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Roasted Butternut Squash with Medjool Dates and Toasted Almonds

Roasted Butternut Squash with Medjools Dates
Susan Russo for NPR /

Any type of winter squash would work well in this recipe, though I prefer the sweet and meaty varieties of butternut and acorn. Roasting the squash causes its natural sugars to caramelize. With sweet, chewy dates, spicy cinnamon and toasted almonds, you could practically call this dessert. OK, even I don't believe that. Just eat this, then have a date shake.

Makes 4 servings

1/4 cup toasted slivered almond

1 medium butternut squash (about 3 cups cooked)

1 tablespoon butter

1 shallot, finely chopped (about 1/4 cup)

2 teaspoons brown sugar

1 teaspoon freshly squeezed lemon juice

1/4 teaspoon grated lemon zest

1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1 cup Medjool dates, pitted and coarsely chopped (about 10 to12)

2 teaspoons fresh parsley, finely chopped

1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Salt to taste

To toast the almonds, preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spread almonds in a single layer on a baking sheet. Bake for 8 to 10 minutes or until slightly golden and aromatic.

Raise oven temperature to 375 degrees. Slice the squash in half, scoop out the seeds, and place face down on an aluminum foil-lined baking sheet (for easy clean up) for 45 to 50 minutes or until tender when pierced with a fork. Remove from the oven and let cool. Scoop out the cooked flesh and set aside.

Meanwhile, in a large skillet over medium heat, saute shallots in butter until slightly caramelized. Add brown sugar, lemon juice, lemon zest and cinnamon. Add the cooked squash and mix well by hand. (You can puree it at this point if you like, but I prefer a few lumps). Stir in the dates and heat through for about 1 to 2 minutes. Remove from heat. Add toasted almonds, parsley, salt and pepper. Garnish with more almonds and parsley before serving, if desired.

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