Fall is here, and that means squash
Love is in the air. At least, for me it is. I can tell, because we’ve just gone through a spate of cool days, and it’s really starting to feel like autumn. Autumn is my favorite season. It’s a season of change, bringing with it fantastic smells, and new and familiar flavors and ingredients.
It’s the memory and the promise of fall that gets me energized. I am able to find foods in the markets that I haven’t seen for months. I don’t worry about heating up the kitchen with the oven, which I avoid in the summer. I am comfortable staying inside and working on art and zine projects without feeling like I’m squandering the bits and bobs of beautiful summer sun.
In the autumn, I think we do more entertaining at home. It’s easier, for one, but also much more fun. In our tribe, folks come together to make meals frequently. One of the most enjoyable parts of the evening is to have folks arrive with ingredients and then we all get to work prepping food, drinking cocktails, and rocking out to whatever. The food is the binder that makes our tribes strong and healthy, and the conversation and ideas that flow sustain us long after the dishes are dried and put away.
Occasionally, if the cooking and cleanup gets finished at a reasonable hour we’ll migrate to the living room and curl up on the sofas to watch a movie, as we did recently. I was seeking inspiration to get started writing this episode of Boomerang, so I felt a foodie film was in order. We agreed upon Nina’s Heavenly Delights, which is about falling in love amid an Indian cooking competition in Glasgow.
“Taste it, taste it in your heart. No matter what the recipe says, petit, always follow your heart.” This quote is central to the theme of the film, and in that spirit I want to follow my heart — with its love of autumn, love for friends and family, and love for good food shared — to some delicious recipes.
A foodie friend posted an article about Socca and Cecina to the Food Traditions and Rituals tribe on Tribe.net earlier this year. Both Socca and Cecina are batter-based pancakes made from chickpea flour. They originate from the region along the northern Mediterranean Sea from Nice and Genova (Genoa) to Tuscany.
Because of the type of flour used, Cecina is gluten-free and high in protein (and also carbs). I add a little cheese to mine, but that’s certainly optional, and it’s a great vegan appetizer or accompaniment to a main dish.
1 cup garbanzo flour
1 ½ cup water
3 tablespoons olive oil plus one tablespoon for the pan
½ teaspoon salt
freshly ground pepper
2 tablespoons chopped herbs — oregano, rosemary, and thyme are wonderful (optional)
½ cup shredded Asiago cheese (optional)
1 tomato sliced into ¼” discs (optional)
Preheat oven to 400°F
Oil heavy cast-iron skillet.
Place skillet into oven to heat up.
Mix other ingredients thoroughly to create a thick batter. Pour into hot pan. It should be ¼ to ½-inch thick. Immediately return to hot oven. Cook until golden, approximately 20 to 30 minutes.
(Tomato option) Place tomato slices on the bottom of the pan, and place back in the oven for a few minutes before adding the batter. Increase the cooking time by about 5 minutes to account for the extra moisture from the tomatoes.
Drizzle with olive oil, cut into wedges and serve immediately as a snack or appetizer.
One of my favorite veggies comes out to play in the middle of autumn, and hangs around until spring has almost returned. I’m talking about butternut squash. I love that it sometimes looks like a goofy bowling pin, and has a sweet but not cloying flavor that lends itself greatly to soups, pastas, and occasionally desert.
This is my version of butternut squash soup. I like to add peanut butter to round out the flavor and add a bit of protein. This also thickens the soup, and I feel that it smooths out the texture.
1 butternut squash (about 2lbs)
64 oz veggie stock (home made or from a tetra-pak)
1/2 cup peanut butter
3 cloves garlic, chopped
1 finger of ginger, peeled and chopped
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 teaspoons salt
fresh ground black pepper
Preheat the oven to 375°F
Cut the top off the squash, and split lengthwise. Scrape the seeds out, and save them for later. I usually put the guts into a bowl, and add cold water to help clean them off. Place the squash flat side down on a lightly oiled baking sheet and place in the oven for 45 minutes.
In a large soup pot add the oil. When it heats up, throw in the garlic and ginger. Sauté until soft and golden. Add the veggie stock, reserving one cup. Turn the heat to low or turn it off for a bit while the squash cooks.
When the timer dings, take the squash out of the oven, and allow it to cool for a few minutes. Scrape the flesh from the skin, and transfer to a food processor or blender. Add the peanut butter and cup of stock that we saved earlier. Purée until smooth.
Transfer the peanut butter squash purée to the soup pot. Add the salt, and bring to a boil, stirring to incorporate it all. When it hits a boil, bring it down to a slow simmer, and hold it for 10 minutes.
While the soup is heating up, take the cleaned seeds from the squash and toast them in the toaster oven or on the stovetop in a cast iron skillet. Keep an eye on them so that they don’t burn.
When the soup is ready, serve it up in bowls, and garnish with the toasted seeds and a healthy amount of black pepper to taste.
First We Take Manhattan (Then We Take Berlin)
As the season changes and we pass the autumnal equinox, we begin to eschew the lighter adult beverages for something a little darker and psychologically warmer. The title comes from the classic song by Leonard Cohen, and it’s really just a “perfect” Manhattan.
1 part sweet Vermouth (red)
1 part dry or extra dry Vermouth (white)
3 parts bourbon or rye
2 dashes Angostura bitters
Chill a cocktail glass. In a shaker, add all the ingredients, and shake well for 40 seconds. Pour into the glass, and garnish with a cherry or an olive. (I like the olive because its brininess takes the edge off the sweetness of the Manhattan). Enjoy while listening to I’m Your Fan, the 1991 Leonard Cohen tribute album that features The Pixies, R.E.M., Nick Cave and The Bad Seeds, John Cale, and others.