Seasonal Roasted Pumpkin and Brussels
Does a craving for the holidays ever just hit you HARD? This past week I haven’t been feeling well, the weather’s been kind of gloomy, and all I can think about how cozy and comforting it’s going to feel when I get to go home for Thanksgiving. I had to do something to ease the pain just a bit, and it just so happened that pumpkin was this week’s featured ingredient at the Dallas Farmer’s Market.
If there’s one thing I love most about food, it has to be its magical superpower to transport you to any place at any point in time. Actually, as it turns out, there’s nothing magical about it, but rather very scientific (NERD ALERT). Listen to this (it’s cool, I promise): The olfactory receptors on the roof of each of your nostrils pick up on odor molecules floating through the air, detect the smell, and transmit the information to the olfactory bulbs at the back of your nose. These bulbs are actually tied directly to the limbic system and neo-cortex (just wait, this is the cool part). The limbic system is the more primitive system that influences emotions and memories, while the neo-cortex is involved in higher-level, conscious thought. Thus, we directly correlate smells (which are far more powerful receptors than taste, and actually influence the way food tastes) with memories and emotions, which explains why we often conjure up thoughts of people, places, or events upon detecting a familiar smell or tasting something we’ve had before.
ALL THAT to explain why I carefully crafted this dish to bring you all the feels and mems of the holiday season. I bet you didn’t know that pumpkins are useful for more than decoration and pie. When you roast pumpkin, it gets sweet and tender, very similar to butternut squash. And if you think you don’t like brussels sprouts, try them roasted- their natural nuttiness and slight sweetness is brought out in the process. Pair that with salty bacon, creamy gorgonzola cheese, chewy dried cranberries and crunchy pecans, and bring it all together with a DREAMY balsamic glaze (I got a pecan-infused one from D’s Breads and WOW)… one bite and you’ll be back in your grandma’s kitchen, guaranteed. All you need is a baking sheet and a serving dish! And once you try it out, I guarantee you’re going to want to include it in your Thanksgiving spread.
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
Cut the stem off the pumpkin, and continue to cut 1 inch rings until all the pumpkin is sliced. Carve around the inner part of each pumpkin ring to remove the seeds (which you can totally save and roast for a snack). Lay the ring flat, and cut 1 inch cubes around the ring. Cut the skin off each cube, and then repeat with each remaining ring. Spread evenly onto a large oiled baking sheet and season with salt, pepper, cinnamon, and a pinch of cayenne (optional). Spread the halved Brussels sprouts onto the baking sheet and season with salt and garlic powder. Finally, add the chopped bacon besides the brussels sprouts (the flavor will infuse into the sprouts as they cook) and roast at 400 for 20 minutes until pumpkin is tender, brussels are browned, and bacon is cooked. Drain any excess grease from the baking sheet, being careful with the hot grease.
Once the veggies and bacon cool slightly, toss them in a serving dish and add the cranberries, pecans, and gorgonzola. Drizzle with the balsamic glaze and serve warm or at room temp!