Why It Works
- Baking soda increases the tenderness of the squash while also making the brussels sprouts extra crispy.
- Using a large baking sheet improves the rate of evaporation and prevents vegetables from sitting in a pool of their liquids.
- Toasting the spices brings essential oils to the surface that not only heighten existing flavors, but also produce new ones.
Cabbagey brussels sprouts and candy-sweet butternut squash may not seem like obvious bedfellows at first glance, but the two vegetables come together beautifully when united by the heat of a hot oven—both develop more complex flavors as they roast, growing increasingly earthy with a bittersweet caramel edge the darker they get. Here, I reinforce those flavors with a punchy yet balanced dressing that blends warm spices with fresh herbs, sweet honey, and pungent mustard seeds and grated garlic.
If you dislike brussels sprouts, it’s likely because you’ve had them overcooked until mushy. A longer cooking time at a lower temperature does all the wrong things to brussels sprouts, bringing out an unpleasant sulfurous aroma and driving the interesting texture of their layered leaves towards a pasty nothingness. Roasting is a much better and more forgiving method to cook these magnificent little cabbage cousins: the high, dry heat helps draw out water and turns them satisfyingly crisp, while also caramelizing naturally-occurring sugars in the vegetable for a sweeter bite. The Maillard reaction, a sequence of chemical reactions that takes place when heat transforms sugars and proteins, helps develop bittersweet, nutty flavors in the vegetables as they roast. Similar processes are playing out with the butternut squash, which roasts on the same baking sheet as the sprouts.
I like to add a tiny amount—1/4 teaspoon—of baking soda to the brussels sprouts and butternut squash before cooking them. The baking soda acts as a catalyst and accelerates both caramelization and the Maillard reaction, while also softening the pectin in the squash for a softer, creamier interior.
Once the vegetables are cooked, I toss them in a bright dressing of lemon juice, olive oil, fresh dill, cilantro, and garlic. A jalapeño adds a touch of heat, and the smokiness of toasted cumin, coriander, and mustard seeds complements the earthy flavors of the roasted vegetables. Sweet and tangy, this is the perfect side dish for a large fall or winter gathering. Don’t have butternut squash? Feel free to use another winter squash like kabocha, red kuri, or a sugar pumpkin instead.
- For the Brussels Sprouts and Squash:
- 1 pound (453g) butternut squash, peeled, seeded, and cut into 1/2-inch cubes
- 1 pound (453g) Brussels sprouts, trimmed and cut in half lengthwise
- 2 tablespoons (30ml) extra-virgin olive oil
- Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
- 1 teaspoon Diamond Crystal kosher salt, plus more as needed; for table salt, use half as much by volume
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
- For the Dressing:
- 2 tablespoons (30ml) extra-virgin olive oil
- 2 tablespoons (30ml) fresh lemon juice (from 1 lemon)
- 1 tablespoon (15ml) honey
- 1 medium garlic clove, peeled and minced or grated
- 1 teaspoon whole black peppercorns
- 1/2 teaspoon whole cumin
- 1/2 teaspoon whole coriander
- 1/2 teaspoon black or brown mustard seeds
- 1/2 cup (10 g) finely chopped cilantro leaves and tender stems, stems and leaves
- 1/4 cup (5 g) finely chopped dill leaves and tender stems, stems and leaves
- 1 mild green chile, such as jalapeño or serrano, stemmed, seeded, and minced
- Kosher salt
For the Brussels Sprouts and Squash: Preheat the oven to 400°F (204°C). On a rimmed baking sheet, toss butternut squash and brussels sprouts with olive oil, black pepper, salt, cumin, and baking soda until evenly coated. Roast, rotating the tray halfway through and use a thin metal spatula to turn the vegetables 2 to 3 times during cooking, until the squash is tender and golden brown and the brussels sprouts are slightly crisp and beginning to char, about 30 minutes. Set aside.
Meanwhile, prepare the dressing: In a medium bowl, whisk together olive oil, lemon juice, honey, and garlic.
Heat a small, dry stainless-steel skillet over medium heat. Add black peppercorns, cumin, coriander, and mustard seeds and cook, stirring, until lightly toasty and fragrant, 30 to 45 seconds. Remove from heat and transfer to a small mortar and pestle. Grind the spices until finely ground, then whisk into the dressing, followed by the cilantro, dill, and chile pepper.
Transfer the squash and brussels sprouts to a large mixing or serving bowl. Pour the dressing over the roasted vegetables and toss to coat well. Season to taste and serve warm.
Mortar and pestle; rimmed baking sheet
If you’d like the squash to be crispier, skip the baking soda entirely. For a hotter flavor, use a serrano instead of jalapeño.
Make-Ahead and Storage
The roasted Brussels sprouts and butternut squash can be prepared 2-3 days in advance and kept in the fridge; serve warm and toss with dressing before serving. The dressing should be made the day of.