Acorn Squash Salad with Brown Rice, Roasted Leeks, and Hemp Hearts

Pink platter with acorn squash and brown rice salad

This vegan beauty of a salad came into my head the other day when I went for walk with my mom down to the beach. The rain is really getting into full swing here in Vancouver and the kaleidoscope explosion of leaves are all over the sidewalk, I felt totally inspired by the colours that overlapped all over the sidewalk and street. I tend to use acorn squash because it’s smaller and easier to carry home from the grocery store when I’m also trying to get three other bags home at the same time. It’s also slightly easier to cut into than say, a butternut squash, and I think acorn squashes are considerably sweeter. I used cold brown rice because I had some leftover from making a stir fry the day before, but you could easily use quinoa, barley, or bulgur. I would actually suggest making the acorn squash, leek, and brown rice the day before to make sure they’re all properly chilled; this also ensures that the salad making process is only about ten minutes long, including time spent making the dressing. The hemp hearts and black sesame seeds give texture and an extra nutritional boost, plus they just look pretty. I’d like to try this salad again with finely chopped dried apricots instead of dried cranberries or cherries, they’re slightly chewier and would be a nice contrast to the softness of the roasted vegetables. Whatever you end up using, serve this salad at room temperature to ensure all the flavours really have a chance to shine.

acorn squash salad with brown rice, roasted leeks, and hemp hearts:

1 small acorn squash, split in half lengthwise with the seeds removed

1 large leeks, split lengthwise and rinsed well to get rid of any lingering dirt

1 Tbsp. olive oil

2 tsp. maple syrup

Kosher salt and freshly cracked pepper to taste

1 cup of brown rice, cooked and then allowed to completely cool

1/4 cup dried cranberries or cherries

About 4 sprigs worth of fresh thyme

1/3 cup fresh Italian parsley, torn

2 Tbsp. hemp hearts

1 Tbsp. black sesame seeds

  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Drizzle the acorn squash halves with 2 teaspoons each of the olive oil and then a teaspoon each of the maple syrup (you can slice a small piece of the squash off on the one side so they’ll stand up straight). Arrange them on a baking sheet with parchment paper alongside the leeks, drizzling them with the remaining olive oil. Sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste and then roast for 20-30 minutes depending on the size of your squash. The leeks should be curling and browned when done. Set aside to cool.
  2. Chop the cooled acorn squash and leek into small pieces for the salad and place in a large salad bowl.
  3. Add the brown rice, dried cranberries or cherries, fresh thyme, fresh parsley, hemp hearts, and black sesame seeds. Toss gently to combine.
  4. Drizzle the dressing over the salad and toss once more to make sure all of the ingredients have been evenly coated. Allow to sit for at least half an hour before serving at room temperature.

dressing:

1 Tbsp. maple syrup

2 Tbsp. olive oil

1 Tbsp. sherry vinegar

1/2 tsp. cumin

1/4 tsp. red chilli flakes

Kosher salt and black pepper to taste

  1. Combine all dressing ingredients in a jar and shake until emulsified.

My high school self would be thrilled with my current musical leanings, fifteen years later and I’m rediscovering Tricky for the third or fourth time. I remember reading in a Spin magazine article that he wore his asthma puffer around his neck on a string due to his near constant pot smoking habit, I felt a sort of asthmatic-to-asthmatic kinship with Tricky at that moment (although I wasn’t smoking any pot at that point in my life).

Tricky featuring Alison Goldfrapp – Pumpkin

Acorn Squash and Brown Rice Crockpot Risotto

Serving dish full of acorn squash risotto with pomegranates.

Today was a perfect example of why I love my crockpot: I can put everything in it and then have a cozy afternoon nap. This isn’t a true risotto by any means, but it has all of comforting properties of a proper stovetop version. One acorn squash is the perfect amount for this recipe, but any other firm squash would work well and the yam could be substituted with the equivalent amount in diced carrots. The pomegranates are an added colour and nutrition boost, providing some crunch in an otherwise very creamy risotto. If I’m home I’ll generally have it in the crockpot three to four hours, but I’ve left it cooking while I’m at work on low for eight hours by adding an additional half cup of vegetable stock to the recipe. I like to serve this with a really crisp chopped salad full of crunchy ingredients like radishes, fennel, romaine hearts, and iceberg lettuce.

acorn squash and brown rice crockpot risotto:

1 Tbsp. olive oil

1 small onion, diced

2 stalks of celery, finely chopped

1 medium sized acorn squash, diced

1 small yam, peeled and diced

3/4 cup of brown rice

4 cups of vegetable stock

3-4 sprigs of fresh thyme

1 tsp. freshly cracked black pepper

Kosher salt to taste

2 Tbsp. pomegranate seeds

1. Soften the onion and celery in olive oil over medium heat until just beginning to brown. Add to crockpot.

2. Add the rest of the ingredients to the crockpot, stir to combine. Set the crockpot to cook on high for 3 to 4 hours, checking to make sure it doesn’t overcook and become dry. Serve with extra fresh thyme and pomegranate seeds.

How can you not feel happy? Frantic, spirited, and just the right amount of twee for a misty Sunday afternoon.

Air Miami – Definitely Beachy / Bubble Shield (Reprise)

Simple Roasted Vegetables and Brown Rice

Roasted Vegetables and Rice

Today was my first day back at work after being on holiday visiting my family in London, Ontario for the week and I was really feeling the adjustment tonight when I got home. It’s especially easy on nights like this to succumb to delivery, but roasted vegetables are a fast and hands off way to get dinner on the table quickly; even allowing you to have a dance party in the living room to unwind while they’re in the oven. I took one eggplant, quartered, and salted it while I cut up about half a bundle of asparagus and 2 sweet peppers. I rinsed the eggplant with cold water and patted it dry with a paper towel before cutting into a 1 inch dice. Toss all of the vegetables together in a roasting pan with a generous amount of olive oil, salt, pepper, dried oregano and dried basil. Roast at 375 degrees for about 40 minutes, stirring occasionally so that the cut vegetables surfaces are evenly browned. Once thoroughly roasted snip in about a 1/2 cup of fresh basil and a scant 1 cup of grated Reggiano (Vacche Rosa if you can find it.) Have the rice cooking alongside the vegetables and then stir in a small pat of butter before serving with extra cheese and fresh basil. Easy!

Most importantly, have a living room dance party while the roasting is occurring…

Yeah Yeah Yeahs – Zero