Grilled Squash and Almond Quinoa

>> Monday, September 23, 2013

Grilled Squash and Almond Quinoa

It suddenly feels like fall here in Chicago - crisp apple weather, bright leaf weather, comforting cable sweater time. Fall kind of crept up on me this year, but I really noticed it last Thursday.

Graceland Cemetery, flooded path 2013

I'm taking an urban photography class right now, and last week we were in the famous Graceland Cemetery in the Wrigleyville neighborhood of Chicago. Graceland was founded as Chicago grew northward into the Lincoln Park area. The cemetery there was dug up and transported to Irving Park road and Clark Street. This is where many of the most famous Chicagoans are buried: Marshall Field, Potter and Bertha Palmer, Louis Sullivan, Mies van der Rohe, and George Pullman.

Graceland Cemetery, Field monument
Graceland Cemetery, Field monument

It was pouring when my class gathered in the coffee shop to critique last week's photos - and when I say pouring, I mean flash-flood storm. But at the cemetery, there was only a quiet drip of rain off the enormous spreading trees, and a warm blanket of misty air that muffled all the noise from the surrounding streets.

Graceland Cemetery, Glessner grave
Graceland Cemetery, Glessner grave

Graceland is famed for its park-like setting and Gilded-Age mausoleums in Romanesque, Art Nouveau, and intricate Art Deco styles. When I took my eyes from these statues and simple graves, I noticed that the first reds and yellows were appearing on the leaves. In few places, leaves and crab apples scattered across the graves.

Graceland Cemetery, fall 2013

It was a beautiful place to spend a day, wandering among breathtakingly beautiful monuments and lush, overarching trees.

Graceland Cemetery, fall 2013

I'm not a particularly superstitious, but one monument has sort of haunted me since that visit. It is the tomb of Peter Schopenhofen, shaped as a pyramid. To the left of the door stands a statue of an angel facing anyone who approaches; to the right, lying side wise facing anyone touching the door handle, is a Sphinx. He's a little unsettling.

Graceland Cemetery, Shoenhofen tomb

What I do have is an unfortunately vivid imagination, and as I focused my camera closely on his face (my side to the bronze asp curled around the door handle), I suddenly imagined his eyes coming to life, and knew that if that happened, I would drop dead immediately of a stopped heart.

By the time I got home, after lunch at Reza's Persian restaurant, my shoes were soaked and muddy, and I had a chill. I changed into a warm sweater and started the grill for this luscious winter squash and toasted almond quinoa. I had quite an appetite that night.

Later, when I looked through the images of the day, I was so pleased with the photos. Except the Sphinx. I thought of that statue endlessly staring at the wing of the angel across from him. It was full night, a harvest moon, and he was standing guard at the door of a stone grave. I may not be superstitious, but this was somehow sad. I wonder what the sculpture might have meant to the owner of the tomb, or the designer who created it.

This is what I do with my excess of imagination, when I'm not cooking or working on my novel.


1 to 1 1/2 pound butternut, acorn, or other winter squash
1/4 tsp nutmeg
2 tsp vegetable oil
1 cup quinoa
2 cups vegetable or chicken broth
1/2 tsp rosemary, snipped
1/3 cup scallions, chopped
Salt and pepper to taste
1/3 cup slivered almonds or peeled pumpkin seeds (pepitas), toasted


Heat the grill to medium. Cut the squash into quarters and scoop out the seeds. Drizzle with the oil and sprinkle the nutmeg on the cut side of the quarters. Place on the grill, skin side down, and cook 10 minutes. Flip over and grill the other side for 10 minutes. The flesh should be slightly charred but still a little firm. Remove and let it cool until you can handle it.

Cut the squash from the skin. Place in a medium pot with the rest of the ingredients except the nuts. Bring to a boil, stirring occasionally. Cover, reduce heat, and cook the quinoa about 10 minutes, or as the package directs. Remove the cover, fluff the grains, and let it sit for a minute before serving. Sprinkle with the nuts before serving.

Makes 4 - 6 side dish servings.


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