46. Summer Squash with onions and tomatoes

(a repost from the delightful days of summer. sigh.)

 

So, the GoSun, that magical looking tube with the shiny sides, makes food. I have proof now.

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To ease into all the hubbub, I cut up a yellow squash, green onions, and cherry tomatoes, enough to fill the long tube but not over fill it. I spritzed it with veggie oil spray and put a generous shaking of italian seasoning on it, and in the tube it went!

I’m quite pleased with the result, which was more like steamed than roasted after a little over an hour in medium sunshine. Next time, I will angle the dish toward the sun better, as well as add a bit more on the salt-and-pepper side of spices, but overall, a rousing success.

In other news, my friend N is thinking of holding a meatball competition, to have us all make and try different kinds of meatballs (meatless and meat-ful)… any favorite meatball recipes? I have one from a previous commenter but more are always welcome, the weirder the better!

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Roasted Butternut Squash Seeds

I have always liked a good toasted pumpkin seed, so when I started realizing that my butternut squash plant was producing like crazy, I googled whether or not their seeds were good to eat. Seeds are so nutricious, and I now had so many of them!

The hardest part about this recipe is certainly the acquiring of clean seeds from the mountains of orange slime inside each squash. This website made me feel so much more sane as I was doing it, and includes a recipe for the seeds themselves: http://toriavey.com/how-to/2012/10/all-about-butternut-squash-how-to-peel-seed-slice-and-prepare/ I doubt I would have attempted this at all, if it weren’t for the advice to submerge the seeds in water, which was essential to getting the slimy orange goo off.

I used paprika, salt, and garlic once I had tossed the seeds with butter, and toasted them until there was a decent bit of char on them. I thought, as I often do, that I might have ruined them, but they were light, crisp – really much better than pumpkin seeds, which tend to retain an internal chewiness. These were like popcorn, in the sense of being completely crisp and airy.

I packaged them up in a tupperware container and accidentally left them in my car on the way to work, where I discovered that they are the perfect snack for when you are going home but you are already hungry after work. I would eat enough to be less ravenous  but stop in time to still want my dinner once I got home – a rare and wonderful combination. The allure of fast food always goes down when I have some kind of snack, and these fit the bill perfectly. Like popcorn, I also enjoyed them while watching movies with Husband. Overall, a great and easy treat if you are making butternut squash anyway!

Uexpected Garden Delight: The Squash in a Tree

Today, I share with you the silly story of the butternut squash vine that crawled 20 feet along our fence line and then weaseled its way 7 feet up a tree. The best part? That, of all places, was where it decided to  deposit a new, plump butternut squash. Gardening is full of surprises like this, more unhappy than happy, so I’m pretty thrilled this morning to have squash gently swaying from the branches of the tree in our yard.

How has gardening surprised you lately? I’m intrigued to know if other plants climb trees. 🙂

Seasons Changing, Seeds for the Future

My friend N recently mentioned that she likes having two new years, because she’s still in school and gets a new school year and a regular new year. My job operates on the school year calendar, and so I get that too. Strangely enough, the weather has gotten the first whispers of cool in it the past couple of days, and school begins tomorrow. The tomatoes are still coming in strong, though less strong than last week, and two more squash are still on the vines, but five have already come in. We’re past peak summer, we’re into ebbs and drips of remaining heat.

I’m excited to pull out the tomato vines when they stop yielding and I hope to put in a few more spinach plants to make salads for us till first frost. I’m excited to save the squash seeds I’m painstakingly rinsing and use them in the spring to create another lush bed of vines that will, eventually, be pulled out so that Husband can actually mow the yard again. I’m excited to drop a few more carrot seeds into the ground and just see if maybe, some of them will grow.

But I’m also pretty happy, today, with where I am. I haven’t been good at that, most of my life, but gardening, especially what I would call a bounteous harvest season, has taught me that all the steps seem to be joy-full. I don’t need to be looking to fall crops to be happy, or looking to winter to construction of a window box for herbs, or to spring for new sprouts. Now is good enough – soup on the stove is good enough, the heavy smell of curry and squash mingling. The hum of bugs outside, and the knowledge that tomorrow will be a very busy day, are all enough. I’ll enjoy these first gulps of fall weather and not hurry myself to whatever comes next.

Basil/Oregano Mashed Butternut Squash

I’ve become a big fan of dips – give me a variety pack of hummus flavors, or a savory baba ganoush, or a pile of guacamole any day and I’ll lay into it. I wasn’t expecting that butternut squash would make such a fantastic dip, though; rather than a recipe, today I present something I affectionately call a “mess-cipe” – something that easily could have turned out terribly as an experiment in the kitchen but which instead turned out delicious!

I was eager to roast up the butternut squash, so I added basil, oregano, and some last sprigs of rosemary that I had handy but after it finished cooking I kinda… left it in the oven to cool? I went about my afternoon, busy, and then came back to cooled-off, gooey squash. It was easy to separate the chunks from their skin, but then I wasn’t sure what I was going to do with it. My thought was “Pasta sauce,” along the lines of some you might have seen used on “butternut squash mac and cheese.”

I didn’t have a lot of cheese available, but I added cheese and milk, and used the food processor to mix it up. I made Husband a bowl of pasta and covered it in the sauce, which he vouched was sweet but flavorful, a perfectly fine dinner. What I noticed, though, was that since it was all fairly cool, it was really firmer than a sauce… more like a dip.

Instead of serving myself pasta, I dug a tortilla chip into the mixture, and crunched into it… PERFECT. While not a normal dip for tortilla chips, the mixture was too smooth for me to want it on something else soft like pasta, so I got the satisfying crunch and also the yummy flavor of butternut squash. I cannot give you exact measurements, but I definitely recommend that you try something like “mashed butternut squash” and have chips or crackers with it – the flavor is unusual but the texture is perfect for a dip.

A Day of Plenty: Harvesting Squash and Tomatoes

Husband has been pushing patience at me, because online I read that for butternut squash to be ready to harvest, you have to wait until the stem had died a little; that’s the only time when it’s truly done with nutrients. He said to wait to harvest ours until that ripeness level.

However… they’ve been that creamy orange color that indicates ripeness for more than a week now! I harvested our first two, one that weighed 2 pounds and one that topped out at almost 5, and I set about preparing the first for roasting. As soon as I cut into it, a sweet smell and a bunch of water came out – it was the juiciest butternut squash ever! I was quite sticky-fingered by the time I finished cleaning it out, cutting it up and getting it into the oven, but so happy. And glad that, this time anyway, my haste was alright. I’ll wait longer for the other, because it will take me a while to process the 5 pound squash.

Also, our tomato jungle is so dense that it’s hard to reach the back rows, which are up against the neighbor’s fence. Yesterday, I braved the spiders and the mosquitos to get in and get all the hard-t0-reach tomatoes, yielding me about 25 cherry tomatoes and 15 of the San Marzanos. I’ve found that my friends J, S, and B love cherry tomatoes so I’m not freezing any more of those, but for now, my plan is to keep freezing San Marzanos until I have enough pounds to merit a day of canning. I know I don’t need to try canning, but I think it’ll be fun. I’ll bug a friend or two to help me, and we’ll make sure we have the tools we need, and everyone will go home with jars of tomato sauce (simple sauce, with plenty of lemon juice to keep it acidified against botulism!). I’m rather excited.

Finally, I had given up entirely on our pepper plants, but two lovely things happened: the only pepper plant I knew of now has 3 teeny tiny peppers on it, so I’m hoping for lots of sun and rain to get those swelled up and beautiful, and there are at least another 10 flowers that I can dream about turning into bell peppers. Also, I noticed a very small plant with the same kind of leaves as the pepper, which I hope means we’ve got another, late-bloomer pepper emerging. Last year, Husband moved into the house in September and was pulling peppers into early October, so I am hopeful that we’ll have a long, luxurious harvest. It’s not orderly and perfect, but just dragging in the bowl of tomatoes every day gives me more joy than I ever thought raising a little bit of food could.

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Sister’s Gouda and Butternut Squash Casserole

So the main stop on my road trip this summer has been to visit my sister, and last night, she cooked for us! I realized that I appreciate more than ever the space of my own kitchen, and it has translated into giving my sister space to cook the way she wants. She cooks like a person who works in a real kitchen: quick and high-heat and occasionally messy but always producing stunning food.

She made us a variation on this recipe: https://www.blueapron.com/recipes/baked-butternut-squash-gouda-pasta-with-brussels-sprouts-chestnut-breadcrumbs which she got from her Blue Apron subscription. With us, she substituted a few things: chestnuts were replaced with slivered almonds, the spice blend was her own (lots of rosemary and garlic), and there were no brussel sprouts. I know someday I will grow up enough to like brussel sprouts, but this day was not that day.

The result was a brimming full casserole dish with truly wonderful, grown-up macaroni-and-cheese feel: it had sweet bits with the squash, savory gouda and parmesan, and just the right crunch with the almonds. If I made it, I’d probably have done a little more sauce so it could fill each rigatoni tube, but honestly, her way was healthier so I should probably stick with her genius.

Watching my sister cook made me realize how far I’ve come: my sister has been interested in high quality cooking for a long time, but my experience with it is still new; these six months of blogging have taught me a lot though! I’m pretty excited to be rounding the bend on half a year cooking and blogging, and it’s neat to measure myself against someone whose cooking will always be better than mine, but who I now can almost keep up with in terms of knowledge of techniques, even if my results will always be less magical (at least a little bit). I am definitely trying this at home though!