Asparagus, Butternut Squash, and Blood Orange with Spicy Za’atar Vinaigrette

A friend of mine posted this article on Facebook the other day about how hard it is to eat healthy, in part because of all the conflicting information that exists about what exactly is considered healthy. This article is a year and a half old by now, but the message still rings true, and I laughed the entire time while reading it. When I was in college, and the Atkin’s diet was the fad of the moment, my roommate told me she was trying to cut back on carbs and then proceeded to order a bagel for breakfast. Now, many fad diets say it’s not necessarily the carbs that are killing us, but the gluten. There is so much conflicting and constantly changing information out there. How is the healthy eater to cope?

I tend to follow an eating doctrine that falls somewhere between those touted by Michael Pollan and Michael Ruhlman. Pollan says to “eat food, mostly plants, not too much”, and Ruhlman, from what I gather, would say something like “eat what feels good, all in moderation”. For us, that means eating largely vegetarian at home (in large part because good, ethical meat is expensive) and allowing ourselves to indulge once in a while without guilt. That indulgence can be meat in the form of a giant burger, sugar in the form of a giant cake, or beer in the form of, well, a giant glass of well-crafted brew. These things taste good for a reason! And when did eating become so political?

Anyway, one thing that I tend to eat a lot is cucumbers. Most of the time, I just sprinkle it with some apple cider vinegar and salt and call it a day, but sometimes, when I’m feeling fancy, this happens:

2014 MARCH 17

Sliced cucumbers, a drizzle of nice olive oil, greek yogurt, a sprinkle of za’atar, and some additional ground sumac. So that happened this morning, and since I had the za’atar out and was feeling frisky, I made a spicy za’atar vinaigrette with a serrano pepper and shallot. And then this happened:

2014 MARCH 17 (2)

Ever since reading Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, I feel pangs of guilt when eating asparagus out of season, but this winter has been so long that I have been splurging lately. As for the za’atar, you can make your own following Heidi’s recipe, or sometimes you can find a mix in a spice store.

2014 MARCH 17 (3)

Asparagus, Butternut Squash, and Blood Orange with Spicy Za’atar Vinaigrette

1 bunch asparagus
1/2 small butternut squash, sliced into sticks
1 blood orange

5 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
5 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
3 teaspoons za’atar
1 serrano pepper, seeded and finely diced
1 small shallot, finely diced
1 teaspoon whole grain or dijon mustard

Steam the asparagus and butternut squash until tender. The asparagus should only take a few minutes, and the butternut squash just slightly longer. I steamed them separately so as not to overcook the asparagus. Slice the blood orange into supremes, or just peel and section if you’re not into all that work. Arrange the asparagus, butternut squash, and oranges on a plate.

In a small mason jar, combine the olive oil, vinegar, za’atar, pepper, shallot, and mustard. Shake well and pour over the vegetables. You’ll have extra dressing – save it for a salad or other use. Sprinkle sea salt over the whole thing before serving.

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