Roasted butternut-choux nests with spinach, pecans and smoked gouda

Butternut choux nest with spinach, pecans and smoked gouda

Butternut choux nest with spinach, pecans and smoked gouda

Last night Malcolm and I walked down to the river. It had been cloudy all day, and the sky was still thick and pale and glowing. When we reached the middle of the bridge, Malcolm told me to look down the river upside-down, so I did. Dizzyingly beautiful! The clouds and the water stretched away from us in swirling rivulets, reflecting in each other and cutting a silvery moving hourglass shape into the sharp black pattern that the land made on both sides of the river, stretching together in the distance. While we walked home, Malcolm told me his plan to replace war with a giant nerf gun competition. If you’re hit by a nerf dart, you have to sit down and let the others keep playing. This way all of the conflicts of the world would be solved, and nobody would be hurt. He’s heard a lot about guns, lately. We all have. we’ve all been thinking about it a lot, or trying not to think about it. Prepare yourself to hear something very shocking, because, here at The Ordinary, we are ready to come out very strongly in favor of gun control! I know! It’s hard to believe that the proprietoress of a vegetarian food blog would take such a stand! This is one of those issues that makes me feel slightly crazy, because I don’t understand how it can be an issue at all. In the same way that I don’t understand why we sill fight wars, I don’t understand why guns are even an option. Honestly, I have two little boys, I’m aware of the fascination that guns hold for them. If you take their toy guns away, they’ll use sticks as guns, if you take the sticks away, they’ll use their fingers. So they have nerf guns and water guns, and I do see why these are fun – it adds a moving target to a game of tag. But nerf guns and water guns don’t hurt anybody, and that is, really, the only purpose of a real gun – to hurt or to kill. (I suppose you could use a gun to smash garlic, but how practical would that be?) And you can go ahead and blame movies and video games that glorify guns as well, because, guess what?! I’m not a huge fan of those, either. If we didn’t have guns we wouldn’t have to criticize video games for making them look appealing. I realize that I can’t add much to the conversation on gun control that hasn’t already been said, but I’d love to move it to the left, to reframe it, so that when we meet at the middle, the middle doesn’t seem like the frightening place that it is now. I’ve seen lots of so-called “gun nuts” spouting lots of, what’s the word? shall-we-say, vociferously-argued arguments. Well, I’d like to be an anti-gun nut. I’d like to say that merely wanting a gun should qualify you as too crazy to own one. I’d like to say that when the “rational” rationale for owning a gun is that you want to kill animals with it – that’s not rational at all, it’s horrible and depressing and should also qualify you as too crazy to own a gun. I’d like to say that no stubborn, paranoid misreading of our constitution or any other document makes a good argument for carrying guns. Surely the whole point of the constitution was to establish a government based on intelligent understanding and measured reasoning, with enough checks and balances that an armed revolution would never be necessary, as long as people behaved decently and rationally. If you want a gun just because somebody might take it away from you, you’re crazy, you can’t have one. If you want a gun because you don’t understand how government works, and that makes you nervous, you’re crazy and you can’t have one. If you want a gun because it makes you feel powerful, you’re crazy and you can’t have one. I want to turn the whole conversation upside down, starting from a place where people are generous and gentle and kind and expected to behave that way. Where the mistrust that makes people cling to their guns is directed at the gun companies who try to keep them in fear and ignorance for their own profit, so that not buying a gun is an act of rebellion and independence. I’d like to live in a world where we don’t need to talk about gun control, because nobody wants a gun, because they love all people and animals too much – because they understand the value of life. I’d like to believe that this is possible, that this is what most people want.

butternut-chouxAnd I’d like to live in a world where the most fun toy is not a gun but a pastry tube set. Holy smoke, I got my first set yesterday, and I’m so excited! It’s so much fun, so seussically nonsensical, so full of possibilities. And yet practical as well, because you get to eat whatever you make! These little butternut choux nests are among my favorite meals that I’ve made in some time. I used a fairly basic choux recipe, and added some roasted garlic and roasted butternut squash puree and some fresh thyme, fresh rosemary, smoked paprika and nutmeg. Then I piped this dough into lovely nests, about 4 inches across, and before I baked them I piled in some baby spinach, toasted pecans and smoked gouda. They turned out puffed and crispy on the outside, nice with the crunchy pecans. And soft and flavorful and comforting inside. Even the boys liked them! If you don’t have a pastry tube, you can easily make these by dropping little mounds of dough and pushing the center down with your hands or a spoon. It won’t be as pretty, but it will still taste as good.

Here’s When the Gun Draws by Pharoahe Monch It’s sweary, but he’s angry.


1 small butternut squash
1 plump clove garlic, skin still on but slashed

1 cup milk
4 T butter
2 t fresh thyme (1 t dried)
2 t fresh rosemary, chopped (1 t dried)
1 t smoked paprika
1/2 t cayenne (or to taste)
1/2 t salt
pinch nutmeg
1 cup flour
3 eggs

2 cups (packed) baby spinach, chopped into pieces about 1 inch by 1/4 inch
3/4 cup pecans, toasted and roughly chopped
1 cup grated smoked gouda & sharp cheddar
lots of freshly ground pepper

Preheat the oven to 425. Cut the top and bottom of the squash, and cut it in half length-wise. Scoop out the seeds. Place the squash face-down on a cookie sheet, and tuck the garlic into the hollow where the seeds were.

Roast for 40 – 50 minutes, until the squash is browned and collapsing and starting to caramelize on the edges. Let it cool till you can handle it, and then scoop out the flesh of the squash and the garlic into a processor or blender. Process until smooth. You should have about 1 cup.

Warm the milk in a medium-sized saucepan over medium heat. Add the butter and the herbs, spices and salt. When the butter is melted and the milk is starting to froth, add the flour and beat until you have a smooth paste. Stir in the butternut purée. Remove from the heat and allow to cool for a few minutes, so that you don’t cook the eggs.

Beat in the eggs one at a time.

Preheat the oven to 400. At this point, if you have a pastry bag, fill it with the dough, using a tip that will give you about a 1/3 inch trail of pastry. lightly butter a baking sheet.

Pipe 6 “nests.” Starting from the center, pipe a spiral of dough leading out until you have a circle about 4 inches across, now pipe one or two more layers on the outside edge, building it up to form a little cup.

If you don’t have a piping bag, make six little piles of dough, and with a cool wet hand or spoon, press the center down, so that the edges are higher.

In a large bowl, combine the spinach, cheese, pecans and lots of freshly ground pepper.

Take a handful of the spinach mixture and press it together into a ball – it won’t be very cohesive, but that’s okay. Press this ball into the center of one of the nests. Don’t worry if it doesn’t stay completely in one place. Repeat until the spinach mixture is gone and all of the nests are filled.

Bake for about half an hour, until the nests are puffed and golden, the cheese is melted and the nuts are crunchy.


12 thoughts on “Roasted butternut-choux nests with spinach, pecans and smoked gouda

  1. I once had a satirical idea I thought might make a good comic – let’s see if I can find it ….

    Stupid Fight Men:

    Now, a lot of people like legalised murder (as a career or as a hobby) – and a lot of people like to go out and kill people illegally that they find threatening or can’t be bother to understand – this ‘blood lust’ needs to be appeased somehow.

    Mostly it’s going to be, shall we say, the more competitive people in the human race – so we could make it a sport.

    A sport with a league table, just like any other with a fixture list – special matches could be added if say ‘Racists’ vs ‘Crazy Sect’ or ‘Mass Murderers’ vs ‘Huntsmen’ need to REALLY do some blowing each others brains out.

    We’d need venues – Let’s say Colorado*** for the American world series and Luxembourg*** for the rest of the world series .. all guns (just guns, no bombs. Each ‘man’ needs to be close enough to see the eyes of who they are killing) would need a special licence to be used in the field of sport.
    Thus letting the the worlds governments continue to do back handers to their murder manufacturing mates. The governments would pay them to arm the teams – the deaths could be explained as a ‘cull’ of unnecessary people using up resources.

    The world has become overpopulated, so licensed, controlled, killing, seems to be the way forward… like hunting.
    All this is totally voluntary – you are in no way required to join a team.

    Say, if you don’t like violence or are equipped with a brain, for instance.

    I mean, team Bush or team Blair are going to be short of numbers – but so what – they like that sort of thing.
    Let them stand up for what they believe in and let the sport prevail (the winners could get a barrel of oil).

    The only other necessity is – if you have a mother – a letter to say that ‘they’ (the mother) except ‘you’ (the idiot) joining one of the ‘death teams’. NO FAKES – it will be checked.
    If ‘you’ put in a request to your mother and you are turned down – then a month of charity work HAS to be undertaken WITHOUT FAIL – while you try an convince her that you are ‘worthy’ of joining a group of ‘nutters’ killing each other.

    After a while it might be seen as unpleasant, cruel, distasteful, idiotic to go around murdering fellow humans OR we run out of teams/players willing to join in and die.

    Small print:
    ± If you are just injured during the ‘game’ it is in the interest of humanity that you are put out of your misery – no exceptions – all higher powers must be left at the turnstiles as you enter the arena.
    ± All ‘bling’ will be melted down and wallets ransacked to pay for the clean up operation, thus creating and paying a living wage for those that do the worst jobs. (This applies to team ‘Gangsters’ from Rap to Roman and any others involved).
    ±All meat from the corpses becomes the property of McFastFoodies – in a sponsored scheme created to eradicate factory farming.

    ***Sorry to the people of Colorado and Luxembourg – but your land has got a compulsory purchase order slapped on it.


    As a pacifist – I’d like all weapons to be destroyed now – and for people to just get on and help one another… but until that can be achieved we’ll just have to start with:

    Media Moguls vs Bankers.

    I scrapped the idea in fear of ‘Stupid Fight Men’ thinking it a really good idea – then spending the rest of my life trying to set up the ‘saneshane peace prize’ to cleanse the blood from my artwork.

    brilliant essay Claire… I’m with you 100%

    • Shane – I think you should do it!! I’d love to see/read it. It’s perfect to show how idiotic it all is!! (And I have to say – that argument that we have to kill deer because they’re overpopulated, and the reason we know that is because we’ve taken over their land because we’re so populated – makes my blood boil!

  2. Ah, re-framing the debate. Yes! I too think it is madness (and maddening!) to have to act as if wanting these weapons is rational and normal. At my office, there is a gentleman who has a concealed weapon. In my office. It’s just heartbreaking.
    Also, the pastry kit is waaaay better than a gun. I support your choice!

      • Yes! At work! I work in a fairly affluent suburb of DC in a very affluent neighborhood. It’s just a regular office that does shipping. Boring stuff, totally boring. He live close to work, though he drives. He doesn’t like to walk because ‘you never know’. Yuck. It’s this mentality that there is a REASON to have a gun. Like, seriously. Our office handles no cash, the doors are secured… it’s just this fear that permeates into peoples lives.
        But, they all think I’m weird anyway because I bring in homemade food, so perhaps this is a skewed sampling!

      • That sounds a little scary! I guess you have to be careful not to make him angry!! My boss has a knack for pissing people off, and I happen to know some of her ex-employees have guns at home. It’s just crazy!!

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