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A Dog Pile of Spicy-Sweet Squash & Cheese (Dive In!)

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Please take a look-see at the vegetables in the photo below and tell me they're not doing exactly what you want to be doing right now: Lying there, all relaxed and uninhibited. I wish that were me, in my bed with a pile of stuffed animals—and, yes, with some cheese to snack on.

These orange vegetables are living their best wintertime lives—and, for dinner tonight, you can join them.

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Orange Vegetable Pileup with Homemade Cottage Cheese
Orange Vegetable Pileup with Homemade Cottage Cheese

Today's last meal (not including before-bed ice cream) consists of orange vegetables that are sweet and soft when roasted (kabocha, butternut, or acorn squash; sweet potatoes of any affiliation; heck, even carrots), laid to rest in a sweet and spicy syrup, with a smattering of soft cheese, herbs, and nuts.

In only one hour, you'll have a dinner that includes homemade cheese. Homemade cheese. That's right: Tonight, you can be a cheesemaker!

You can also skip that part and head straight to the ricotta in the grocery store...

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While you're there, pick up these items, organized by section of the market:

  • If you're making the cheese, 4 cups whole milk, plus a dash or two extra (or, if you're buying it, about 3/4 cup ricotta or cottage cheese)
  • 3 to 3 1/2 pounds any combination of winter squash and/or sweet potatoes
  • 2 hot red chiles (like bird's eye or cayenne)
  • Parsley
  • Cilantro
  • 1 lime
  • 3/4 cup red wine vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons golden raisins, chopped
  • Coarsely chopped roasted salted almonds (enough for a garnish—and they're optional!)

You'll also need a lemon, salt and pepper, 3 tablespoons olive oil, 1/4 cup honey, and red pepper flakes. If you don't have those, add them to your list, too.

Get it done

About an hour before you want to sit down, fork in hand, prep the squash ingredients. Peel any tough-skinned squash and cut all the vegetables into 3/4-inch-thick wedges (no need to use a ruler). Slice the chiles and the raisins; chop the herbs and nuts.

Then heat the oven to 475° F (if you're me, consider removing the fire alarm at this point).

Now, onto the cheese: Heat the milk to 175° F on the stove, then add the lemon juice, cover the pot, and forget it for a while.

It's now about 40 minutes to dinner (yip yip): Toss the veg wedges (yes, I said it) with a few tablespoons of olive oil, season with salt and pepper, and roast for 20 to 25 minutes, flipping halfway through.

Squash goals.
Squash goals. Photo by James Ransom

While the vegetables slacken and caramelize, make your sticky-spicy-sweet agrodolce on the stove by simmering chiles, vinegar, honey, raisins, red pepper flakes, and a pinch of salt for 8 to 10 minutes, until syrupy.

You're 10 minutes out: Pour the now-curdled milk into a cheesecloth-lined colander and leave it for 5 minutes. Transfer the vegetables to a big serving platter, brush with the agrodolce, and sprinkle with the herbs and nuts you already chopped.

All that's left to do now is to squeeze and rinse the cheese, loosen it up with a tablespoon or so of milk (or cream), and scatter it over your dressed vegetables. Zest and juice a lime over top of your platter and dive in.

Then get into bed with a pile of stuffed animals to pay homage to the dinner you just consumed.

Ad88d295 2d3a 4e09 a371 8b754acc08d6  2016 1025 roasted squash with homemade cottage cheese mark weinberg 115

Orange Vegetable Pileup with Homemade Cottage Cheese

Bb305185 6b66 45c6 ac96 6204c9dd8a30  dsc09796 Sarah Jampel
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Serves 6 to 8

For the cottage cheese (makes about 3/4 cup):

  • 4 cups whole milk
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • Cream, milk, yogurt, or crème fraîche
  • Salt and pepper, to taste

For the orange vegetable pileup:

  • 3 to 3 1/2 pounds (more or less) winter squash and/or sweet potatoes (I like a mix of delicata, kabocha, and Japanese yam)
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 hot red chiles (like bird's eye or cayenne), thinly sliced
  • 3/4 cup red wine vinegar
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 2 tablespoons golden raisins, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • Salt
  • 2 tablespoons chopped parsley
  • 2 tablespoons chopped cilantro
  • 1 lime
  • Coarsely chopped roasted salted almonds, for garnish (optional)
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