I’ve been free of academia for two and a half years now, and while I don’t miss being overworked and underpaid, I do miss the intense conversations I used to share with colleagues about books. An avid reader since age six (my parents waited for my first-grade teacher to unlock the magic of reading, refusing all my high-pitched pleas for guidance because they feared they’d mess up one of the most important skills a wee lass could learn), I’ve had my nose stuck in a book for much of my life.
The year I learned to read, my teacher Dr. Rabinowitz held a reading contest for our class. I can’t remember the prize for reading the most books in a school year, but I do remember my intense need to be first grade reading champion at Governors Island PS 26. Nine months of meticulously documenting each read book with a short book report paid off. I took the title, received victory hugs from my mother and Dr. Rabinowitz, and felt something powerful growing inside me.
Overshadowed by a charismatic older brother and an extended family with a flair for drama, books not only allowed escape into imaginative and distant worlds, they taught me how to examine the world I live in more closely and craft words into sentences into paragraphs into stories about the people and places that make me who I am.
Cheesy as it sounds, in teaching me how to read, Dr. Rabinowitz gave me a lifelong passion for the written word. It’s a gift I cherish. Even though I don’t have a crew of academic buddies nearby to talk over favorite scenes in books, I’ve taken that first grade reading challenge with me to the internet.
For the past three years, I’ve joined GoodReads’ Reading Challenge. Sadly I’ll never be able to read all the books in the world that are written in English (I have to bring home the proverbial vegetarian bacon), but with this reading challenge I can make a small dent in a must-read book list that continually expands. If you want to become reading buddies on GoodReads, here’s my profile.
Just as I’ll never read all the books on my must-read list (it’s at 606 right now), I’ll never have time to try all the recipes shared with me, pinned on Pinterest, and found in cookbooks and cooking magazines. But a gal’s gotta try.
Today’s recipe hails from the February issue of Bon Appétit. My love for butternut squash knows no bounds, and this side dish brings together a wonderful flavor profile: sweet from the honey and butternut squash, cleansing sour from the lime juice, heat from dried red pepper flakes, the richness of olive oil, savory fresh herbs, creamy goat cheese alongside crunchy roasted nuts, and the depth of umami with sautéed red onions.
Get to the store and nab some butternut squash before the winter harvest is over. If prepping butternut squash seems daunting, check out this informative article (with how-to pictures). You can pull together this recipe with minimal effort. More time to finish that book you started this reading this week, right?
Roasted Butternut Squash with Spicy Onions (a Bon Appétit recipe)
– 2 TBS olive oil
– 1 medium red onion, sliced
– 1 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
– 1 tsp finely grated lime zest
– ¼ cup fresh lime juice
– 2 tsp honey
For the rest:
– 1 cup blanched hazelnuts (I lost my bag of hazelnuts and substituted with pecans.)
– 2 large butternut squash (about 4 lb.), peeled, seeded, sliced ¼” thick
– ¼ cup plus 2 Tbsp. olive oil
– Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
– ½ cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
– ½ cup chopped fresh mint
– 2 TBS chopped fresh marjoram
– 4 oz. fresh goat cheese, crumbled
1. First, make the spicy onions. Heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Cook onion, stirring often, until lightly charred and softened but not falling apart, 5–7 minutes.
2. Add red pepper flakes and toss to combine. Remove pan from heat and mix in lime juice and honey.
3. Let cool, then mix in lime zest.
4. Now, preheat oven to 350°. Toast blanched hazelnuts on a small rimmed baking sheet, stirring occasionally, until golden brown, 6–8 minutes. Let cool; coarsely chop.
5. Increase oven temperature to 400°. Toss squash and ¼ cup oil in a medium bowl; season with salt and pepper. Divide between 2 rimmed baking sheets; reserve bowl.
6. Roast, undisturbed, until tender, 15–20 minutes.
7. Return squash to bowl; add hazelnuts, parsley, mint, marjoram, and spicy onions, and toss to combine.
8. Transfer squash mixture to a large serving platter, crumble goat cheese over, and drizzle with remaining 2 Tbsp. oil.