Spicy Crispy Squash Rounds

Sometimes, I feel like a bit of a produce pusher.

Pretty much all summer long, I ate quinoa. I made it for lunch, I snacked on it, and I brought it to potlucks so that everyone else could see how good it was…

There was back in (what felt like summer but was actually) late fall, when I made T-Man try green tomatoes with me.

Surely I can’t forget to mention that in the past 2 months, I’ve made spaghetti squash for everyone.and.their.mom – I’ve made it for my parents, T-Man (3 times), friends, and most recently for our Vegan Middle East Feast. I do owe you all a post on spaghetti squash…definitely in line for one of my next installments of Meatless Monday.

But you know, I have no bias towards spaghetti squash.

Kabocha can come to the party too.

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Especially if said kabocha is breaded in crunchy, spicy coating and pan/oven fried to perfection.

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This was my first time cooking kabocha squash on its own. The night before, I cut the other half of the squash into cubes and roasted it, then stirred it into some meaty pasta sauce to add some veggies to an otherwise meat and pasta-heavy dinner. But this time, the kabocha was front row center, and it was glorious. Kabocha is very similar to acorn squash in shape, but I found it most similar to butternut squash in taste. The crunchy coating was such an awesome contrast with the squashy interior, which kind of had a creamy texture to it!

I got the idea for these from the lovely Jessica, but kind of winged it and created my own flavor profile. I used a very similar breading to my fried green tomato BLTs, and instead of the seasonal sage she suggested, I added cilantro and some Mexican spices….and hot sauce.

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Just trust me on this one, guys. I wasn’t even going to post the recipe…until T-Man said he loved them and that I should. If my meat & potatoes lovin’ boyfriend liked this, I’m sure you will too.

Spicy Crispy Squash Rounds
makes 4-6 rounds, depending on size of squash
loosely based on a recipe from HowSweetEats.com

1 small kabocha or acorn squash
1 egg, or 2 egg whites, beaten
1 tbsp hot sauce
1/2 cup cornmeal (I used polenta)
1/3 cup panko breadcrumbs
1/4 cup whole wheat flour
salt & pepper, to taste
1/2 tsp chile powder
1/2 tsp cumin
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper (optional)
1/4 cup cilantro, chopped (optional)
oil, for frying

Very carefully slice your squash into equal sized rounds (about 1/2-3/4 inch each). I find that piercing squash a few times with a knife or fork, then microwaving it makes it easier to cut into. Peel afterward if desired. Add salt and pepper to rounds and set aside while you set up your breading station.

Put beaten egg and hot sauce in one dish, and remaining dry ingredients (from cornmeal to cilantro) in other dish. Full disclosure: I didn’t have any eggs, so I used hot sauce on its own.. It worked fine. Press each squash round first into egg mixture, making sure all sides get covered, and then into the breadcrumb/cornmeal/flour/spices, again making sure to coat the entire round. Repeat until all the rounds are fully coated in breading.

You can cook these one of two ways:

  • If you want to oven fry them, your best results will be to line your baking sheet with aluminum foil and a wire rack to ensure all sides get equally crispy. Preheat oven to 425 F, spray coated squash rounds with cooking spray, and bake for 40 minutes, turning once at the halfway mark.
  • Because I don’t have a wire rack, I improvised: I decided to pan fry these, then because the squash was thick and I wanted to ensure it cooked through, I finished them in the oven. Preheat oven to 400 F. Heat 2 tbsp of oil in a saute pan on medium heat. Fry squash rounds on each side until lightly browned, about 4-5 minutes. Turn and cook on the other side. Set finished rounds on a paper towel. When they have all fried, finish cooking in the oven for about 10 minutes on each side, flipping once.

Serve as a side dish, or over a bed of greens for a light dinner.

Meatless Monday: Roasted Butternut Squash Soup with Quinoa

So we finally got fall weather last week. And it was finally appropriate to make a pot of soup.

Of course, that fall weather went away just in time to do a bit of pre-Halloween celebrating this weekend…it was in the high 70’s, so I didn’t have to worry about being too chilly in my early Halloween costume:

But more on that later!

This soup is a little chunky, a little cheesy, and even a little crunchy (?) from the quinoa. T-Man loved it…even though it didn’t have meat. I made enough to feed a small army. So, in other words, it has fed T-Man and I for 5 individual meals so far, and there’s STILL at least a bowl left in his fridge.

It’s best scooped with a piece of sourdough toast. And then, if you’re like me and run out of soup while you still have toast in your hand…just pour a little more soup and repeat.  No shame.

Roasted Butternut Squash Soup with Quinoa
makes one large pot of soup

1 butternut squash (~3 lbs)
1 small onion
2 cloves garlic
1/4 cup quinoa, dry
3-4 cups vegetable broth or water (chicken broth is OK for non veg-friendly)
4-5 sage leaves, chopped
1 parmesan rind, or as much parmesan as desired
oil, for roasting
salt & pepper

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Carefully cut squash into quarters. It helps to microwave it for a minute first. The simplest way to do it is to start by separating the neck and the bulbous bottom, and then slicing each half in half. Place quarters, cut side up, onto roasting pan. Slice the onion into wedges, separate two whole garlic cloves (with a layer of peel still on) and add to the roasting pan. Season everything with salt and pepper, then spray with cooking spray or drizzle a bit of oil and roast in the oven for about 30 minutes. The squash will not be completely done yet.

While that’s roasting, prepare the quinoa according to package instructions. When 30 minutes has passed, remove squash, onion and garlic from oven and let cool. Once cool enough to handle, remove squash and garlic from skins and give it all a rough chop. Heat more oil in the bottom of a large pot over medium heat, and add the roasted veggies. Saute for a few minutes, stirring occasionally, then add enough broth or water to cover the roasted veggies by about half an inch. (I’d guess this was 3-4 cups) Turn heat down to medium low, and keep at a simmer for 15 minutes. If you have one, add in a parmesan rind.

When the squash is fork tender, discard parmesan rind and transfer soup to a food processor in several batches. Blend to your desired consistency. I like mine with a little bit of texture. Once finished, return to pot and add cooked quinoa. Add chopped sage and (if you didn’t have a parmesan rind) grated parmesan. Simmer until ready to serve!

Keeps in refrigerator for a week (and counting!)