When we sit at the table, there is more going on than satisfying hunger. It is sad to think of those who eat simply to satisfy their hunger and who do not permit themselves to linger under the many spells offered by a good meal — the satisfaction of our hearts, our minds and our spirits.Leo Buscaglia
Fall is right around the corner. And quite frankly, I’m ready. There’s something about the start of a new season that is like turning the page in life. Feelings of home, of savory spices, pumpkins and apples, warm drinks, cuddly sweaters, thoughtful books, Halloween and Thanksgiving, gatherings with friends and family with warm hugs and cozy conversations.
After I moved into my place a couple of years ago, I hosted a group of friends for dinner. It was early Fall, and this is the dinner I prepared for them. We sat around the table, laughed and talked and enjoyed each others company late into the evening. I enjoyed it so much, just as I savor this dinner.
Sometimes I feel like squash gets a bad rap as one of those vegetables that we cook to be healthy, yet push to the side of our plate. It doesn’t have to be that way. Once I learned how to cook well, variations of squash have become beloved staples in my Fall and Winter dishes.
Acorn Squash Essentials
Acorn squash is a smaller squash that resembles a large acorn. Green and orange on the outside, and yellow-orange on the inside. When roasted, it becomes wonderfully sweet and delicious. It works really well in dishes with bacon, maple syrup, pork and spirces such as nutmeg, sage, and cinnamon.
More than its other squash cousins—butternut squash and spaghetti squash—acorn squash contains the most nutrients. It is loaded with Vitamins A, C, and B-6, potassium and magnesium, fiber and beta carotene. In fact, a mere half-cut of acorn squash will give you 20% or more of your daily allowance of Vitamin C, along with the same quantity of fiber. All of these help lower the rish of certain cancers, heart disease, stroke, and gastrointestinal disorders. The beta-carotine also supports eye health. And, did I mentioned it literally tastes like autumn? So, scoop it up on your fork, not to the side of your plate!
Acorn squash is best pan-sauteed with some EVOO and spices or roasted (my personal favorite), as it is in this recipe. It’s the perfect blend of sweet and savory.
While the squash is roasting for this recipe, it’s time to prepare the pork chops. If you can, try and procure bone-in one-inch thick pork chops from the butcher. The thicker pork chop will lead to a more juicy and flavorful meat for this dish. Simply salt and pepper the chops on each side, drop into a heavy skillet with some EVOO and sear until golden brown on both sides and then simmer until you reached your desired doneness. They should come together in less than 15 minutes.
Pumpkin Seed Vinaigrette
The vinaigrette is so full of flavor—and it’s the simple flavorful ingredients that will really make this dish pop in your mouth. Garlic, lime juice, cilantro, pepitas and EVOO—combined to make a dressing that you may just want to adopt for a Fall salad.
This “Pork Chop and Acorn Squash with Pumpkin Seed Vinaigrette” recipe brings fall right to your dinner table. It’s a beautiful dinner to serve for a cozy Sunday dinner, yet is also one for a nicer weeknight meal.
Pork Chops & Acorn Squash, Pumpkin Seed Vinaigrette
- Baking Sheet
- Large heavy skillet
- 2 tablespoons pepitas or pumpkin seeds
- 3 pounds acorn squash cut into wedges
- 5 tablespoons olive oil divided
- 4 bone-in pork chops approximately 1-inch thick
- 2 cloves garlic minced
- 3 tablespoons fresh cilantro coarsley chopped
- 2 tablespoons fresh lime juice or more, to taste
- Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Spread the pumpkin seeds on a large rimmed sheet. Toast, tossing once, until just beginning to dark about 4 minutes. Let cool. Coarsley chop; set aside.
- Toss squash in 1 tablespoon olive oil on a large rimmed baking sheet; season with salt and pepper. Roast squash, turning occasionally, until golden brown, and tender 35-40 minutes.
- When squash has been roasting for 30 minutes, heat 1 tablespoon oil in a large heavy skillet over medium-high heat. Season pork chops with salt and pepper and cook until brown, approximately 10-12 minutes, depending upon thickness. Turn and cook pork until cooked through.
- Whisk garlic, 3 tablespoons chopped cilantro, 2 tablespoons lime juice, reserved toasted pumpkin seeds, and remaining 3 tablespoons oil in a small bowl to combine. Season vinaigrette with salt, pepper, and more lime juice, if desired.
- Divide squash and pork among plates; spoon vinaigrette over. Top with cilantro leaves.