Friday, February 10, 2017

chili roasted acorn squash with kale stem pesto

I can think of a myriad reasons you should read Tamar Adler's book Everlasting Meal , and I haven't even finished reading it yet! I will be very soon, though, seeing as I have read 75% of it in under a week. That's saying a lot these days...I used to be an avid reader, but I have admittedly read fewer and fewer books over the years. I blame social media and it's erosion of my attention span. But this book hooked me. For one, it's completely in-line with my resolution to waste less food. Adler offers a plethora of practical solutions for frugal yet delicious eating. And it's not just recipes (in fact, there is only 1 or 2 per chapter), the book guides you to think differently about what you have in your fridge and pantry, so that you can come up with your own solutions and culinary inventions. 

But I think the main reason I'm digging this book so much is the writing. It's downright poetic at times, and has re-ignited my love for both reading and cooking. Check out some excerpts (large segments of the book are available at the Guardian's website here):

"Save the lovely green murk from the Swiss chard pan to warm the Swiss chard tomorrow, which will be happier for the chance to spend time with yesterday’s more experienced cooking." 
"All ingredients need salt. The noodle or tender spring pea would be narcissistic to imagine it already contained within it all the perfection it would ever need. We seem, too, to fear that we are failures at being tender and springy if we need to be seasoned. It’s not so: it doesn’t reflect badly on the pea, or the person, that either might need a bit of help to make the most of itself." 
"Let smells in. Let the hot tarmac of summer remind you of a meal you first ate after landing in a hot destination, when the ground smelled like it was melting. Let a salty aroma remind you of a paper basket of fried clams you ate once, squeezing them with lemon as you walked on a boardwalk by the sea. Let it reach your deeper interest. When you smell the sea, and remember the basket of hot fried clams, and the sound of skee-balls knocking against each other, let it help you love what food can do, which is to tie this moment to the past."
Basically, Adler picks up where MFK Fisher lives off in How To Cook a Wolf (another must-read!). They both urge us, with beautiful language, to use as much of your ingredients as you can; save scraps and bones for stocks, re-invent your leftovers, be creative with what you have on hand. What I had on hand this week was the stems and scraps of leaves from a large bunch of kale that I had bought to make salad for another meal. I know the stems are flavorful and nutritious as much as the leaves, but they are kinda tough, and most recipes have you discard them. Adler recommends them boiled and made into a pesto. So good! I went with Mexican-leaning flavors to go with sweet and spicy roasted Acorn squash.

Kale Stem Pesto
-1.5 cups chopped kale stems
-handful of chopped kale leaves or other fresh leafy green
-1/4 cup roasted acorn squash seeds (see below)
-3 cloves garlic, peeled
-zest and juice from 1 lime
-1/4 teaspoon cumin
-1/4-1/2 cup olive oil
-salt & pepper to taste

Put the stems in a small pot and cover with water. Add salt to taste and bring to a boil. Lower to a simmer and let cook about 10 minutes until the stems are just tender but still bright green. Drain and let cool a bit. Place in a food processor with the rest of the pesto ingredients except the oil. Pulse 4 or 5 times to get everything chopped up. With the processor on, slowly drizzle in the olive oil until you get the consistency you want. I went with a thicker pesto. 

Roasted Acorn squash Seeds
remove and rinse the seeds from 1 acorn squash. Pat dry and toss with about a Tablespoon of olive oil and a pinch of salt. Roast in a 300ºF oven, stirring halfway through, until just starting to look golden. 

Chili Roasted Acorn Squash
-1 Acorn squash, seeds removed (see above for roasting instructions), sliced into 1/2-inch thick half-moon slices.
-3 cloves garlic, peeled and halved
-1 teaspoon chili powder
-2 Tablespoons Olive oil
-Juice from 1/2 lime
-salt and pepper

Heat oven to 400ºF with sheet pan in the oven. Toss the squash slices and garlic with the oil, chili powder, lime juice and salt to taste. When the oven reaches temperature, pour the squash onto the pre-heated sheet pan. Spread in a single layer and roast for 20 minutes, flipping halfway through. Serve with kale pesto, fresh radishes and a sprinkling of the roasted seeds.

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