Vegetables are the cornerstone of California cooking, and the seasonal variations of the culinary landscape get me out of bed every day. This pumpkin dish has powerful olfactory associations, evoking a cool autumn night, a warm fire, and cheeks rosy from a glass of amazing pinot noir. Let’s see a pork chop do that.

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Ingredients

  • 1 small sugar pumpkin (2 to 3 pounds), halved and seeded
  • Extra-virgin olive oil
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 cups quinoa
  • 2 cups pitted and julienned medjool dates
  • ¼ cup small sage leaves

Method

Preheat the oven to 375°F. Cut the pumpkin into pieces roughly 3 inches square and arrange on a rimmed baking sheet, skin side down. Drizzle the pumpkin pieces with olive oil and give them a sprinkle of salt and pepper. Roast the pumpkin for 1 hour, or until soft. Once cool enough to handle, peel off and discard the skin, and place the roasted pumpkin flesh in a bowl.

Place a dry skillet over medium heat and add the quinoa. Toast for 5 to 10 minutes, or until the quinoa releases a beautiful toasty aroma. Add 3 cups water and 1 tablespoon kosher salt, cover, and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low and simmer the quinoa for 25 minutes, or until all the water has been absorbed. Remove from the heat and set aside, covered; the steam will finish cooking the quinoa.

Once the quinoa has cooled off a bit, add it to the bowl with the roasted pumpkin along with the dates, torn sage leaves, and ¼ cup of olive oil. Toss gently to combine. Season with more salt and pepper. Serve at room temperature.

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