Monday, April 2, 2012

Butternut Squashes and Books

Recipes from Butternut Squash Days.

On March 1 I realized I still had 4 farmer's market butternut squashes. How many did I buy in September you ask? Well, 4. Though I am rounding. I do not really like butternut squashes. But I know I should. And I have had some great soups in organic markets (also bell pepper bisque! Need to try making that soon, when Butternut Squash Days ends soon). So I vowed to learn this winter how to properly prepare these little fruits, and then put off doing it until I ate everything else and became afraid they were going bad.

So, I prepared a decent butternut squash soup and think I have identified my error in 3 straight winters: cloves. I do not like cloves, but they cost so much, I keep using them as a gourmet spice. I have now decided cloves are antagonists to butternut squashes. Next I tried a chili, fearing it even as it smelled delicious and even as I tasted it. And it was...delicious. Very pleased and am making it again this week with my last squash. Also, it may be the only chili I ever make again, and was very filling. Even meat obsessives I know agreed (the kind of people who apologize shamefully when they serve a meal without meat) Another good recipe is curried lentils and butternut squash chunks. Both recipes are included below:

Butternut Squash Chili

Peel your squash and then dice up into large 3/4 inch or so chunks. Boil with some Anasazi beans or any other dried beans you desire for 1 hour or so. Then add: 1 can diced tomatoes (or fresh if available), 1 can pinto beans, 1 can butter beans, 1 can black beans, 1 can kidney beans, 1/2 small can tomato paste, 1/3 bell pepper diced, 1/2 jalapeno diced, 1/2 anaheim pepper diced, ground white pepper, touch of black pepper, 1/8 cup or less brown sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, black olives, corn kernels (1/8 cup or so), olive oil, touch of red wine vinegar, 1 clove garlic minced, 1/4 cup dry quinoa. Simmer for 45 minutes to 1 more hour, until quinoa has burst open.

Curried Lentils And More

Wash and boil 2 cups lentils with 1 peeled and diced butternut squash about 45 minutes, then add 1 cup blackeyed peas (if frozen; if canned or precooked then add later so they do not dissolve into mash) and go another 45 minutes at a simmer. Add 1/2 cup kidney beans (from can; if using dried, then start with the lentils and squash), and mix in red curry paste to taste. 2 teaspoons may do it. I think I used 4 and it was pretty spicy. Top with cashews when serving. This last touch adds fat to the meal you will want to stay full and also really puts the flavor over the top. If you add while cooking they will get soggy.

As for books, well briefly as promised once in an old post, I will tell you of Samuel Pepys. He eats a lot, and his diary is interesting periodically. For instance where he whines for sympathy about his wrist so sore he can barely write. Why is it sore? Why from beating the chamberboy until the switch broke and his wrist near fell off of course. Not that it did the little hellian any good. Pepys is sure he practically enjoyed his hiding out of sheer malignancy. And also, he has a lot of affairs. And he sometimes needs consolation from friends for beating his wife so bad he fears her looks will suffer for it and other men will think less of him for having an ugly wife.

A better book is the Essays of Montaigne, often simply for their folklore. Girls who play hopscotch too aggressively are in danger of shaking loose their inner boy parts which will fall out of their mmhmmhummhuh, and then they will be boys. Its science. But he is a good man for his age, one of consideration, balance, merit, and intelligence. Always witty and entertaining, he is said to have invented the essay because he did not like any of the more stylized and formal rhetorical forms.

Better still is the exquisite, and adorable "How Carrots Won the Trojan War" a book I have been milking for fear of the day when I finish it, for now several months. The introduction is if not plagarism from Micheal Polin, than clearly influenced by him, but no matter. The meat of the book is fine stuff. While the title story is silly and pretty much just a sentence (and who would call a sentence a story: other than Hemingway's famous and incredible 6 word short story- look it up), but the book mixes science with anecdote, humor, history, and everything else. Learn how peas nearly swung world history in 1775, and how growers produce massive pumpkins, what vegetables Jefferson the president was taunted over by his neighbor, which vegetables were considered aphrodisiacs and fed to French kings by their mistresses (hint: remember that for a long time medicine trusted in similarity as remedy) and get this sort of satirical but also doting quotation: (on a cucumber brine) "According to the Athenians, consumption of it explained the Spartans' legendary bravery in battle; black broth was so awful anyone compelled to eat it was willing to die." and "Whatever one's personal opinion of the potato, almost everyone agreed that it was a good idea to feed them to somebody else." Highly recommended, and with cute illustrations.

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