix. Toss gently with your hands, taste and adjust salt as needed. You may want to add a bit more olive oil and lime at this point as well.
Other nice additions include (but are not limited to):
I ate mine, as you can see, with sauteed rainbow chard and garlic.
* Pumpkin seeds are a valuable source of Omega 3 fatty acids and protein. They are high in both magnesium and zinc, help promote good circulation, and nourish and heal the digestive tract.
**Coconut is another powerful healing food. It is best digested with salads and cooked vegetables. It soothes internal membranes and has a gentle laxative property, making a great detoxifying aid. Dried coconut is made up of about 68% oil. Coconut oil has been used in Ayurvedic healing for millions of years and people all over the world still tout its powerful antibacterial, antiviral and antifungal properties, among many others.