Seasoned salts are all the rage, and these days it’s a rare gourmet market that doesn’t proudly display a shelf of the wildly conceived crystals, made from all manner of herbs, spices, and even nuts and meats. I’ve even been lured into purchasing some of them. But I can never seem to remember to use them, and they usually sit, unloved and untouched, in my cabinet until I finally throw them out. Not so this woodsy-flavored sage salt. One day, faced with a surplus of sage from the pot on the deck, which needed to get used before it succumbed to a hard winter freeze, I made up a batch. Instead of banishing it to the nether regions of the spice drawer, I left it on the counter in a little bowl, then proceeded to sprinkle it on anything that needed a touch of salt. And in my kitchen, that’s a lot of things. I used it on eggs, I used it on soups, I used it on chili (page 330) and on salads. But the best dish I made with the salt was hands down this simple roasted acorn squash, which I also tossed with honey and smoked paprika for depth and sweetness. It would make a great Thanksgiving side dish if you doubled or tripled the recipe, and it’s just as good at room temperature as it is hot (important if you’re making it for Thanksgiving). And if you don’t want to make the sage salt yourself, you could probably even top the squash with one of those purchased salt blends you’ve probably been tempted into buying. It happens to the best of us.
Serves 4 to 6
2 medium acorn squash, trimmed
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 teaspoons honey
1 teaspoon smoked sweet paprika
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
4 large sage sprigs (about 16 nice leaves)
2 teaspoons coarse sea salt
1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Slice the squash crosswise into 1/2-inch rings. Use a spoon to scoop the seeds from the center of each ring; discard or reserve for toasting (see What Else?).
2. In a small bowl, whisk together the oil, honey, paprika, and kosher salt. Arrange the squash on a large baking sheet; pour the paprika oil over the squash and toss well to combine. Place the sage leaves in a small baking pan.
3. Transfer both pans to the oven. Roast the sage leaves until just crisp, about 10 minutes; transfer to a rack to cool. Raise the heat to 400°F. Continue roasting the squash, turning once, until tender and light golden, 20 to 25 minutes more.
4. Transfer the squash to a platter. Crumble the sage in a small bowl (you should have about 11/2 teaspoons) with the coarse salt; sprinkle some of the sage salt over the squash and serve.
• If you want to toast your own squash seeds, rinse the seeds and let dry in a single layer on paper towels (it’s okay if a few bits of squash pulp cling to the seeds). Toss with oil and salt and toast in a 350°F oven until crisp and golden, 12 to 15 minutes.
• You don’t have to use acorn squash for this recipe. Any sliced squash will take to the seasonings. I really like it with delicata and sweet dumpling squash, too.
• You only need a little bit of sage salt for this recipe, and leftovers will be wonderful on all kinds of foodstuffs. I can report that it is especially tasty as a garnish for white bean stew or sprinkled over slices of hot buttered whole grain toast. But use it with an open hand and you won’t be disappointed.
From Cook This Now by Melissa Clark. Copyright © 2011, Melissa Clark, Inc. Published by Hyperion. Available wherever books are sold. All Rights Reserved.