There are too many perfectly circular pies with perfectly symmetric fluted edges in this Instagram-happy world. Today I want to advocate for all the imperfect pies that will grace Thanksgiving tables this week. Homemade with made-from-scratch, molded by hand crust that required love, time and attention. Perfect in their one-of-a-kind imperfections. My pies aren’t perfect and I like them that way.
This morning my family anxiously awaited the arrival of our newest member, my nephew: Lucas Timothy Edwards! At the time of penning this post I didn’t know his name, just that he was a he, and was due to arrive at any moment. My mother was nearby, watching over my niece, and was trickling bits of information via text message to the rest of us. Needless to say everyone was very excited, sitting on the edge of our seats, impatient for the first picture of the little guy and of course to know what we were going to call him! This baby boy is pretty lucky, he’s already loved by so many people.
The kitchen of the house I lived at in college had not one but two quesadilla makers. Granted there were eleven girls living there but still a bit excessive. Especially considering a quesadilla can be made in a frying pan, of which I’m sure we owned many. Buy, hey, we loved our late night quesadillas and tipsy college girls cannot be bothered with frying pans.
I hope your weekend was sugar-filled and not nearly as cold as it was here in Chicago. Winter arrived on Halloween night with freezing rain and 35 mph winds. I salute the trick-or-treaters who made it out.
But luckily there was cake. We had cake for breakfast, cake as a snack, and cake for dessert and that made the colder weather just a little more bearable. Right around this time of year is when I start warming up to pumpkin spice everything. October is for fresh pumpkin and squash in all sorts of savory creations. Why use the packaged goods when all that seasonal produce is just becoming available? It’s not until November that I begin making use of the pumpkin puree, doctored up with all those warming winter spices. It’s the comfort food parallel to flannel shirts and wool scarfs and just feels right.
I am a huge fan of cookbooks. I collect them like somebody would collect stamps, coins or action heroes, lovingly lining up my collection on shelves, reorganizing and rearranging it occasionally just for fun.
I’ve taken cookbooks with me on planes for “light reading”. They sit on my nightstand, often piling up as I acquire yet another and another. Amazon prime is my worst enemy or best friend (however you choose to look at it) because it is just so easy to add yet another new book to my shelf.
While some books do little more than inspire a thought or two, Jerusalem has been a favorite over the last year. I reference this book often and when I learned that Yotom Ottolenghi had a new cookbook out, Plenty, I was so excited to add yet another book to my collection. This collection of completely vegetarian recipes would have even the most ardent carnivores salivating. The cover recipe caught my eye and given I had most of the ingredients on hand I decided it was a must try.
There is magic in the deglazing of a pan. All those crispy, flavorful brown bits stuck to the bottom just get sucked right up into the sauce. Especially when wine is involved, then it gets really good. It’s so magical that I can’t help but sneak wine into so many dishes. I love flavor and I refuse to leave any behind.
But, believe it or not, not all food is improved by wine.
Like spicy chicken fried rice.
Definitely not improved by wine at all.
If I had to give up dairy I would eat a lot of slow cooked bean soups.
I should start by raving about “the star” fall ingredients in this recipe. Brussels sprouts! Squash! These are the things I should be yelling about, bursting with enthusiasm to share with you.
Today what I really want to talk about is dijon mustard. This ingredient, in my most expert opinion, is the most under appreciated fall flavor. Think of it as the backup dancer to all our fall favorites. For example, the classic combo of pork and apples- turn that on its head with a savory mustard glaze. Stews, soups, pot roast- how about with a mustard twist? Roasted butternut squash with thyme, rosemary and dijon mustard. The possibilities are endless and I haven’t even gotten to the obvious- brats, burgers and tailgating!
I’ve been going lentil crazy! I made a double batch of these lentils not once, but twice, in the span of a week. The first time was for a girls night. I served roasted cauliflower and blackened eggplant on the side. We ate most of them that night and I just couldn’t get enough. So I went and threw together another double batch. For the second time around I knew I wanted to top them off with a sweet winter squash and I wanted the topping to be crisp as a contrast to the creamy lentils.
Speaking of my girlfriends, we were meeting up for our weekly dinner just a couple nights ago and somebody brought up that they were reading a BuzzFeed article on the pumpkin spice food products that had been taken a step to far. Specifically, they called out pumpkin hummus as being something that was obviously gross and who would possibly want to eat that? I was the sole person that was like “hold on, I think that sounds good!” Why are we totally ok with putting pumpkin, which is a type of winter squash and last time I checked a V-E-G-E-T-A-B-L-E …in our coffee, but have decided that combining it with chickpeas is gross? Well sorry ladies, and sorry to anybody else who thinks that combination is just wrong because I’ve decided it’s not just ok, it’s delicious.
For this recipe I used a squash called Red Kuri, which is a miniature pumpkin with thinner skin and without ridges. It came from our CSA but it’s one of the many varieties of winter squash which is becoming more widely available (I saw it at Whole Foods last week) as people learn that these naturally sweet, delicious vegetables are really good for us. They are high in fiber, beta-carotene, vitamins and minerals. As far as sweetness goes, it falls behind Sugar Pie (most likely to be used in baking or pies) and the very well loved Butternut, but is still pretty sweet and will have a smooth, silky interior and crispy exterior when roasted. Plus it has the added benefit of looking like a cute little pumpkin. Really it’s quite adorable. If you can’t find Red Kuri squash then try a different variety, there are so many good ones out there!
Make sure you use red lentils, as they cook up really creamy and take best to the Asian flavors we have going on here- garlic, ginger, coconut, cumin and lime. I’ve been able to find them at all the different grocery stores I go to, including Trader Joe’s. The chickpeas cooked this way end up very crispy, just don’t skip the step of patting them dry, which is such a nice contrast to the lentils.
Swing open my fridge door and you’d find at least five different varieties of hot sauce. Next to the hot sauce: curry paste, fish sauce, three varieties of mustard, olives, pickles and capers. The ketchup, likely expired at this point, has been forced back with the addition of each new condiment to a barely visible corner. It’s clear our household likes bold and spicy flavors. Let me be honest, these staples provide a quick shortcut to delicious and easy food and I love using them. But when you make a vegetable curry dish, do you taste the vegetables or just the spice? I was reminded this week of how good simple food can be.