Sweet & Sour Butternut Squash has its origins in Jewish Italian Cooking, La Cucina Ebraica. Agro-Dolce or sweet & sour preparations generally originate from Sicily, but deeply colored squash or pumpkin dishes are typical of the area around Mantova in the northern region of Lombardy. Sweet & Sour Squash would traditionally be prepared in the autumn for the Jewish New Year to symbolize the hope for sweetness in the coming year. Sweet & Sour Butternut Squash or Zucca Gialla in Agro-Dolce is wonderful in the fall, making it an excellent Thanksgiving side dish.
My version of this classic dish departs from traditional recipes in that the squash or pumpkin is roasted rather than sauteed or boiled to heighten the flavor. In place of red wine vinegar, I used balsamic combined with a bit of pomegranate molasses. Pomegranate molasses, typical of Middle Eastern cuisine, is simply a syrupy reduction of fresh pomegranate juice. The intense sweet yet somewhat tangy flavor enhances almost any dish and a little goes a long way. Pomegranate Molasses is available in Middle Eastern grocery stores or online.
Sweet & Sour Butternut Squash is a perfect addition to your table when entertaining vegetarian friends; it is substantial, complex in texture and flavor, and quite satisfying. This is a virtually stress-free, do-ahead holiday side dish that will dazzle your guests. Give your Thanksgiving a bit of a twist this year with Sweet and Sour Butternut Squash.
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- 2½ pound of butternut squash
- 1 bunch of thyme
- 4 Tbs. olive oil
- Freshly ground black pepper
- 1 cup of pomegranate seeds, generally 1 medium-sized pomegranate
- ½ cup lightly toasted walnut pieces
- 1 shallot, minced
- 2 Tbs. pomegranate molasses
- 2 Tbs. balsamic vinegar
- Juice of one small lemon
- 2 Tbs of the leaves from the bunch of thyme listed above
- ½ cup olive oil
- Preheat the oven to 400º and line a heavy duty baking tray with parchment paper. Peel and seed the butternut squash then cut it into ¾ to 1-inch pieces. Lay the butternut squash pieces on the tray, drizzle with the 4 tablespoons of olive oil, season with salt and pepper and about 3 teaspoons of the leaves from the thyme bunch. Place into the preheated oven and roast until the edges are brown and the center is soft when pierced with a fork. This should take anywhere from 25 to 45 minutes depending upon your oven, Halfway during the cooking process turn the squash pieces to ensure even browning.
- While the butternut squash is roasting prepare the dressing by combining the minced shallot, pomegranate molasses, balsamic vinegar, lemon juice, 2 tablespoons of thyme leaves, ½ cup olive oil, salt, and freshly ground black pepper. Whisk until emulsified.
- Remove the tray of butternut squash from the oven and allow to cool until warm, then place in a bowl and mix gently with ½ of the dressing. At this point, you can refrigerate the squash and finish assembling the dish in the next day or two.
- This dish is best served at room temperature, so if you did refrigerate it, remove a few hours prior to serving. At serving time, taste the butternut squash before you add the remaining dressing. Add enough of the dressing as to your taste, season with additional salt and pepper if necessary and mix. Gently add in ½ of the pomegranate seeds and ½ of the toasted walnut pieces. Top with the remaining pomegranate seeds and walnuts, garnish with some thyme sprigs and serve along side your favorite roasted meats.