I found these beautiful shiso leaves at the farmer’s market. Big, spiky, shiny, deep green. I grabbed a bunch and took a big whiff and a tiny bite. Aromatic, bright, slightly sweet. An initial hint of anise, grew bolder within seconds. That was good, unique, and incomparable to anything I have tasted before. I can’t remember the last time I tasted something foreign, almost exotic, and immediately falling head-over-heels for it. Open a closer look, I realized that these deep green leaves weren’t just green, but also hued in a gorgeous, rich purple. Each leaf was double sided and striking. Two completely different things, yet part of the same. I wanted to turn it into something that could stand up to the complexity of these hauntingly beautiful, delicious shiso leaves.
Succumbing to the changing seasons and the overabundance of winter squash, a roasted vegetable dish seemed fit. I settled on delicata squash, because in the words of Heidi Swanson, it “is the lazy cook’s winter squash”. Unlike butternut, kabocha, or spaghetti squash, delicata is easy to cut into and roasts perfectly within a half hour. Its thin skin and small size makes it my favorite of all winter squashes to work with. Its mild flavors are elevated when cooked, making it a somewhat sweet, somewhat nutty counterpart to the herbaceous aroma of the shiso leaves.
As I walked home from the farmers, I envisioned the dish. Brussels sprouts seemed like an obvious addition. The stapling of sweet squash, grassy brussel sprouts, and shisho was quickly making this dish a robust and autumnal one. The missing link here was the dressing.
I wanted to celebrate the aromatic, almost pungent flavor of the raw shiso leaves. In cooking vegetables, I have learned that sauces, especially those make with vibrant herbs and vegetables, are a great way of quickly saturating a dish with flavor. Combined with a few spices, vegetable sauces, unlike the traditional ones made with broths and butter, are bold, bright, and alive. This was how I was going to make shiso the center piece of the dish, and individualize this recipe from any other roasted vegetable dish I have made before. Soy sauce, ginger, vinegar, and miso exalt the flavors of shiso, making this an addictive, umami-rich dressing: a great counterpart to the sweet flavors of the roasted vegetables.
I like this dish. I love this dressing. I am happy to have found shiso.
Delicata Squash, Brussels Sprouts & Shiso Dressing
Cooking Time: 35-40 minutes
- 1 delicata squash
- 15-20 brussels sprouts
- 1 drizzle olive oil
- 1 generous pinch of salt
- 1 tbsp. sesame seeds
- sunflower sprouts or micro greens of choice
- 1 bunch shiso leaves – about 3 big handfuls (alternatively use an equal mix of half leave parsley and basil)
- juice ½ lemon
- 2 tbsp. tamari or soy sauce
- 2 tbsp. olive oil
- 2 tbps. apple cider vinegar
- 1 tbsp. miso paste
- 1 tsp. grated fresh ginger
- 1/3 cup water
- Preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Wash the squash then pat dry. Cut the squash in half, lengthwise. Using a spoon, scoop out the seeds. Lay both halves flat on a cutting board. Cut into thin, half-moon slices.
- To clean brussel sprouts, cut the bottom stem, peel away any brown leaves, and cut into halves.
- Place cut the squash and the brussels sprouts in a baking sheet. Add a drizzle of olive oil and a generous pinch of salt. With clean hands toss until everything is evenly coated.
- Roast for 25-30 minutes. Vegetables are ready when tender, golden, and slightly crisp of the edges.
- As the vegetables roast, prepare the dressing. Saving a few of the smaller shiso leaves for garnish, wash shiso leaves and pat dry. Transfer to a food processor, with the lemon juice, tamarin, olive oil, apple cider vinegar, miso paste, greeted ginger, and water. Pulse until evenly incorporated. Set aside until ready to use.
- Once vegetables come out of the oven, transfer to serving bowl add dressing and toss. Sprinkle with sesame seeds and sprouts, then serve hot or at room temperature.