Monday, January 31, 2011

Cajun squash (or haloumi) with a creme fraiche honey-mint dressing

This one was a bit of an experiment. I ran across a recipe in Phil Vickery's Seriously Good Gluten Free Cooking which was originally for fish. However, the flavor profiles looked really interesting and I decided I needed to figure out a way to "vegetarianize" this recipe.

You could probably do this with a hunk of tofu or something, but I'll be honest - I'm not a big fan of hunks of tofu. My first instinct was to try it with slices of halloumi grilling cheese, which I had seen used instead of fish before. The only problem is that halloumi is pretty fatty and I really wanted to find a way to make this recipe without being too decadent. That's when the butternut squash that was sitting in my fridge came into play.

I decided to make two versions: one with halloumi cheese and one with slices of squash that I had pre-roasted in the oven. Both versions came out nice, but to my surprise the squash was actually nicer: it was sweet and spicy and creamy and delicious. The halloumi has potential, but it came out too salty, so if you try it I would remove the salt from the rub entirely. The only disadvantage to the squash is that it takes more time because of the pre-roasting.

 And now, onwards to the recipe (oh, and if you're wondering, the rice on the side is Trader Joe's excellent chimichurri rice).

Cajun Squash with a Creme Fraiche Honey-Mint Dressing 


Ingredients (for 2 portions): 

- 4 rectangular slices of butternut squash, about 1 cm (1/2 inch thick), and about 10-12cm (4-5 inches) long
(or slightly smaller slices of halloumi cheese. If you use the cheese, skip the pre-roasting part).
- 2 tbsp oil, for cooking

For the dressing: 
- about 200 grams (or one small package) creme fraiche
- 2 tbsp very finely chopped fresh  mint
 - 2 tbsp white wine or cider vinegar
- 2 tbsp honey
- plenty of fresh cracked pepper

For the rub:
- 2 tsp dried thyme or parsley
- 2 tbsp paprika
- 1 tbsp salt (skip if you are using halloumi)
- 1 tbsp black pepper
- 1 tbsp cayenne pepper or chili powder
- 1 tbsp dried onion powder
- 1 tbsp dried garlic powder
- 1 tsp fennel seeds
- 1 bay leaf


1. Preheat oven to 350 F/180 C. Place the slices of squash on a baking tin and brush or spray with olive oil. Bake for about 30 minutes, or until the slices are tender, but not falling apart (i.e., they still keep a square shape and slightly resist a fork or knife stuck into them). If you are using halloumi, skip this step.

2. Prepare the dressing: place all of the dressing ingredients into a bowl or jug about mix well with a fork.

3. Prepare the rub: put all of the ingredients into a spice grinder, coffee grinder, small food processor or mortar and pestle and grind them all together (if you have none of the above, just crush the fennel seeds and bay leaf and mix all the seasonings together). Pour the rub onto a plate.

4. Heat the oil in a pan. Dip each piece of squash (or cheese) in the spice rub so that it is lightly dusted but not thickly coated with the seasoning. Place the squash in the oil and cook for a minute or two on each side, so that the seasoning becomes a golden-brown and the squash looks "grilled".

5. Plate 2 slices of squash or cheese per person, and douse with a generous helping of the dressing. Serve with rice or other side of your choice.

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