October 7, 2008

autumn, or anatomy of a squash

In the Michigan of my childhood the crisp air and turning leaves of October could only mean one thing: Halloween.

A trip to my elementary school’s gym, parents in tow. The terrifying basketball court turned, for an evening, into a pumpkin patch. Neat orange rows from hoop to hoop. The annual pumpkin sale.

Three Pumpkins. Every year, three. A tall skinny one for Mom, a big fat on for Dad, to sit on our front steps like Bert and Ernie. Me, hunting, searching, always seeking the Perfect Pumpkin. Odd in shape, a vegetable that spoke to me.

Back home with newspapers strewn across the kitchen floor it’s carving time. First; you have to cut off the top, on an angle of course, and with a notch so it won’t fall in later. Then: scoop out the guts. This is child’s work if there ever was, arms up to the elbow, no- the shoulder, in sticky, slimy, slippery bright orange pumpkin guts.

Mom carved hers with a simple geometric face. Dad tried something imposing. The budding artist agonized over a new, avant-garde pumpkin face each year. Later, I carved all three. One memorable year the huge pumpkin ate the screaming little pumpkin with relish as a strawberry-shaped alien pumpkin watched through green glowing eye slits.

To end the late evening, one of a very few school nights I stayed up late, Mom produced a tray of fresh, salty warm pumpkin seeds. A once a year treats for autumn.

True autumn, for me, began with the carving of pumpkins. As my masterpieces sat on the stoop, the squirrels sampled their flesh, distorting my handy work. The night frosts made the faces wilt and melt, more ghoul-like several days after All Hallows Eve.

sweet squash soup

1 butternut squash
1 sweet apple
1 small onion
2 cups cashew milk or water
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 tsp cinnamon
olive oil
kosher salt

Preheat oven to 350 F

Prepare the squash by cutting it in half and removing the pulp and seeds. Save the seeds from the pulp for roasting.

Lightly oil the cut edges of the squash and place them on a baking sheet. Bake for 30-45 min depending on the size of the squash.

In a heavy pan saute the onions until translucent. Add chopped apple and continue to cook until the apple is very soft.

When the squash is cooked, carefully scoop the flesh out with a spoon.

In a blender puree small batches of squash, apple mixture, and fluid. Put each small batch into a medium size sauce pan.

When all the vegetables are pureed, add the cinnamon and vanilla to the pot. Stir and simmer to combine flavors. Add extra water to change the consistency.

roasted pumpkin seeds
Preheat the oven to 200 F

remove all the pulp from the seeds

soak the seeds in a bowl with salt water

pour off the water and arrange the seeds on a baking sheet

bake for 2 hours and allow to cool.

No comments: