Leave it to one of our all-time favorite chefs, Travis Lett of Venice Beach, Calif., hot spot Gjelina, to bring a fresh approach to a Thanksgiving meal. With his recipe for Acorn Squash with Mint and Pomegranate Pesto, selecting very fresh acorn squash is the key to executing this dish. (Pro tip: once a squash turns orange, it's past its prime.) The pesto spooned on top takes it to another level: "Bright, sweet, and herbaceous, it feels like it has its roots in the Middle Eastern rim of the Mediterranean Sea, where pomegranates grow plentifully," he tells InStyle. "Look for pomegranate molasses at a Middle Eastern specialties store, or substitute it with aged balsamic vinegar." Read on for the recipe.
Acorn Squash with Mint & Pomegranate Pesto
2 1¾-lb acorn squashes, quartered through the stem
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for brushing salt and pepper
2 tbsp pepitas
1 tsp coriander seeds
1 tsp cumin seeds
1 garlic clove, crushed
1/2 cup plus 2 tbsp finely chopped mint
1/4 cup finely chopped parsley
1/4 cup pomegranate seeds
1 tbsp pomegranate molasses ($10 for 10 oz; amazon.com)
1 tbsp fresh lime juice
1. Preheat oven to 350°F.
2. In a large baking dish, brush the squash with olive oil and season it with salt and pepper. Add ¼ cup of water to the baking dish and cover tightly with foil. Bake for about 50 minutes, until barely tender. Uncover and bake for 20 to 25 minutes longer, until tender and browned in spots. Transfer to a platter.
3. Meanwhile, in a small skillet, toast the pepitas over moderate heat, stirring until lightly browned, about 3 minutes. Transfer to a mortar or mini food processor.
4. In the skillet, toast the coriander and cumin seeds over moderate heat, stirring until fragrant, 1 to 2 minutes. Transfer to the mortar.
5. Add the garlic and a pinch of salt to the mortar, and, using a pestle, grind into a coarse paste. Scrape into a medium bowl and stir in ½ cup olive oil, mint, parsley, pomegranate seeds, molasses, and lime juice. Season with salt and pepper.
6. Spoon some of the pesto over the squash and serve, passing around additional pesto at the table.