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:

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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.

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Roasted delicata squash over spinach white bean purée

Roasted delicata squash with spinach white bean purée.

Roasted delicata squash with spinach white bean purée.

A few times over the summer and again today, I spent some time down at the local food pantry. The thing about spending time at a local food pantry, is that everybody you meet is a remarkable person in one way or another. The people who work there, who volunteer there, who pick up food there. Once you start talking to them, you realize that they all have wonderful stories. Maybe this is true of all people, it probably is, but I felt it so strongly this morning, as I walked home through the chilly sunshine. Through a program called Rolling Harvest, which is such a smart, giving idea that it makes me weepy, farmers donate produce, which is then distributed to food pantries, domestic violence shelters, meals on wheels, senior centers, homeless shelters and at-risk low-income adults with health challenges. And in some of these places, they have farmer’s markets…free produce for anybody who wants it. And they ask somebody to demonstrate some easy ways to cook the produce, which is where I came in. I made a couple of things with peppers and tomatoes, lettuce and apples. But mostly I enjoyed talking to people, and most of the people who came by had plenty more recipes than I do. As they took their bags of apples and greens and hot peppers, they stopped to chat, and they were so beautifully generous. They shared stories about their lives and their children and their grandchildren. They shared recipes for apple cobbler and pickled green tomatoes, they shared advice not to cuss at doctors, but to be cheerful for any help they gave you. One woman grew up nearby on a farm, which is now a highway. When she was little, if her family couldn’t find her they knew to look for her in the tomatoes, where she’d be sitting with a salt shaker, eating the fruit right from the plant. And her uncle would set up a big pot of boiling water in the middle of the cornfield, so as they picked they’d eat the corn as fresh as it could be eaten. She had cherries and apples and peaches, any good thing you could think of. Gleaners of fruit, gleaners of stories, gleaners of time.

Our CSA farm, Sandbrook Meadow Farm, is one that contributes produce, and all of the produce from this recipe came from there as well. Delicata squash is similar to butternut, but sweeter, lighter and easier to work with. In this instance, I roasted it and then tumbled it on top of a bed of spinach, white beans and pinenuts, which I puréed. Nice contrast of savory and sweet, soft and roasty.

Here’s the Carolina Tarheels with Got the Farm Land Blues.
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