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October Recipe – Squash with Cilantro and Pine Nut Pesto & Free-Range Chicken with Preserved Lemon and Mint

It is prime time for squash – smooth butternut, chestnut-flavoured kabocha, dark green gem and the stunning looking red kuri squash. My favourite of them all is the kabocha squash, roasted until lightly caramelised and scorched, ready to serve with pork, lamb, chicken, fish, or as part of a vegetarian meal.

At the Roberts Creek Fall Fair on the Sunshine Coast this past weekend I picked out a couple, and with the help of my cooks here at the Culinary Capers’ kitchen, we worked on this recipe.  The squash is a fantastic match to the free-range chicken with preserved lemons and mint.

The peel on kabocha, red kuri, acorn and some others are perfectly edible and surely must be good for you.  Enjoy!      Executive Chef Margaret Chisholm

Squash with Cilantro and Pine Nut Pesto
Serves 4

2  kabocha, red kuri or butternut squash
2 Tbsp  extra virgin olive oil
2 cups  cilantro
1 tsp  chopped garlic
4 Tbsp  pine nuts, toasted
1 tsp  cumin seeds
1 tsp  ground cumin
1 Tbsp  lemon juice
½ cup  extra virgin olive oil
Extra cilantro leaves
Extra toasted pine nuts
Sea salt to taste

Preheat oven to 375° F.
Scrub the squash but do not peel. Cut each squash into 1 ½ inch cubes, coat in 2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil and place on an oiled baking tray. Make sure to space them out so that there is room between the squash pieces.  Bake for 40 to 50 minutes, until tender and lightly scorched on the tips.

Blend together cilantro, garlic, toasted pine nuts, sea salt, cumin seeds, ground cumin, lemon juice and ½ cup of extra virgin olive oil in a food processor until it makes a fine, crumbly paste.

To serve, toss the hot, fully cooked squash with enough pesto  to coat lightly and garnish with extra cilantro leaves and pine nuts.  (Any extra pesto not used, can be tossed with pasta another day.)

To make ahead: roast the squash until fully cooked. Cool and refrigerate for up to one day.

Pesto may be made one day ahead. Store in a small bowl, scraping the sides clean. Press a piece of plastic wrap on to the top of the pesto to keep it from discolouring.

Reheat the squash uncovered for 20 minutes at 375° F or until heated through. Toss with pesto just before serving.

Free-Range Chicken with Preserved Lemon and Mint
4  boneless, skin-on free-range chicken breasts
4 tsp  preserved lemon, minced
2 Tbsp  fresh mint, chiffonade
3 Tbsp  butter, softened

Preheat oven to 350º F.
Combine butter, preserved lemon and fresh mint.
Gently loosen the skin on the chicken breasts and stuff the preserved lemon butter underneath.

In a pan over medium-high heat, sear the skin side until golden brown.

Transfer the chicken to the oven and bake until the chicken reaches an internal temperature of 160 º F – about 20 minutes.

You can make your own preserved lemons. It is easy, but takes about a month before they are ready.  They are really good after four or five  months.  So if you need them now, buy them at a specialty or ethnic food store like the Gourmet Warehouse in Vancouver.

Preserved Lemons
8 to 10  lemons
1/2 cup  kosher salt, more if desired
Freshly squeezed lemon juice, if necessary

Quarter the lemons starting at the top, to within ½ inch of the bottom, sprinkle salt on the exposed flesh, and then reshape the fruit. Place 1 tablespoon of salt on the bottom of a sterilized one-quart mason jar.

Pack in the lemons and push them down, adding more salt and lemon juice if needed.

Press down the lemons to release their juices and to make room for the remaining lemons.

If the juice released from the squashed fruit does not cover them, add freshly squeezed lemon juice Leave some air space at the top of the jar before sealing.

Seal the jar and let sit at room temperature for a couple days. Turn the jar upside down occasionally.

Put in refrigerator and let sit, again turning upside down occasionally for at least 4 weeks, until lemon rinds soften.

To use, remove a lemon from the jar and rinse thoroughly in water to remove salt. Discard seeds and pulp before using. Just use the skins.  Store in the refrigerator for up to 6 months.

Chef note:  Don’t put your fingers into the brine. Use a spoon to remove lemons as needed.

Photo:  Executive Chef Margaret Chisholm





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