Smoky roasted delicata squash (On a pizza, on a salad)

Roasted delicata squash

Roasted delicata squash

I woke up in the middle of the night recently thinking about the word “ardent,” as one does. It’s a word we should use more often, it’s a way we should feel more often. The next morning I looked it up in the good old OED. I was delighted, dee-light-ed, to discover that “ardent” once meant “burning” and “glowing,” and these are the roots of the word. I love anything that glows! I love the idea of people glowing with an emotion. It feels too easy to go through each day half asleep, especially if you have a job you don’t love. Because every day is so full of things that need to be done–cleaning and shopping and chores. It’s impossible to face everything with fervor and ardor.

I thought about this:

0db23832f9c87676431364434df397e8

I agree with Calvin! But in a world where you can’t always be enthusiastic about everything you have to do, you can at least be passionate about everything you choose to do: the music you listen to, the books you read, the walks you walk, the meals you cook.

And I thought about The Idiot (which I am still reading). People in The Idiot are in a state. They’re excited, they’re ecstatic, they’re rapturous, they’re ardent. They all glow with their desires and even with their worries and their confusion. They’re ardent in their affection, love, admiration, friendship. They seem so alive. The Idiot suffers from epileptic fits, as Dostoyevsky himself did, and the description of the ecstatic moments before a fit is both frightening and beautiful:

He was thinking, incidentally, that there was a moment or two in his epileptic condition almost before the fit itself (if it occurred in waking hours) when suddenly amid the sadness, spiritual darkness and depression, his brain seemed to catch fire at brief moments….His sensation of being alive and his awareness increased tenfold at those moments which flashed by like lightning.  His mind and heart were flooded by a dazzling light.  All his agitation, doubts and worries, seemed composed in a twinkling, culminating in a great calm, full of understanding…

I fainted once, many years ago, and I felt something like this just moments before I fell. I wouldn’t like to feel this way all the time, obviously I wouldn’t, but it’s such a strange change from the stupor I feel most of the time going about the days. And obviously it’s not practical or even desirable to be as invested in every emotion as the characters in the Idiot are. It would be exhausting! But you know what else is tiring? Feeling half-alive all day long. Feeling “meh” about everything you do, as time flies by on its strong swift wings. As in all other things, I guess we have to find some balance, and to be as passionate about the people and occupations we love as we can, and to find as much joy in our chores as we can muster. Or at least to find some moments in each day that set us afire, that glow for us.

Pizza with pistachio herb pesto and roasted delicata squash

Pizza with pistachio herb pesto and roasted delicata squash

We got some lovely delicata squash from our CSA farm a few weeks in a row. I found a way to roast it, thinly sliced, and then season it with smoked paprika, salt and pepper, and I kind of ran with that! I put it on a pizza with a pistachio-sage pesto, and it was almost like pepperoni. (Not that I really remember what that was like!) This was a late summer-into-autumn pizza, with pretty golden tomatoes to go with the pretty roasted squash. I put it on a salad layered with red rice, smoked basmati rice and farro, and with french lentils, and topped with a bright lemony pine nut sauce. I’ve included a bunch of recipes after the jump. You can mix and match! Or you can make the squash and do whatever you like with it!

Salad with roasted delicata squash

Salad with roasted delicata squash

Here’s The Wailing Wailers with Who Feels it Knows it.

1 largish delicata squash or two smaller
a few tablespoons olive oil
1 t smoked paprika
black pepper
salt

Preheat the oven to 425. Wash the squash. Cut the ends off the squash and cut it in half lengthwise. Scoop the seeds out. Slice the squash into semi-circles about 1/4 inch thick. Toss with enough olive oil to cover and spread in a single layer on a baking sheet. Bake for 20 – 25 minutes until brown and crisp. Turn/stir often so that they brown evenly. Turn the oven off and take the squash out. Sprinkle with paprika, salt and lots of black pepper, and stir/turn again. Return to the hot oven for a couple of minutes to crisp up.

LEMON AIOLI

1/3 cup pine nuts
zest and juice of one lemon
2 or 3 fresh sage leaves or 1 t dried
1 clove garlic, roasted
1 t maple syrup or honey
1 t capers
1 t dijon mustard
1/4 cup olive oil
salt and plenty of freshly ground pepper

Combine everything but the olive oil in a food processor and process until fairly smooth. While the machine is running, add the olive oil in a smooth drizzle. Process until smooth and creamy. Add a few tablespoons of water so it’s just as thin and smooth as you like it…mine was the consistency of heavy cream.

THE PISTACHIO HERB SAUCE

1/2 cup pistachios
1/2 cup almonds
1 clove roasted garlic (You can roast it with the potatoes. You can leave the skin on the clove, but make a cut in it.)
2 sage leaves
1 t fresh rosemary, chopped
2 t fresh rosemary
1 t lemon thyme
1/3 cup olive oil
1 t balsamic
salt and plenty of freshly ground pepper

In a food processor process the pistachios, spinach, bread, garlic and herbs till finely chopped. Add the olive oil and balsamic and process till smooth. Add enough water to make the mixture about as thick as heavy cream, and process until velvety smooth.

THE LENTILS

1 T olive oil
1 cup beluga lentils (or french!) (picked over, rinsed and drained)
2 bay leaves
1 shallot very finely minced
1 clove garlic, very finely minced
1/2 t sage
1/2 t rosemary
salt and plenty of pepper

In a medium-sized saucepan over medium heat, warm the olive oil. Add the shallot, cook till it starts to brown. Add the garlic and the herbs. Cook for a few minutes. Add the lentils. Stir to coat, and cook for a few minutes. Then add about 4 cups of water. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer for 25 minutes to half an hour. Till the lentils are soft, but still have some substance. Drain (you can save the water for broth, but it will be dark!).

RED RICE, FARRO, SMOKED BASMATI

2 T olive oil
2 bay leaves
1/2 cup red rice
1/2 cup farro
1/2 cup smoked basmati
1 t butter
1 t balsamic
salt and plenty of freshly ground pepper

In a medium saucepan over medium heat warm the olive oil and bay leaves. Add the dried rices and farro. Stir to toast for a few minutes. Add 2 cups of water and a shake of salt. Bring to a boil. Cover and turn the heat to very low. Simmer for about twenty minutes until all the water is absorbed. Turn off the heat and uncover, but leave on the burner for a minute or two. Add butter, balsamic, salt and pepper.

THE SALAD

Pile some lettuce and arugula on a plate. Top with rice, then lentils, then roasted squash then aioli, and scatter pine nuts on top.

THE PIZZA

THE CRUST

(enough for two largish pies. I generally make one with red sauce and mozzarella for the boys, and a “fancy” one for us)

1 t yeast
1 t sugar
1/2 cup warm water
3 cups flour
lots of freshly ground black pepper
1 t salt
1/3 cup olive oil

Combine the yeast, sugar and half a cup warm water in a small bowl, and leave in a warm place for about ten minutes to get foamy.

In a large bowl combine the flour, pepper, and salt. Make a well in the center and add the yeast mixture and the olive oil. Stir well, and add enough warm water to form a soft dough. You want it to be as wet as it can that you can still comfortably knead it. Knead for about 5 minutes until soft and elastic. Put about 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a large bowl. Roll the dough in this so that it’s evenly coated. Cover the bowl with a damp cloth and set aside for two to five hours, till it’s doubled in size.

THE PESTO

1 cup pistachio herb sauce
2 eggs
1/2 cup milk
salt and freshly ground pepper
1 cup grated cheese. I used a combination of mozzarella and sharp cheddar
Combine everything in a food processor and whizz until fairly smooth. It will still have some texture.

1 cup grated mozzarella for the top
1 cup chopped fresh mozzarella
small handful toasted pine nuts
Tomatoes, sliced
Roasted delicata squash

TO MAKE THE PIZZA

Preheat the oven to 450. Lightly coat two large baking sheets or pizza pans with olive oil. Spread the dough on sheets, spreading it with your palms and fingers till it’s quite thin, and building up a crust on the edges. I like thin crusts, so mine are nearly transparent at this stage, though they’ll rise a bit as they’re cooking. Prebake the crusts for about five minutes till they just lose their shine.

I always top one crust with tomato sauce and mozzarella. And the other…Pour the pesto mixture into the crust. Scatter the tomatoes and squash over the top of that, then scatter mozzarella over that, then scatter a small handful of pine nuts over that.

Bake for about fifteen minutes until it’s puffed golden and bubbly. Keep an eye on it, though, at this temperature it can burn very quickly!

Let cool slightly, slice and serve.

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s