Roasted Brussels Sprouts, Squash & Halloumi
January 20, 2022
Brussels sprouts are sadly in the category of misunderstood produce. When poorly prepared, such as being boiled to oblivion, they become bitter and mushy, a taste that is sure to leave a negative opinion. However, with correct handling, they can be sweet, robust, and nutty. Chefs today encourage the formation of these flavors by searing, roasting, or charring the little brassicas. Here the nuttiness of roasted Brussels sprouts combined with sweet roasted squash, briny cheese, and a smooth balsamic reduction, creates an unexpected vegetable side-dish.
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1 teaspoon ground cumin
½ teaspoon paprika
1 tablespoon sesame seeds
1 pound Brussels sprouts
1 medium delicata squash, see notes
8 ounces halloumi cheese, see notes
3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
Salt and black pepper
¼ cup balsamic vinegar
2 tablespoons honey
1 tablespoon butter
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper or foil. In a small bowl mix the thyme, coriander, cumin, paprika, sesame seeds, and a pinch of salt to taste. Set aside.
Clean brussels sprouts, cut off stem ends and remove any yellowed leaves. Then cut sprouts in half lengthwise and place them in a mixing bowl. Add 1 tablespoon of the olive oil and half of the spice mix, tossing to evenly coat. Then spread sprouts out on one of the prepared baking sheets.
Cut squash in half lengthwise and trim off stem ends. Scoop out seeds and strings. Cut crosswise into ½-inch slices, then cut the half-ring slices into 1-inch (bite-sized) segments. Toss squash pieces in a mixing bowl (reuse the one used for sprouts) with 1 tablespoon olive oil and the rest of the spice mix. Then spread squash out on the other prepared baking sheet.
First, place the sheet pan of sprouts in a hot oven, on a rack set in the lower third of the oven. Roast for 15 minutes, then toss sprouts, and return to oven, place on a rack at the upper third of the oven. At this point add the pan of squash to the oven, on the lower rack. Roast until squash is tender and getting golden around edges, and Brussels sprouts are tender and dark golden brown, about another 20 to 30 minutes. It is okay if the sprouts get a little char on edge of leaves, it will enhance the flavor. If either the squash or sprouts get done first take them out and set them aside.
While the vegetables are roasting, sear the cheese and make the balsamic reduction. Cut the halloumi into 1-inch cubed pieces. Heat a heavy skillet over medium heat, with the last tablespoon of oil. In batches with plenty of room, add the cheese to sear for a minute or two on each side. The cheese will turn a rich golden color. Remove from pan and set aside.
At the same time, heat the balsamic, honey, and butter in a small saucepan over medium heat. Bring to a simmer and reduce by half, stirring frequently. Lower heat to maintain a gentle slow simmer. Should reduce in 10 to 15 minutes.
When vegetables are done roasting, combine in a serving dish with the cheese and balsamic reduction. Toss to evenly coat and thoroughly combine. Taste and adjust seasoning, adding more salt and a pinch of black pepper to taste. Serve immediately, or keep warm and then reheat, uncovered, in the oven before serving.
Halloumi is a Mediterranean cheese that is sometimes called a "squeaky" cheese. It has a firm texture and a high melting point which allows it to be seared or grilled without melting into a blob. Walla Walla Cheese Company makes a lovely cow's milk version of this cheese which can be found at several area groceries. I often find it at Andy's in College Place. If you can not find halloumi, you could substitute with paneer, feta, or even queso fresco. If you substitute with one of these cheeses, omit the step where you sear the cheese. Instead, just toss the cubed cheese with the hot roasted vegetables in the last step.
I love using delicata squash in recipes like this because you can eat the skin, which adds a lovely texture. You could substitute other winter squash, such as butternut or acorn, just make sure you peel off the less edible skin of these varieties, before cutting into bite-sized pieces. When tossing the cheese and vegetables together, be gentle to keep the squash intact. You don't want to end up with mashed squash.