The Fall Dinner Party Side Dish That Just Might Upstage the Main Course

Photo: Johnny Miller

Cook Beautiful
Photo: Harry N. Abrams

Whether you're obsessed with healthy food blogs or not, chances are you've encountered EyeSwoon founder Athena Calderone's eye-candy at some point. The Brooklyn-based entrepreneur's multi-hyphenates include culinary storyteller, entertaining expert, and interior designer. All three titles factor into her new bestselling new book, Cook Beautiful. "I wanted to look at seasonality, entertaining, tablescaping, and ingredients to see how they all inform the hue, palette, and vibe of our lives," she says of her latest venture.

One of the collection's themes is that its recipes tend to "elevate otherwise simple ingredients with interesting sauces, chutneys, or finishing elements, giving them an extra pop of flavor," explains Calderone. Her recipe for delicata squash agrodolce serves as a prime example—she believes this veggie is already perfect when roasted in a basic manner. But to really make it stand out, she plays with one of her favorite flavor combinations: sweet and spicy. "This agrodolce sauce brings out the main ingredient's inherent sweetness, and then adds a tart quality with the lemon and the vinegar," she says.

This dinner-party perfect side, as with all other recipes in the book, is accompanied by an easy-to-execute "swoon tip" which focuses on visual presentation. "While you wouldn’t necessarily want to eat the root and stem ends of a delicata squash, they’re too pretty to toss," Calderone says. "Here, they serve as a subtle accent, breaking up the visual monotony of the squash rounds with a stripy pop of color."

The result is almost too pretty to eat, as is the case with many of Calderone's creations. Although as soon as you take a bite, you'll have no problem clearing your plate.

Get the recipe for Athena's fall-dinner-party-perfect dish below.

delicata squash agrodolce cook beautiful
Photo: Johnny Miller

Delicata Squash Agrodolce

Yield: Serves 4

2 delicata squash (about 2 lbs total), seeds removed and cut into 1/2-inch rounds
3 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
4 Tbsp honey, divided in half
Salt and freshly cracked pepper
1/2 tsp minced red habanero chile, or 1 red Fresno chile, minced
1/3 cup white wine vinegar
1 large lime, grated and juiced
5 or 6 fresh sage leaves, very thinly sliced
2 Tbsp pepitas, toasted

1. Preheat the oven to 375°F.

2. Place the squash in a large bowl and drizzle it with the oil and two tablespoons of the honey. Season with salt and pepper and toss until evenly coated.

3. Transfer the squash to two large rimmed baking sheets, spreading it in a single layer. Roast until golden brown, 12 to 15 minutes per side, flipping the squash halfway through baking.

4. Meanwhile, in a small saucepan, bring the habanero, vinegar, lime juice, and remaining two tablespoons of honey to a boil. Season with a pinch of salt. Reduce the heat and simmer until the mixture is syrupy, 8 to 10 minutes.

5. Just before serving, spoon the agrodolce over the squash. Garnish with the sage, pepitas, and lime zest.

If you're looking for more autumnal sides, try these 5 cauliflower recipes or this simple, healthful take on a traditional baked potato.

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