My favorite holiday is Thanksgiving. Something to do with gathering together with family for the first time in months, telling stories, eating, drinking, and laughing just feels so perfectly cozy and autumnal. In my family, Thanksgiving is an all-day event. We always get to my in-laws early to help cook, and snacking starts shortly thereafter. The problem is that many of the snacks are so filling and heavy, that by the time dinner comes around, I’m too full to eat my favorite Turkey-Day foods! You don’t have to only put out heavy items like full-on cheese boards, I much prefer a simple, bright, and flavorful appetizer that can be prepped days ahead of time, and then quickly and effortless assembled in a few minutes when your guests arrive. Bonus points for it being gluten-free, vegetarian, paleo, low fat, and relatively low carb. The chevre can be entirely omitted for vegan guests. That means that all of your guests will be able to enjoy these gorgeous spears that are filled with little gems of autumnal vegetables.
3 tablespoons healthy cooking oil (I prefer olive or avocado oil)
1 large yellow onion
1 granny smith apple, peeled and cubed
3 cups butternut squash, peeled and cubed
1 tablespoon grated ginger
1 clove grated garlic
1/4 cup raw pumpkin seeds(pepitas)
1/4 tsp garlic powder
1/8 tsp red pepper flakes
Salt to taste
4-6 heads endive
2 oz chevre (goat cheese)
*Caramelize your onion – Cut onion in half and then into thin slices. Place in a skillet that’s been preheated over low (2/10) heat with 1 tablespoon of cooking oil. Break up onion with a wooden spoon, and sprinkle a pinch of kosher salt over the top. Pour 1/4 cup of water into skillet and allow to cook, stirring and adding splashes of water occasionally, until onion has turned a shade of golden brown. Remove from heat.
*Prep your squash and apple mixture – Peel & core your apple. Cut into approximately 1/4″ cubes. (Approx. 1.5 cups)
*Cut the stem end off of your butternut squash. Using a sharp peeler, first peel off the rind, then the green veins, if they are present. Cut approximately 3 cups of squash into 1/4″ cubes.
*Preheat a large skillet over medium-low heat (4/10) and drizzle in about 1 tablespoon of cooking oil. Add your butternut squash and saute, stirring occasionally for approximately 5 minutes.
*Add apple and a pinch of kosher salt, and continue cooking for 2 more minutes.
*Peel and grate ginger and garlic using a rasp-style grater, like a microplane, then add to squash and apple mixture.
*Add 1/4 cup water, and stir to combine. Continue cooking for an additional 2-5 minutes. When squash and apple appear to be softening, grab a spoon and taste them. If they are tender, remove from heat and allow to cool. If not, continue cooking until they are. Adjust salt if necessary.
*Toast your pumpkin seeds – in a small skillet over low (2/10) heat, add 1 tablespoon oil and 1/4 cup pumpkin seeds. Stir or shake to coat, and add garlic powder, red pepper flakes, and a healthy pinch of salt. Stand over seeds and stir regularly to keep them from burning. Once they’ve crisped a little and begun browning, remove from heat and pour out onto a paper towel to absorb any errant oil.
*At this point, your onion and squash mixture can be put into airtight containers and refrigerated for up to 4 days. The pumpkin seeds can be store in an airtight container at room temp for 2+ weeks(they never last that long in my house).
*Assemble – Cut the bottom ends off the endive, and lay them out on a plate. On a square plate, I like to alternate top to bottom, on a round plate, they look great arranged like the petals of a flower.
*Spoon a couple tablespoons of your squash mixture into each leaf, favoring the greenish tip end. Add a few strands of caramelized onion and then crumble just a little chevre over the top and sprinkle a few pepitas over the top. These stay good at room temperature for hours, but they won’t last that long!