On Making Mistakes

And so continues our ongoing series where you learn from my mistakes.

I love butternut squash.

So much so that, occasionally, and against my better judgement, I buy it out of season. And, by “out of season,” I mean in the height of summer, when the last thing that I want to do is turn on my oven.

Before you catch me on a technicality—yes, I know that butternut squash is available all year—it’s just that, at least in my mind, it’s much better in the fall. Owing mostly to the oppressive heat and humidity of a New York summer, and the oven, and the laziness. (See, also: soup and tarts.)

So, what happened was this: a craving hit, and then quickly passed. Just not quite quickly enough, and so, the aforementioned butternut squash that I just had to have sat on my counter.

And, then it sat some more.

When I finally got around to cooking it—it was one of those used it or throw it out scenarios, and, well, you know my feelings on wasting perfectly good ingredients. Naturally, it was in the midst of the worst heat wave yet this summer.

Imagine the scene, if you will—me sticking my head in the freezer to get a break from the preheating oven. It was all very Sylvia Plath, but with the promise of salad at the end, rather than eternal rest.

There’s an important lesson learned here—buy and cook seasonally, if you can. Or, failing that, when a craving hits go with it completely, cooking it immediately, lest you find yourself in a sweltering kitchen in the midst of the dog days of summer.

The good news here is that the lack of seasonality does not deter from the flavor one bit. And, if you’re looking for some picnic fare, this one’s mayonnaise free and easy to prepare in advance, making it a wonderful candidate.

Butternut Squash and Lentil Salad
Inspired by Smitten Kitchen

6 cups butternut squash, peeled and cut into 1-inch cubes
1 cup black beluga lentils
1 small red onion
2 TBS red wine vinegar
2 TBS olive oil
2 TBS paprika
1 tsp cayenne pepper
1/2 tsp Kosher salt, plus more to taste
Freshly ground pepper to taste

Dice one small red onion and set aside in a small bowl. Add a pinch of salt and 2 TBS red wine vinegar. Set aside.

Preheat oven to 400°F.

Toss the butternut squash with 2 tablespoons oil, paprika, cayenne pepper, and salt. Roast in a single layer on either a baking sheet of pyrex baking dish, until the pieces are tender, about 20 minutes. Flip the butternut squash pieces over and roast another ten minutes, until the outside is golden brown.

While the butternut squash is roasting, soak lentils for 10 minutes in a small bowl, then drain. Cook lentils in boiling salted water until tender but firm, about 30 minutes. Rinse with cold water, then drain and cool.

In a large bowl, combine the lentils, butternut squash and the red onions, stirring well. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Serves 4 to 6


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Filed under Beans, Vegetables

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