A bright and beautiful side dish for your holiday table

Create new traditions and make lasting memories by inviting kids into your kitchen this Thanksgiving. A team effort makes preparing the feast less daunting and more fun, and it also exposes young cooks to new foods, tools and techniques. This bright take on butternut squash is an easy recipe with which to start. It is based on a recipe from Yotam Ottolenghi's "Plenty More: Vibrant Vegetable Cooking from London's Ottolenghi," one of my favorite cookbooks and a prized score from a library used book sale.

Ottolenghi notes it is probably the simplest recipe in the book, so I tried it with a group of 5- to 7-year-old students. It was a revelation in that it doesn't require peeling the squash, and instead, you leave the skin on to provide a crisp foil to the tender interior. We were using a fresh, small squash that came from the on-site gardens, but if the one you bring home has thick, tough skin, it may be best to peel it.

The welcoming aroma of cinnamon-roasted squash fills the house. Courtesy of Leslie Meredith

The base of the dish is a traditional cinnamon-roasted squash, but things then get interesting. The fresh herb paste in the dish calls for cilantro, but we substituted a mixture of the tender herbs on hand: parsley, tarragon and thyme. A little mint would be good, too. Feel free to experiment with your family favorites. Giving them a twirl in the small salad spinner and picking the leaves off the stems is a good job for small hands. Raw garlic can be sharp, especially for young diners, so I suggest roasting it with the squash before adding it to the fresh herbs for the paste.

Sriracha, sometimes called Rooster Sauce in a nod to the logo on a famous brand, is a thick chili-garlic sauce originating in Thailand. It's become popular, and you can find versions in most grocery stores. Even though the recipe calls for just 1½ teaspoons stirred into a cup of Greek yogurt, it was still too much heat for some kids. You may want to cut the amount or have plain yogurt to drizzle on the kids' servings.

The original recipe calls for pumpkin seeds, but it's simpler and tastier to roast the seeds from the squash. I only wish there were more, as everyone sought the portions containing the maximum number of seeds. The kids' favorite aspect of making this dish had to be the plating. They learned terms like "dollop" and "garnish" then earnestly took turns assembling the dish. One proclaimed that their creation looked better than the professional photograph in the book, and I agreed. It would make a beautiful addition to your holiday table.

• Leslie Meredith is the winner of the 2019 Cook of the Week Challenge and teaches people how to grow and cook "real" food. She runs Farmhouse School on a historic homestead in Campton Hills. See the school's Facebook or Instagram pages @FarmhouseSchool or contact Leslie at

A grapefruit spoon makes deseeding squash a snap. Courtesy of Leslie Meredith

Butternut Squash with Zingy Yogurt Sauce

1 butternut squash, halved, seeded and sliced into half-moons ¼- to ½-inch thick (reserve seeds)

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

7 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided

1½ teaspoons salt, divided

½ teaspoon black pepper

1 large garlic clove, peeled

¼ cup loosely packed tender herbs (cilantro, mint, parsley, tarragon, thyme or a mixture) plus more for garnish

1 cup Greek yogurt

1½ teaspoons Sriracha sauce

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Toss squash slices in a large bowl with 2 tablespoons of oil, cinnamon, ¾ teaspoon of salt and pepper. Line a baking sheet and arrange squash in a single layer, skin side down if possible. Place garlic clove in one corner. Roast for about 20 minutes, then check on the garlic. It should be gold and tender. The squash will probably need another 10-15 minutes, until soft and beginning to brown.

Meanwhile, rinse the seeds and pat dry. Place in a small bowl with 1 tablespoon of oil and ½ teaspoon of salt. When the squash is done, turn the oven down to 300 degrees. Lay the squash seeds on the baking sheet and roast for 12 minutes until they start popping and turning light brown. Watch them carefully to prevent burning.

Add herbs and remaining oil and garlic with a generous pinch of salt to the small bowl of a food processor. Blitz to form a fine paste and set aside.

When ready to serve, swirl together the yogurt and Sriracha sauce. Lay the squash on a platter and drizzle with the yogurt sauce and then the herb paste. Scatter the squash seeds and additional herb leaves on top and serve.

Serves 4-6

Adapted from Yotam Ottolenghi

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