My dear grandmother, who is ninety-two, suggested that I post an entry about killing, cleaning and cooking turtles. She thinks it would be entertaining. And it would, no doubt – but turtle is not high on my list of exotic animals to eat, much less slaughter. She was raised on a farm in rural Tennessee, one of twelve children in a family that was definitely hand to mouth. And they ate things like that. They also ate squirrel, raccoon and possum, all of which she details in a lovely handmade book of old family recipes. It’s a shame that I haven’t posted any of her (tamer) recipes here – but let’s consider this a promise to deliver on that in the near future.
Meanwhile, it is time, I think, to take a little respite from the decadence of the season with a dish that is hearty, warming, filling and nourishing. It’s satisfying to eat something that feels deceptively like comfort food but is actually really, really good for you.
My friend Courtney had me over for supper last week and this is what she made for us. It was so good that I turned around and made it again this week. It’s adapted from a recipe in Mark Bittman’s How to Cook Everything Vegetarian. Thanks Courtney and Mark!
BUTTERNUT SQUASH STEW WITH PEPITAS AND QUINOA
adapted from Mark Bittman’s How to Cook Everything Vegetarian
1 medium butternut squash
1 yellow onion, diced
3 cups chicken or vegetable broth
2 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
1 12 oz. can diced tomatoes
2 Tbsp ground, unsweetened chocolate
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp chipotle powder
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup toasted pumpkin seeds
olive oil for cooking
salt + pepper to taste
2 cups cooked quinoa (brown rice and many other grains would also work)
Here is a great technique for peeling squash gleaned from 101 Cookbooks: Slice each end off the squash. Stand squash upright, and using a sharp vegetable peeler, slowly make your way down the length of the squash to peel the skin. Once peeled, slice the squash into one inch disks. Scoop out seeds with a spoon. Last, cube the squash into one inch pieces.
Warm a large, heavy bottomed pot over a medium flame. When hot, add the oil and allow it to heat. Add about half of the butternut squash – enough to fill but not crowd the bottom of the pan. Quickly toss them in the oil and then let them sit and develop a brown crust, about 5-7 minutes per side. When nicely browned, flip the squash and repeat. When the squash are ready, remove from heat and reserve. Repeat with the remaining squash.
Add the onion and garlic to the pan, adding a little oil if necessary, and cook until soft, about 5 minutes. Stir frequently to prevent garlic from burning.
Add about one cup of the broth and use this to deglaze the pot, scraping anything stuck to the bottom with a wooden spoon. Add the tomatoes with their juices, along with the unsweetened chocolate, cinnamon and chipotle, and stir. Let this simmer for a few minutes, stirring occasionally.
Finally, return the squash to the pot, along with the remaining vegetable or chicken stock and balsamic vinegar, and simmer over a low heat for 15-20 minutes. Add salt and pepper to your liking.
Spoon quinoa into bowls and top with the squash stew. Garnish with pumpkin seeds, and if you desire, some fresh feta as well. Serve piping hot and enjoy!