Out with the squash and in with the peas
“Spring is nature’s way of saying, “let’s party!”’ Robin Williams
By golly, the spring equinox is almost here. The promise of fresh greens and tender peas from our local gardens is intoxicating! There is something so exciting about the change of the season and getting to love a seasonal food all over again. But as a look around my kitchen, I see remnants of winter hanging around, almost forgotten and abandoned. There in my root drawer are a few lonely and very patient winter squash.
Winter squash is one of the seasonal foods that I get very excited about when the fall air is full of golden light and leaves. They are so substantial and full of nutrition that it is hard not to love them, especially with names like “sweet dumpling,” “turks turban” and “fairytale.” It seems a shame to let these gems go rotten in the compost. (Even though I have had many a squash get revenge on me, by taking over my compost pit in the summer!)
This recipe is the perfect solution for using up those forlorn winter squash. Falafels are normally deep fat fried and these ones are baked and filled with fiber and beta carotene. They can also be vegan if you use soy yogurt for the tahini sauce.
To get the pulp from the squash, I recommend you cut them in half, clean out the seeds and lay them cut side down in a baking dish, filled with about 1 inch of water. Bake them at 350 degrees till they are easily pierced with a fork. When they are cooled, scoop out the buttery flesh and mash or puree. You can freeze the left over squash in a ziplock bag to use the next time you crave these additively delicious falafels. “Bread and Ocean Bistro” occasionally offers these little nuggets on their menu.
Baked Winter Squash Falafels with Spicy Tahini Dressing
Chickpea flour and tahini (which is sesame seed butter) are available at Mother Nature’s or any health food store.
3 cups of mashed cooked winter squash
Or sweet potatoes
3 to 4 teaspoons of ground cumin
2 teaspoons of ground coriander
1 teaspoon of curry powder
1 teaspoon of smoked paprika
3- 6 cloves of garlic, minced
3-4 tablespoons of fresh cilantro, chopped
The juice of a fat lemon
1 ½ to 2 cups of chickpea flour
½ teaspoon of kosher salt
½ teaspoon of fresh ground black pepper
In a medium mixing bowl, mix the squash mash, all the spices and lemon juice up till well acquainted. Add 1 ½ cups of the chickpea flour, and salt and pepper, and mash together till there aren’t any lumps or chunks hiding. Stick it in the freezer to firm up for about 20- 30 minutes. You can also stick it in the fridge for an hour or up to 24 hours. Before you take the falafel mix out of the fridge, preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
When it is done chilling, it should be rather sticky and thick enough to hold its form as a ball. If it isn’t, add ¼ cup of chickpea flour till it is. Sorry this isn’t more scientific, but the moisture content of squash can really vary! Scoop the mix out with a small ice cream scoop or a nice fat tablespoon and plop on a lightly oiled cookie sheet. Dress them up with a sprinkle of sesame seeds and slip in the oven. Bake for 15 -20 minutes till they are golden brown. Serve them up in a bed of greens or tucked into a whole wheat pita with the Spicy Tahini Dressing.
Spicy Tahini Dressing
This can easily be made vegan by substituting soy yogurt. This dressing is good on just about anything but chocolate.
½ cup of Tahini
½ cup of fat free plain yogurt
(Greek style is best)
2 teaspoons of ground cumin
1 teaspoon of smoked paprika
3-4 cloves of minced garlic
½ -1 teaspoon of hot sauce
½ cucumber, peeled
The juice of two fat lemons
Black pepper to taste
Water as needed
Put all the ingredients, except the water, into a blender or a food processor and whip it up. Turn off the blender or what-ever first, then taste it. Adjust your seasonings to make it perfectly spicy for you. If it needs it, add a bit of water here to make it the consistency that will easily pour over your falafels. Happy healthy eating!