This week, I really wanted to cook some squab after watching the sixth episode of Chopped Canada. Alas, I couldn’t track down any of the little fowls in my city, so it was onto plan B: getting creative with another mystery ingredient, peanut butter.
Here in Canada, peanuts typically stay on the sweeter side of things, finding themselves sandwiched between bread with some raspberry jam, sweet and crunchy in a brittle, or inside chocolate peanut butter cups. All are a welcome addition to my diet, but much like sriracha from last week’s episode, peanut butter is capable of so much more.
In other areas of the world, like Peru or West Africa, peanuts are not as commonly used in sweet preparations. Instead, they’re used to make spicy sauces for roast vegetables and meats. Peanuts are also the star ingredient in an amazing Ghanaian peanut butter soup.
I’m going to show that the rich, creamy taste of peanut butter is a great match for a lot more than just jam. Peanut butter mixed with Asian ingredients like ginger, rice wine vinegar and hoisin makes for a salty, tangy sauce that works great on a variety of winter squash. I chose acorn squash for this salad and I’ve left the skin on; acorn squash has a very tender (and edible) skin compared to other squash like butternut or kabocha.
When you’re playing around with peanut butter in savoury cooking, I recommend using a good quality, organic variety. The more processed, sugar-fueled brands can boast a sweetness that’s hard to balance.
This vinaigrette would definitely be a nice compliment to a pork tenderloin or some roasted salmon.
Acorn Squash Endive Salad with a Peanut and Scallion Vinaigrette
Total cook time: 25 minutes
1 scallion, thinly sliced
1 tablespoon smooth organic peanut butter
1 ½ tablespoons canola oil
2 teaspoons hoisin sauce
2 teaspoons lemon juice
1 teaspoon rice wine vinegar
1 teaspoon minced ginger
½ teaspoon red chili flakes
½ teaspoon ground black pepper
1 ½ cup white vinegar
½ cup water
1 tablespoon salt
2 teaspoons sugar
½ red onion, thinly sliced
1 acorn squash, halved and seeds scooped out
½ white baguette
3 tablespoons canola oil
2 heads Belgian endive, bottoms trimmed and leaves separated
1 scallion, thinly sliced for a garnish
salt and pepper
1. To make the dressing: place all the vinaigrette ingredients in a small bowl and stir well to combine. Set aside until ready to dress salad.
2. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
3. Heat the vinegar, water, salt and sugar in a small pot on medium-high heat.
4. Once it begins to simmer, add the sliced onion, remove from heat and let sit for 10 minutes. Strain liquid and place pickled onions in refrigerator to cool (note: onions will keep in the fridge for several days but flavour will intensify over time).
5. Cut the squash into 1-inch thick slices. Cut the baguette into ¼-inch thick rounds
6. Lay out the squash and sliced baguette on two separate baking sheets. Drizzle with olive oil and season lightly with salt and pepper.
7. Place the squash into the oven and let cook for 10 minutes. Add the baguette to the oven on a lower rack. Toast baguette rounds until crisp and starting to brown slightly, approximately 10-12 minutes.
8. Remove both trays from oven and let cool for a few minutes. Roughly chop the squash into bite-size cubes.
9. Spread out endive leaves evenly on a large serving dish.
10. Top with chopped squash and a few of the pickled red onions.
11. Break up toasted baguette rounds into large pieces and sprinkle on top.
12. Season lightly with salt and pepper and dress the salad with the peanut vinaigrette.
13. Garnish with sliced scallions and serve.