Monday, November 24, 2008

Roasted Acorn Squash


Acorn squash. This showed up in the Good Food Box like a month ago and I'm only now getting around to using it. That's the great thing about winter squash - stored properly, they will keep up to six months. Hence their popularity once it gets cold.

Two weeks after the acorn squash showed up we got a butternut squash and made soup out of that. The poor acorn squash sat green and lonely (aside from a few dried-out ears of corn we forgot about, oops) on our windowsill until I decided to roast it for my dinner tonight. It was a welcome distraction (among many other distractions) from the essay I have to write for tomorrow.

For this recipe all you need is a squash, butter, brown sugar, cinnamon and nutmeg. If I had it I would have also used maple syrup, alas all I have is the sugary table syrup crap and that is no good. In terms of equipment you need a big sharp knife, a spoon, and a baking pan. Preheat your oven to 400 degrees and get going!

The hardest parts of roasting squash are a) cutting the squash, and b) waiting for it to be done. The squash needs to be cut in half. Be very, very careful doing this because otherwise you will chop something off yourself and end up waiting even longer for the squash while you're in the ER. Knives are sharp and squashes have hard rinds.

So you chop the thing in half. Then you have to scoop out all the guts and seeds. If you like you can toast the seeds and eat them. I am not a fan of squash seeds so I did not.

Next you cut lines all along the insides in a criss-crossing formation. It's all pretty and stuff and lets the liquids get right inside the squash. Then you start putting the tasty stuff in.

Put the squash into the baking pan and throw a few spoonfuls of butter and a few spoonfuls of brown sugar into the cavity of the squash.

Sprinkle the halves with cinnamon and nutmeg. If you had maple syrup this would be where you drizzle it all over.

Pour a few cups of water into the pan, then put it in the oven for an hour and a half. This is the annoying waiting bit. But soon your house will start to smell really, really good.

When it is done you will have some extremely hot squash that look kinda like this.

Oh baby. Take spoonfuls of the melted butter in the middle and drizzle them over the rest of the squash.

Carefully remove the squash from the pan onto a plate (I used a spatula underneath and tongs on the sides to stabilise each half). Let cool a bit, then devour straight from the shell. Dip any bits that didn't get butter on them into the middle because oh goodness does it ever taste better that way.

When it is all over you will have something like this.


Friday, November 14, 2008

yummy: an introduction

So there's part of me that really wants to blog more, but these days I do not have the energy or interest to blog about politics (especially SCSU politics, I'm not touching those with a ten foot pole), therefore, I am going to be blogging about the one thing that has been keeping me somewhat sane this semester: cooking.

These days I have been swamped. It's my last year of university and I am finishing up with three classes each semester. I work two jobs, sit on three committees, and am applying to graduate school. Earlier this semester I played intramural rugby as well. Very busy. I spend most of the time chained to my desk and it's honestly not a lot of fun. It certainly helps that I love my courses, and that I'm excited about graduate school (though also petrified, of whether or not I'll get in, of how much this is costing me, of how much it will cost me to go...), but honestly, it's really hard. This is where the food comes in.

When I was younger, I didn't like cooking. Or at least, I didn't like the idea of cooking. I had this vibe where I tried to reject things I saw as girly, or feminine, and cooking was one of them. There was also the shunning of dresses, the abhorrence of pink (which continues), and so forth, though to be honest this whole business did not make a hell of a lot of sense because I still played with Barbies for a long time, and I did the makeup thing in grade seven. Anyway. Kitchen stuff was a no-go, unless it was microwaving something or making cookies with my mom. I could scramble my own eggs, that was a big deal. My sister and brother forbade me from making pancakes, though (I undercooked them). But that was about it for me and food.

However, early on in high school, I think in grade ten, I wanted to bring in cookies to class for some reason, for Christmas I think. And I made them myself, which I hadn't done before, with the same recipe Mom always made, which I will not share with you because she'll kill me*. Aaaaaaand I kinda got hooked. And I made cookies a lot more over the next few years. And when I started at UTSC I became known as The Cookie Lady on the old SCSU forum because I talked about my cookies. And we had cookie parties, forum meet-ups where we'd all bring cookies and it was good. 

So yeah, baking pulled me into its sweet, delicious vortex and I have not come out since. 

Cooking, however, has been a bit different. I got into cooking a bit back in second year when I was living with my dad, because he and my stepmom love cooking and love baking. Seriously, you should see the look my dad gets when he talks about cooking, his face just lights up and he gets all excited and lots of hand gestures and all that. They taught me some stuff that was very useful when I moved out and lived with a bunch of friends in a house across the street from campus for third year. At that point I was regularly making food for myself that wasn't prepackaged, although I still ate a fair bit of Kraft Dinner from time to time (but with broccoli in it! Yum!). It wasn't until the following summer that I really got into it. 

The summer after third year I lived in a different house near campus, with my boyfriend at the time, Andy. It was just the two of us in this huge house, and it was a rather lovely summer, me working on campus, Andy writing and doing odd jobs (he's American, at the time he didn't have clearance to work in Canada) - and cooking. Andy loves to cook, almost as much as my dad. He is also extraordinarily good at grocery shopping on a very limited budget. One of his jobs was helping a book dealer move, and he got a whole bunch of cookbooks from her. We ate well and he taught me a lot that I took with me to residence when I moved there last year to take a position as a Residence Advisor.

I took up most of the kitchen in that townhouse, I admit it. Most of the drawers and cupboards had my stuff. I cooked a lot. I baked a lot. Ohhhh did I ever bake a lot. I got really into baking a huge range of things that year, from fancy cupcakes to delicious cookies to, most notably, cheesecake (including the deep dark chocolate cheesecake pictured here). I also made truffles, and squares, and various loaves.... yeah. Yum. That Christmas all I wanted was baking gear. I also learned to make dinner. Dad gave me his pasta sauce recipe and a lasagne dish for my birthday. Since then I haven't bought pre-made pasta sauce, and I make great lasagne. No more Kraft Dinner. 

This year I'm getting deeper into these disciplines. I found this website called SuperCook, where you keep a list of all the ingredients you have and it tells you what you can make with them - awesome. I bake regularly, especially for special occasions. Over the past month I have even been baking bread, from scratch, in the oven, and it's good. My roommate Laura asked me if it was my life goal to make the apartment smell good at all times - sounds like a good goal to me. As well, my other roommate Jen and I get a Good Food Box from FoodShare every other week, which is always interesting and challenging. FoodShare puts together these boxes of local/organic/fair trade produce that they get in bulk and sell to the community at low prices. The small box that Jen and I get is $12 and lasts us just over a week or so. The catch is, you don't choose what's in the box - you get whatever's in season, and whatever it is FoodShare has on hand. That means we have had the opportunity to experiment and try a lot of things we hadn't before, like leeks and Swiss chard. Thankfully the box also comes with recipes! Unfortunately very few of them involve the giant heads of romaine lettuce that we seem to get in every box, and neither of us are terribly in to making lots of salads, so that often goes wilty and it makes us sad. But! We have made some delicious things. Potato leek soup, spinach & broccoli quiche,
squash soup, and lots of other yummy stuff. It is much fun.

Yes, it's hard work. It does take a fair bit of time, and yes I am still incredibly busy. But you know what? I deserve good food! So I'm going to make it! The process of making something is really therapeutic, and there's a great sense of accomplishment at the end. With all the other stuff I have going on, to take the time to make something good for myself, to chop, stir, mix, knead, saute, whatever, feels really, really good. It is my time out and my self-care - it doesn't feel like work at all. Being in the kitchen has really grounded me and kept me sane over the past few months. 

Aaanyhoo. There was more I was going to say but I haven't thought through it all yet, and it's getting late and I need sleep. So this is all for tonight. 

*Note to Mom: the recipe is in a cookbook, it's not all that secret! :-P