Sunday, October 3, 2010

Squash, and the Zen of Cooking

The school year has started, and with it, the typical fall onslaught of meetings and manuscripts and grant deadlines and teaching and treading in a sea of urgent emails. A few nights ago, I dragged myself to the car after a ten-hour day only to get stuck in a freak traffic jam for an hour, then arrived home and realized I still had six things left to do after all, and my husband was going to be stuck at the hospital until 9. I thought about my sanguine summer self with a kind of wistful resignation. My mind felt vaguely like it had been run over by a truck, I was sleep-deprived enough that my eyes hurt, and the last thing I remotely wanted to do was cook an involved dinner out of stupid, non-microwaveable, time-consuming whole foods. I wanted a packet to open and dump into a bowl, or a can, to open and dump in a bowl, or something hot and salty and deliverable. I wanted to lie on the couch and not move except for chewing purposes.

But, we were out of cream for coffee in the morning. So I at least needed to go to the coop and get cream. And while I was there, I could pick up a less-processed-than-most-processed-things processed thing from the deli. And I could bring it home, and stick a fork in it, and then stick the fork in my mouth. Yes. That is what I would do.

So I went to the coop, exhausted, and I walked in the door, exhausted, and I walked over to the dairy case, except that on the way there I noticed the avocados. And then I got distracted by pea shoots. Plus they have this amazing house made Andouille lamb sausage, which would be pretty easy to cook. And figs. And delicata squash.
In just a few minutes, my basket was full.

I came home, still tired but less so, and started peeling cucumbers, and picking up big fistfuls of pea shoots, and slicing into the squash, and thinking about where these plants came from and how they were harvested, and how before that they sat out in a field eating energy from the sun and transforming it into leaves and shoots and seeds, and how we then take that energy and transform it yet again. And suddenly, instead of feeling exhausted, I felt happy and energized, like when you think you're too tired to go for a swim or a run but then feel enlivened halfway into it. I sliced and chopped and  roasted and pan-fried, and we ate a late feast.

So what I'm saying, I think, is that this food thing is important. I'm going to try, very hard, not to lose it in the shuffle.

Roasted Delicata Squash

Delicata squash, halved lengthwise, with seeds scooped out
Pasture butter
Pine nuts (optional)
Freshly grated nutmeg

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Place the squash halves cut side down on a large piece of foil on a cookie sheet. Bake for 15 minutes, then turn cut side up. Flake just a little butter into each half, and sprinkle with some pine nuts.

Fold the foil so it covers the squash and continue cooking until tender (about 15-25 more minutes). Grate nutmeg over the top, let cool for a couple minutes, and serve.

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