As a kid, I thought butternut squash was just a mellow, but forgettable, accompaniment for about any roasted meat. Of course, my mother used to buy it already puréed in the frozen foods section at the market. It’s kind of hard to generate excitement over a frozen orange brick of anything.
Back then, I had no appreciation for how amazingly versatile it can be, especially when you start with fresh squash. For instance, I made this Moroccan Spiced Butternut Squash to serve alongside some salmon, and it completely stole the show. I was so disappointed there were no left overs, that I’ve been thinking of other dishes to serve it with ever since.
The minute the leaves start to turn and air becomes crisp, our cravings are reignited. Moist, dense, pumpkin-y, and headily spiced, for a few short months the dark loafs seem to appear everywhere – in break rooms, coffee shops, and school bake sales. Once they’re sliced, they’re gone. Don’t expect anyone to save a piece for you. This isn’t the last chocolate chip cookie, people. If you want some, you better squirrel it away now.
Since almost every home cook has a pumpkin bread recipe, I humbly add my less sweet, more delicately flavored version. No one will know it’s GFV…but that’s not its only secret. Just remember to hide some for yourself.
It’s apple season, and the farmer’s market has so many varieties that you can fill up just tasting a wedge of each. The spectrum of flavor and texture differences amazes me. And the sight of all those baskets filled with Fujis, Gravensteins, Pink Ladies, Jonathans, Jonagolds, and Pippins make me want to bake like nothing else does.
Growing up, I thought there were only two types of apples – Red and Yellow Delicious, and I didn’t much care for either. Then I met Granny. From the first mouthwatering bite, this bright green little tart with the white freckles, won me over. She’s bright, sassy, and makes a mean pie. Who wouldn’t want a granny like that?
Over dinner in Cape Town one evening, the conversation turned to holidays, and one of my friends asked why Americans eat turkey at Thanksgiving. I’m not sure I had a good answer, but the next question had me truly at a loss for words – what does it taste like? It was a good question. I can describe what it taste like with other things, but the meat itself, not so much. Because, it doesn’t taste like chicken…at least not to me.
When I first moved to Italy, I was surprised to see more turkey in the poultry section at the large supermarket than there was chicken. I never imagined it was popular anywhere for anything more than Thanksgiving dinner, a sandwich filling, or as the dry, bland substitute for a fattier, more flavorful meat. Then I was introduced to fresh sage, and it was like I discovered a whole new bird.
I’ve made saltimbocca (cutlets sautéed Roman-style with sage and proscuitto) with veal and chicken, but my absolute favorite way to enjoy it is with turkey. I still don’t know quite how to describe the flavor of turkey by itself, but when it tastes so good this way, why describe anything less?
Saltimbocca di Tacchino alla Romana shown served with fresh gnocchi and pan-fried zucchini.
Once you try fresh, homemade gnocchi, you’ll never want to go back to the dense, store bought kind. The real deal are pillowy, tender dumplings. They are filling without being too heavy. Scared of making your own pasta? Don’t be. This is a great way to start.
Now, how about turning that homemade pasta into a weeknight dish that will impress your friends or family? The primo piatto Gnocchi alla Sorrentina, a melt-in-your-mouth blend of soft dumpling, light tomato sauce, basil, and gooey mozzarella is your answer. This is comfort food, Campanian style.
I like the idea of eating salmon, but for the longest time, the idea of cooking it used to scare me to death. I can’t stand fishy tasting fish. And so, I resigned myself to ordering it in restaurants and never venturing close to it at the market out of fear that I would screw it up. I don’t remember what finally led me to buy my first sockeye fillets, but that night I learned that I didn’t just like salmon – I loved it…and it was a heck of a lot easier to prepare than I ever could have imagined.
Shown here: Broiled Salmon with Sweet Chili Glaze served over buckwheat soba and edamame.