Saturday, November 27, 2010
acorn squash with sage, parsley and walnut pesto
Junior Nordic started two weeks ago, and this is the first year that Meredith is old enough to join the herd of cross-country skiing kids, age six to fourteen. The kids are divided up into different groups based on age and ability—they are Polar Cubs, Otters, Wolverines, and Hawks. Meredith, being six, is of course a Polar Cub. All the kids get the cool hat and the cool jacket, so that when Meredith is skiing in her group, it is well-nigh impossible to find her in the mass of identically-dressed children. But I’m sure that’s handy for the coaches trying to keep track of their charges. And I’m all about that!
The coaches are amazing—Meredith came home the first day of regular practice and was totally jazzed up about it. I was SO relieved and happy that she enjoyed it—because first off, she gets home from Junior Nordic after her regular bedtime, and I was afraid she might be worn out and cranky. The other reason I was especially thrilled was that she doesn’t always enjoy our family skiing expeditions. I mean, there are always fun parts to our outings (the downhills, especially), but sometimes it can be a bit of a frustrating experience—for both of us.
The whole Junior Nordic program is sort of mind-boggling. A huge number of coaches is organized each day to coach the many different groups of kids, and then parents are mobilized to volunteer and ski along with the groups. And mostly this happens at night, from 6:15 to 7:30, in the DARK. Yeah, yeah, the trails are lighted, but it’s still pretty dark and a little confusing. That first night when I was skiing around with the Polar Cubs, I was trying to keep track of my group, but my kids looked just like all the rest of the Junior Nordickers out there. And then there were lots of other folks out skiing, too—serious training groups like WinterStars and the APU team, plus people going skiing after work… it was pretty crazy. But the Junior Nordic coaches are totally on top of it! Somehow they keep tabs on the kids and know what’s going on.
We are signed up for the Tuesday & Thursday evening sessions, and then the kids do longer ski tours on Saturday mornings. On Tuesdays and Thursdays Dan and I ski with a group as parent volunteers (but not with Meredith’s group, to discourage whining). And then on Saturday mornings the kids go on a 1½ hour tour! And the Polar Cubs get hot chocolate and cookies—isn’t that cool? But here’s the coolest thing about the Saturday tour. Last weekend, Dan and I asked Coach Dan (the one with the hot chocolate and cookies) if it was OK if we went out and skied on our own, instead of skiing with the group. And he was totally fine with it! So Dan and I got to zip out for our own 1½ hour tour together while Meredith was skiing and having a blast with the awesome, amazing, wonderful coaches and the other groovy little Polar Cubs.
acorn squash with sage, parsley and walnut pesto
This recipe is based on one from Eating Well magazine, and I LOVE IT! The sage with the squash is so perfect, but the parsley cuts the strength of the sage so it’s not overpowering. When you spoon the pesto into the hot acorn squash, the heat of the squash releases the most incredible aroma of the sage, garlic, and parsley… it’s really fantastic!
I’ve scaled the pesto recipe to fit the amount you can make from one little plastic clamshell package of sage from the grocery store. If you have leftover pesto (I’d be surprised if you do), just freeze it flat in a ziploc bag until the next time you bake a squash.
3 acorn squash, (1 to 1 ¼ pounds each)
1 teaspoon olive oil
salt & freshly ground pepper to taste
3 cloves garlic, peeled
3 to 4 cups fresh Italian (flat-leaved) parsley leaves (2 bunches)
½ cup (more or less) fresh sage leaves (about one clamshell package)
1/3 cup walnut pieces, toasted in the oven for 15 minutes at 350 degrees
½ to 1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon freshly ground pepper
¼ cup water
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1. Preheat oven to 400°F. Coat a baking sheet with cooking spray. Cut squash in half lengthwise and scoop out seeds. Brush cut sides of the squash with oil and season with salt and pepper. Place the squash, cut-side down, on the prepared baking sheet, and roast until tender, 35 to 45 minutes.
2. To make pesto: With the motor running, drop garlic into a food processor; process until finely chopped. Add parsley, sage, walnuts, salt and pepper; process until the herbs are finely chopped. Once again with the motor running, drizzle in broth and olive oil; process until the pesto is starting to get a little bit of a creamy consistency, scraping down the sides of the workbowl once or twice. It doesn’t get as creamy as a basil pesto—the parsley is too tough for that. Just get it as smooth as you can—it’ll taste good no matter what.
3. When the squash is tender, spoon a spoonful of the pesto into each piping hot squash half and serve, passing the remaining pesto separately.