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

December 13, 2016

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.

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.

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

Tonight, you can be a cheesemaker!
This recipe (and your mom)

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

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.

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Top Comment:
“Also directions say to peel squash but picture clearly shows unpeeled pieces. Please clarify. Thank you.”
— Jodi F.

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. 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.

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A New Way to Dinner, co-authored by Food52's founders Amanda Hesser and Merrill Stubbs, is an indispensable playbook for stress-free meal-planning (hint: cook foundational dishes on the weekend and mix and match ‘em through the week).

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See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • Jodi Fortner
    Jodi Fortner
  • Sarah Jampel
    Sarah Jampel
I used to work at Food52. I'm probably the person who picked all of the cookie dough out of the cookie dough ice cream.


Jodi F. December 17, 2016
Thank you very much for responding! I didn't think about going to that website but will from now on! Can't wait to try squash this way, love winter squash! :)
Sarah J. December 19, 2016
Hope you like it!
Jodi F. December 16, 2016
Also, how many servings?
Sarah J. December 16, 2016
Hi Jodi!

You can look at the recipe page itself for more specifics:

You'll need two tablespoons lemon juices (usually 1 lemon) for the cottage cheese. I leave the squashes with their peels unless they're too thick to eat (kabocha, buttercup, red kuri); no need to peel delicata or sweet potatoes. And this makes 6 to 8 servings.

Thank you!!
Jodi F. December 16, 2016
Is that the juice from one whole lemon? Do you remove the pan from the stove or just turn off the heat?
Also directions say to peel squash but picture clearly shows unpeeled pieces.
Please clarify. Thank you.