RISING SUN - It might be because we are almost a year deep into a pandemic or it might be the cold weather, or it might just be the fact you can only eat tacos so many nights. But, I’ve been attempting to turn over a new leaf, and that leaf is cooking.
Longtime readers will know that I am no Galloping Gourmet. Nor am I even a Poor Man’s Julia Childs. I am barely a step above a college dorm hot plate cook on most good days.
When Chasca and I first got together, the swoon and delight of a new relationship caused me to experiment a bit with different foods to try to impress him. This caused him to suffer through an extremely spicy potato-and-pineapple curry as well as an extremely undercooked cheesy sort of casserole dish. I managed to secure his love however with a gigantic platter of nachos and pasta salad. Luckily for me, he had no problems taking the reins on cooking and I have no problems picking up the phone and ordering takeout.
But over the past month-and-a-half or so, I’ve really gotten into experimenting with an old faithful standby, the recipe.
I’m not sure why it never occurred to me before to actually follow a recipe-only half joking here. I have in my life consulted many recipes, but often, never following step by step or reading it completely before slopping my dish together.
One particularly funny aside regarding recipes comes from when I was a 19-year-old living in Madison. It was my dear friend Paddy’s birthday and I had decided I would make him a carrot cake. I rode my bike down to the Willy Street Co-op, where I was able to consult the house copy of ‘The Joy Of Cooking’ (a book I now own, thanks entirely to editor Charley Preusser.) I scrawled out a list of ingredients out from the ‘Joy’ and set down the aisles.
This was the pre-smart phone era at least for me, so I should note I had no access to the internet to reconsult the recipe once I got home. I gathered up the supplies and spent what meager amount of money I had on them. I loaded up my bicycle basket and took off.
I arrived at the home we shared, broken into three small apartments and set to work in Paddy’s apartment. Our other friends and neighbors gathered around in the tiny one-room efficiency watching me set to work. They all seemed to look at me with admiration, as though I knew exactly what I was doing by heart.
Perhaps, they thought, being as I was from the country, I was also like some type of pioneer woman. Born with the knowledge to gut a fish, tan a hide and bake the perfect carrot cake all before dinnertime.
Magically, between all of us young wild kids someone had a baking vessel for me to dump this concoction into. But, as you may have guessed. Just tossing a bunch of ingredients and saying a prayer to the baking Gods is not how you have a successful cake venture.
After what I assumed to be the prescribed amount of time, I pulled the cake out of the oven. It weighed approximately 100 pounds–which I thought was normal. Perhaps I accidently made a pound cake, but it will certainly still be good right? No. It tasted like old carrots and raw flour.
My friends all tried it, but they weren’t as nice as a Young Chasca In Love, and came up with a few comical choice words for the whole thing.
Part of my whole trying new recipes things has been inspired by taking up a Winter CSA Share from Harmony Valley Farms. We’ve gotten a whole menagerie of root and unusual vegetables. So my dear readers, as part of this journey that is the From the Valley Column, I’ll leave you with the recipe that has most recently impressed me the most. I’ll add that I have made some adaptations for supplies I had on hand but by following this as closely as possible I found a new dish that is not only easy, but made me gush with pride. Which, if you’re my friend on social media, you’re probably already tired of hearing about it. But here it goes…
The Butternut Squash and Caramelized Onion Galette (adapted by me from a recipe originally posted on www.smittenkitchen.com)
The original recipe calls for a homemade pastry crust. But as you read in the middle part of this column, I’m no baker. So I used a premade crust from The Marketplace. For the filling, the recipe calls for one small butternut. I have used both Carnival Squash and Honey Nut squash for this and both worked great. One large onion, halved and thinly sliced in half-moons. One teaspoon of salt, a pinch of sugar, quarter teaspoon of cayenne (which I omitted in the overall dish because of kids. But served on my own). One cup of grated mozzarella cheese (it calls for a three quarters cup Fontina Cheese, but that is hard to find and I like more cheese, doesn’t everybody?) and one and a half teaspoons chopped fresh sage leaves (I just sprinkle rubbed sage in there, because again it’s what I had.)
Chop the squash into half inch diced pieces and toss with olive oil and roast for a half an hour(or until tender) with half a teaspoon of salt at 375 degrees. While the squash is roasting, melt butter in a heavy skillet and cook your onions on low with the remaining half teaspoon of salt, and pinch of sugar until soft and lightly brown. I rushed this step and they never got fully caramelized, but were still quite good. This is also when you’d add your cayenne, if that's your thing. Turn up your oven to 500 degrees. Mix roasted squash, onions, cheese and the sage together in a bowl.Lay your pie crust out flat, and mound the mixture up in the middle. Fold the crust edges up and over the outer rim of the squash pile. The center will be open and will get even more roasty and delicious. Bake for 30-40 minutes (or however long your boxed pie crust suggests.) Let it cool for five minutes, cut and serve, and prepare to wow your whole family with this amazing seasonal dish!