Jeweled Holiday Acorn Squash

Come Christmas time, my family gathers at my parents’ home in southern California. There’s a single pomegranate tree in our backyard, and every winter my mom saves the best one for me. This simple side dish is a way to honor those jewels of winter. I always try to make something simple, seasonal, delicious and vibrantly healthy (and okay, I also want it to be photogenic). Ultimately, I want my loved ones to live long and healthy lives, so tasty yet ridiculously healthy food is my love language. Bonus: this dish is so simple, you won’t be stuck (or getting in anyone’s way) in the kitchen for long.

Tip: Use a circular ravioli or cookie cutter to remove seeds from each ring. This makes it easy to have a visually pleasing center cutout with clean edges.

Recipe

Curried Acorn Squash with Pistachios and Pomegranates

Prep: 15 min | Cook: 20 min | Rest: 10 min | Total: 45 min

Serves: 6

Ingredients

2 small acorn squash, 2-3 lbs each, cut into 1″ rings (about 3 rings per squash)

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1 tsp curry powder

1/2 cup pomegranate arils (1 small pomegranate; you may have extra)

1/2 cup pistachio kernels

Salt and pepper, to taste

Method

Preheat the oven to 400ºF for at least 15 minutes. Meanwhile, wash and dry the produce. Remove pomegranate arils by quartering the pomegranate and loosening arils from the skin underwater in a large bowl; drain. On a large baking sheet, arrange acorn squash rings in a single layer. Drizzle with olive oil, curry powder, and salt and pepper to taste. Toss to combine. Add to oven and bake for 20 minutes, or to desired doneness (fork should easily pierce the skin). Allow to cool for at least 10 minutes, season to taste. Transfer to serving platter and generously garnish with pistachios and pomegranate arils. Serve immediately.

MIND diet foods: Vegetables, olive oil, nuts, berries

Pomegranate Mandarin Basil Champagne Spritzer

Nothing says holiday hospitality like being greeted with a champagne cocktail. Even better for all you discerning hosts and hostesses out there, its easy to put artisanal homemade love into such a concoction *ahead of time* (read: less hassle on the day-of). So you can feel like this is something special you’ve done for your guests (which it is), without having to add it to the juggling act on the day of a get together. This is not a sugary headache in the making. It is naturally mildly sweet with a balance of tartness and herbaceousness. If you try it, please let me know!

Basil plant + pomegranate fruit
Basil plant + pomegranate fruit
fresh pomegranates, I picked from the Central Valley orchards
fresh pomegranates, I picked from the Central Valley orchards
Patron orange liqueur
Patron orange liqueur
Mostly pomegranate arils, with some pith, membrane, and peel
Mostly pomegranate arils, with some pith, membrane, and peel
Pomegranates and mandarins and simmering
Pomegranates and mandarins and simmering
Syrup consistency
Syrup consistency
Add basil
Add basil
Stir basil in for about a minute
Stir basil in for about a minute
Strain
Strain
Resulting in about half a cup of syrup
Resulting in about half a cup of syrup

Pomegranate Mandarin Basil Champagne Spritzer
Author: 
Recipe type: Cocktail
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 8
 
Excellent fresh ingredients are at the heart of this - fresh pomegranates (from my mom's tree), mandarin oranges, and basil. I can imagine trying to sub in rosemary for the basil, for an earthier fall flavor, but my basil plant is still going strong and smells amazing (perks of living in California), so that's what I used. No good cocktail is overly sweet, so if that's what you're looking for, you've come to the wrong place. This cocktail is mildly sweet, sufficiently tart, and has a touch of herbaceousness. These are real flavors, no added sugar to mask or enhance poor ingredients.
Ingredients
  • ¼ cup water
  • 1 medium pomegranate, yields a cup pomegranate arils, plus extra arils to use as garnish - keep this reserved to the side; keep some membrane, pith and peel reserved,
  • 1 seedless mandarin orange, quartered and then each quarter halved
  • 1 cup fresh loosely packed basil leaves, rinsed, dried and roughly chopped or torn
  • optional: 1 oz orange liqueur (I used Patron Citronge orange liqueur premium reserve 80 proof)
  • optional: 1 mandarin for peels of zest as garnish
  • optional: basil leaves for garnish
Instructions
  1. Heat water over medium heat until simmering.
  2. Add pomegranate arils, membrane, pith and peel.
  3. Stir with wide wooden spoon, carefully crushing arils to release juice without splattering, about 2-3 minutes.
  4. Add mandarin pieces and continue to simmer and crushing with back of wooden spoon to release juices, about 2-3 minutes.
  5. Continue to stir occasionally, smashing arils and mandarin pieces as needed, until reduced to a syrup consistency, about 3-5 minutes more.
  6. Add basil and stir for about a minute to infuse flavors.
  7. Strain to produce about a half-cup of liquid.
  8. If using, add orange liqueur to strained liquid and stir.
  9. Cool until use.
  10. To serve, add a tablespoon of syrup to champagne flute, top with champagne, garnish with fresh pomegranate arils, basil leaf, mandarin zest. Enjoy.