It’s so funny to think about how recipe-obsessed I was when I started cooking. I mean, seriously, if a recipe called for a teaspoon of salt, I’d practically count the granules. Now I rarely cook with a recipe and it’s hard for me to imagine following a recipe to the letter. Which is why getting that box of CSA vegetables every week is so fun; it’s a chance for me to flex my non-recipe following muscles in the kitchen. And so it was that I had an acorn squash (I’m pretty sure it was an acorn squash) and some Brussels sprouts. My plan: to roast ’em like a rock star.
Looks can be deceiving. For example, the picture you see above probably looks pretty good, but not the kind of thing you’re going to e-mail to all of your friends with the subject “!!!!” and the message, “OH MY GOD WE HAVE TO MAKE THIS.”
That’s a shame because, the thing is, if you could taste a bite of the picture above, fresh out of the pan, exploding with sweet corn flavor, given depth by nicely browned squash, married all together with a pat of butter, you’d be doing cartwheels down the street, eager to get all of the ingredients to make this yourself. It’s the best bite of summer I’ve had so far, and it’s a surprising way to use ingredients that normally wind up on the grill or in a salad.
[When I wrote my cookbook, I had the pleasure of meeting and cooking with Tim Artz, the self-described “Sultan of Scratch” who grows and cooks almost everything that he eats. One of his signature specialties is hot sauce; and here, in this post, he describes his love for the stuff and offers up an original recipe. Take it away, Tim!]
I love hot and spicy foods. I crave bold and lively flavors. Not to say that I don’t care for mild, savory and nuanced flavor, but given a choice, I would opt for hot.
I never experienced any hot foods as a kid growing up. Maybe the hottest thing I ever had was some red pepper flakes sprinkled on a slice of pizza or some cherry peppers on a hoagie. I remember all of my first truly zesty bites: hot mustard on an egg roll in a Chinese restaurant, Indian curry when the first Indian restaurant opened in my home town in Pennsylvania, and the cayenne peppers my dad decided to start growing in his garden while I was a university student.
Usually I have a gage in my head that lets me know how good the dinner I’m making is going to be. At some point, while prepping this Kabocha Squash Risotto (based on this one in Bon Appetit), I figured it would be pretty good but not great. Several reasons: the squash, which you pan-fry before adding to the risotto, came out a little mealy and dry. And instead of making my own stock, I took the recipe’s advice and used Swanson vegetable broth. I figured on a scale from 1 to 10, this risotto would be a 6. How wrong I was. This risotto was hands down one of the best risottos I’ve ever made–an absolute 11–and everyone I fed it to went nuts for it. What made it so good? Let’s examine.
Dealing with expectations is a tricky endeavor for every cook, whether at home or at a four-star restaurant.
Granted, the four-star chef has a harder time: diners at a four-star restaurant expect impeccable service, pristine surroundings, and food at the cutting edge of what food can be. At home, things are a little different. You don’t have to make a streak of sauce on the plate with the back of a spoon, you don’t have to scrape crumbs off the table with a crumb-scraper, but if you’re going to serve something familiar, as I did recently with Butternut Squash Soup, it better be the comfortingly sweet version that everyone knows and loves. Sad to say that this one, which comes from one of my favorite cookbooks ever, Suzanne Goin’s “Sunday Suppers at Lucques,” isn’t.
Going through old pictures, just now, I found the picture you see above and smacked my lips at the memory: “Hey!” my brain sang out. “That’s that delicious butternut squash and chickpea salad with tahini you made from Orangette’s website.”
According to the picture, I made this on December 19th. So please follow this link to Orangette’s recipe (it’s an adapted recipe, so lets not give her ALL the credit) and take a picture, date it, and bury it away so you can have the same experience I just had. Then make it again as I plan to make it again quite soon.