The best part about winter squash? If stored correctly, they will last well into the cold weather season. And if you happen to hoard winter squash to decorate your home in the fall (ahem), you will be fully prepared for a winter’s worth of roasting.
Take this adorable Sweet Dumpling squash, for example. He has been sitting in my kitchen for more than a month. Patiently waiting for his turn to be transformed into something cozy and delicious.
Before grocery stores, we relied on hearty provisions like squash to get us through the cold winter months. Nowadays, the hardest part of securing a winter meal is breaking into that fortress of an exterior. But with a steady hand, a sharp knife, and a little patience, what lies inside is worth all of that effort.
Squash is a versatile veggie, but I think it’s happiest when served as a part of breakfast or brunch. Coincidently, roasted squash makes the perfect bed for a fried egg to perch atop. And it’s pretty hard to beat a fried egg.
Unless you’re talking about a fried duck egg. Then it’s pretty much impossible to beat.
When I picked up these guys from the Farmer’s Market, the woman selling them to me tried to explain their slight discoloration. A customer before had asked her about it, and she offered up the reasoning that ducks were a muddy bunch, and that there was nothing to be concerned about.
She didn’t have to give me an explanation for her perfectly imperfect eggs. I know that her eggs were laid recently, by animals that live their lives outdoors (in the mud), somewhere close to where I will ultimately turn them into a meal.
I also know that when a bird lays an egg, it adds a clear, protective coating called a bloom. Since eggshells are porous, this coating seals the shell- preventing bacteria from getting inside and moisture from getting out. Nature’s pretty clever like that.
Commercial eggs are washed immediately after being collected in order to provide American consumers with the Photoshopped perfection we have come to expect. This scrubbing will remove any discolorations, along with the egg’s natural protective coating. These stripped eggs are then typically sprayed with mineral oil to replace the lost membrane.
This is in contrast to eggs found in supermarkets in the European Union, which by law must not be washed or cleaned in any way (source). The reasoning is that when eggs cannot be washed, farmers will be better motivated to keep their hens in sanitary conditions (sadly, not the priority in American egg production).
So I’ll keep my eggs perfectly imperfect. It’s what’s on the inside that counts, anyway.
Which makes me wonder, who was the first person brave enough to eat a mushroom? Whoever it was, I’m glad they took one for the team.
I’ve really become interested in spices lately. They are delicious, and influential (enough to cross the world for), but they also contain some really powerful medicinal properties. I don’t discriminate, and I always love cramming new spice jars into my overcrowded cupboards, but I have definitely been giving my cayenne a lot of extra attention lately. Maybe just trying to keep warm.
I like spicy food, and cayenne certainly can pack a punch, but adding a little bit of it to your plate can replace a medicine cabinet full of pill bottles. Its health benefit resume is a mile long, but some of the major bullet points include:
boosting metabolism, aiding in digestion, improving circulatory problems (including high cholesterol), and offering relief from nerve pain, arthritis, muscle spasms, migraines, and sinus infections. (source).
The best news is that you don’t need a prescription for it, and you won’t see any law suites over its side effects 5 years from now.
How do we know that? Because people have been using it both to cure their ailments and to liven up their dinners for thousands of years.
That’s reason enough for me to get to cookin’.
It helps when your prescription for health is this tasty.
- 1 Sweet Dumpling squash, peeled and diced into 1/2 inch cubes (roughly 3 cups)
- 1/2 tbs butter
- 1/2 tbs coconut oil
- 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
- 1/4 tsp paprika
- 2 tsp maple syrup
- sea salt
- 1 pint cherry tomatoes
- drizzle of olive oil
- sea salt
- black pepper
- 2 medium sized Portobello mushrooms
- drizzle of olive oil
- 1.5 tsp balsamic vinegar
- 2 tbs broth or water
- 2 duck eggs
- baby arugula
- fresh thyme (optional)
- pecorino romano or parmesan
- drizzle of olive oil or pat of butter for frying the egg
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
- With a sharp knife, cut off bottom of squash, giving yourself a stable surface. Peel skin off of squash, cut in half, and remove and discard seeds. Dice squash into 1/2 inch cubes.
- Melt butter and coconut oil together in a small bowl, and stir in cayenne pepper, paprika, and maple syrup. Spread cubed squash evenly on a baking sheet, pour melted oil mixture over top, and toss to coat. Sprinkle with sea salt. Cover loosely with tin foil, and roast for 15 minutes.
- Meanwhile, place cherry tomatoes into a shallow glass pan or baking sheet. Drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper.
- After squash has been in oven for 15 minutes, remove foil, give a toss, and return to oven uncovered along with cherry tomatoes. Continue to roast for an additional 20-25 minutes. Checking periodically to toss and promote even caramelization.
- While vegetables roast, dampen a paper towel and remove any dirt or debris from mushrooms. Remove the bottom of the fibrous stem, and cut mushrooms lengthwise into strips. Bring a pan to medium heat, add drizzle of olive oil, balsamic vinegar, and broth or water. Add mushrooms along with a sprinkle of salt, pepper, and fresh thyme leaves. Stir to coat with liquid, and cook, covered for approximately 8 minutes or until mushrooms are tender. You are essentially poaching the mushrooms in the balsamic liquid. Once done, allow all liquid to reduce, and remove from pan. Keep mushrooms warm.
- In the same pan, add drizzle of olive oil or pat of butter. Bring to medium heat, crack eggs into pan and cover until cooked to your preference (about 4 minutes)
- Plate squash, roasted tomatoes, Portobello slices, and arugula. Top with fried egg, a drizzle of olive oil, and a grating of fresh pecorino ramano. Garnish with additional fresh thyme.
- To help evenly cook the egg, I like to add a splash of water to the pan and then cover. The steam will help the top of the egg to cook while keeping the yolk runny.
- I used sweet dumpling squash, but you can substitute with another winter squash such as butternut.
Don't let me do all the talking! Let me know what you think in the comments.