When Carroll Gardens food stylist Erin Merhar and photographer Max Kelly get together to shoot one of Erin's culinary creations using the freshest ingredients, the results are delectably beautiful. Erin and Max have graciously allowed me to publish both photos and a seasonal recipe from one of their latest collaborations. All ingredients for the dish are easily available from neighborhood stores.
From Erin Merhar:
I have always found beauty in rusticity. Tomatoes drizzled with olive oil, flecked with sea salt, cornbread golden and crusty from its cast-iron skillet, a berry cobbler whose juices bubble over its baking dish. Seeing food do its natural thing is a splendor in itself.
At home, I find this approach especially handy, when appearance is much less fussy and taste matters most. This wintry side dish is the epitome of rusticity, and shows it up with not only its incredible taste, but also mouth-watering beauty. Beauty, no less, in its own skin.
Whole Roasted Kabocha Squash, With Goat's Milk Feta, Mint And Arugula
This rustic side incorporates a few twists on favorite ingredients. Try kabocha squash instead of butternut and goats milk feta rather than the classic sheep’s milk variety. All ingredients can be easily sourced in the Carroll Gardens/Cobble Hill neighborhoods. The kabocha squash was found at Met Food at 197 Smith St, and the goat’s milk feta at Union Market at 288 Court St.
1 whole kabocha squash, about 4 lbs
¼ cup crumbled goats milk feta cheese
2 T. good extra virgin olive oil
2 t. red wine vinegar
10-12 large mint leaves, torn
1 cup baby arugula, packed
Salt & Pepper
Pre-heat the oven to 350˚F. Place the whole squash on foil-lined baking sheet and roast for 60-70 minutes.
While the squash is roasting, prepare the garniture. Tear the mint leaves, crumble the feta cheese, and remove any large stems from the baby arugula. In a small bowl, whisk the olive oil into the red wine vinegar to create a vinaigrette. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
Once the squash is tender and the skin sinks slightly when touched, remove from the oven and allow to cool for 5 minutes. Once cooled slightly, make a horizontal cut across the center of the squash to create two halves. With a large tablespoon, remove the seeds and stringy pulp from the center of the squash halves, being careful to leave the flesh intact. Carve out the flesh from the squash, leaving a 1/4 inch border along all of the skin. Divide the mint, arugula, and feta between the two halves and drizzle equally with the vinaigrette. Season with salt and pepper. With two forks, cut through the flesh of the squash and toss all ingredients together until equally combined, being careful not to tear the skin of the squash.
Serve the squash in its own skin as a side dish alongside steak or chicken with chimichurri, or as a vegetarian main course.
Erin Merhar is a food stylist, recipe developer and personal chef living in Carroll Gardens, Brooklyn. She loves wine, cheese and all things Italian. She can be contacted at email@example.com or via her website at www. mintfare.com.
Max Kelly is self-taught photographer whose style is at once modern and classic. Through this blend of old and new, he composes a unique perspective of the world around him. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or through his website at maxkellyphotography.com