I went meat-free almost fourteen years ago. A shocking decision to most of my friends and family since my diet was made up of chicken and rice. It wasn’t a swift move though. Being raised in the south, identifying as vegetarian meant you were weaker, “girlier”, not man enough and at the vulnerable age of fourteen, I wasn’t ready for such a commitment. I was already toying with my sexual identity. Coming out as queer and then having to come out as vegetarian, it all seemed too complicated. Plus, like I said, I LOVED meat. My palate wasn’t sophisticated at that time. I had yet to understand that meat was a cheap way to enjoy flavor.
Growing up between North Carolina and Florida meant that meat was your one major food group. To this day, after practicing a plant based diet for fourteen years, my grandmother still ask, “hun, do you want some of this chicken?” And after declining and reminding her of my vow to veganism she says, “it’s not meat. It’s chicken.” Maybe it’s mostly my fault that she forgets, for I don’t preach about my food choices. It is as part of my identity as being a green eyed male or the growth of a new mole. Except, it isn’t as passive as a biological assignment, for people are defensive about their food choices - and understandably so, food is personal.
Roasted Butternut Squash with Paprika Chickpeas & Cashew Dill Creme
1 onion chopped
2 cloves garlic
1 can of chickpeas, drained not rinsed
1 tsp paprika
1/4 cayenne pepper
Butternut squash, cut in half
1/2 tsp Garlic powder
Salt & pepper
Cashew Dill Creme
1 cup Cashews, soaked in hot water for one hour then drained
1/4 cup fresh dill
Zest of 1/2 a lemon
1 lemon juiced
1/2 clove fresh garlic
1/2 tsp onion powder
1/2 cup water + 1/2 cup water for chickpeas
eto 375 degrees.
Scoop out seeds from squash’s belly and place gourd on a baking sheet stomach side up.
Brush about 3 TBS of olive oil and sprinkle a generous amount of salt and pepper along with chili flakes and garlic powder.
Roast in the oven for 45 minutes or until a knife will slide gracefully through the thickest part of the squash.
While roasting, in a blender, add cashews, dill, lemon zest, lemon juice, water, garlic clove, and onion powder - blend until smooth. If it seems thick, add more water gradually. You don’t want dressing. You want cream.
In a skillet, over medium high heat, add some oil and sauté your onions and garlic until fragrant and translucent.
Add in your spices, salt & pepper (to taste), and allow to cook for 3 to 5 minutes.
Lower your heat to medium low and add in 1/2 cup of water (you could also do veggie broth - if you do so, make sure to taste the salt level).
Allow your beans to simmer until they are soft and have absorbed the flavors of the paprika and onions.
Once everything is ready, assemble.
Add your beans into the bowl of the squash and dollop with your cashew cream.