Roasted Acorn Squash

It’s been done before. Crack open any food magazine, scroll through any blog with a bit of fall inspiration, scan the list of recipes that comes with your weekly CSA (you lucky dog, you!) and you’ll see them: multitudes of preparations for squashes, gourds, pumpkins – the fine, filling fruit of the fall.

I wrote that for alliteration’s sake, but guess what – “botanically speaking, squash is a fruit, being the receptacle for the plant’s seeds.”  And who says Wikipedia isn’t a viable reference, besides every professor I ever had? (Actually, I think it’s getting more and more reliable as the years go by. Do you contribute or edit Wikipedia articles? With solid footnoted resources? If so, welcome into my open arms, personal hero!)

You’ve probably made it a half a dozen times this fall, but if not, please let me impress upon you the ease of preparing acorn squash for dinner. Five minutes hands-on time, and then the oven does the rest of the work.

First, when purchasing check for an orange spot on the outer surface – that’s where the squash sat on the ground and it’s a sign of ripeness. No orange spot could mean it’s not quite ripe.  Buy organic if you can, because the rind is edible and an excellent source of fiber.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Rinse the outside of the squash, then carefully cut it in half from stem to point. Scoop out the seeds and stringy flesh with a spoon (a grapefruit spoon works especially well here). Place the halves on a rimmed baking sheet.  Fill each squash cavity with a knob of butter, a tablespoon of brown sugar, a sprinkle of salt, and maybe some exotic spice. (I have about two lifetime’s supply of Shawarma spice from an overzealous shopping trip at an Armenian grocer, so that’s what went in mine).

Some recipes suggest adding a quarter inch of water to the rimmed baking sheet to keep things moist. I’ve done this sometimes and not others, but it does seem to help keep the butter/sugar mixture from sticking if it bubbles over.  Cover the squash halves loosely with foil, then roast in the oven for about 25 minutes.  Remove the foil, and continue to bake for another 20 minutes or until the squash yields easily to a knife point in its thickest part.

Let cool for a few minutes, then slice and dive in.  If you’re able to wait, you could opt to dice up the cooked squash and toss with cooked quinoa, dried cranberries, and nuts (pistachios, pepitas, walnuts – sky’s the limit!) and a vinaigrette. This makes for a healthy, filling, and colorful lunch, the kind you have to keep far from your desk for fear you’ll eat it before lunchtime, and one that fully invigorates you to get through the afternoon slump.

My go-to vinaigrette recipe: a minced clove of garlic, 1 part apple cider vinegar (or a mix of your favorite vinegars, though balsamic changes the flavor pretty drastically) to 1 part extra virgin olive oil, a teaspoon of whole grain mustard, a drizzle of honey, salt, pepper and a vigorous shaking in an old glass screw-top jar.

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What I Would Give for a Heart-Shaped Swimming Pool

Please Indian Summer, be gone. It’s 79 degrees out. It should be 63, at most.  Sweaters, tweed, corduroys, jeans. I long to usher you out with puffy vests and thicker weight socks.  Hot soups and hard-shell squashes. Briskness.  I have a personal rule not to buy decorative gourds or cook anything pumpkin until I’m at least wearing long sleeves.

Leaves are changing color and people are in tank tops. Even though it’s Boston, and nearly October. Last night we used the window unit A/C in the bedroom, and still woke up sweating. This is almost as bad as when it snows in late April.

I take that last one back.  It’s not worth angering the gods of the everlasting northeast winter. But alright already, where is fall?

Now for a non-sequitur.  This song (and accompanying dance moves) is pretty groovy, and at least if the lady gets hot, she can dive into in a heart-shaped pool, which I’m pretending isn’t a hot tub.  Make way, swan boats, I’m coming in.

“Kiss Them For Me,” Siouxsie and the Banshees

Frozen Hoagies

It may be 60 degrees out in the shade, but when you see a pink and white truck with “FROZEN HOAGIES” hand painted across the front and sides, you darn well better stop. Summer isn’t the only time for ice cream, but if you’re hellbent on it being fall, just check out the seasonal flavors – pumpkin, maple, sweet cream, on a gingerbread or pumpkin cookie.

This truck was a new addition to our SOWA stroll, and the 6-people-deep line piqued our interest.  Up close, the details are perfect – the afore-mentioned hand painted lettering, carefully drawn whiteboard signs with the specials, a precocious, whip-smart little boy entertaining customers and answering questions about the product, the pure Massachusetts accent from his mother taking your order, and behind her, tupperware boxes stacked with tower upon tower of fragrant, homemade cookies.

There were some grumbles from the Mr., who had his heart set on a frozen yogurt all week, but they were quickly stifled after we were handed the sweet cream ice cream on gingerbread cookie monstrosity you see pictured above.  In fact, the first bite elicited the following comment: “F*!@% Pinkberry.” (Rest assured that this was uttered far out of hearing vicinity of the little boy, his mother, and all Frozen Hoagie patrons).

An avowed Twitter hater, the Mr. even said he might have to join it just to follow this truck’s feed and find out where it’s parked.  I’m inclined to agree.