buttercup lentil soup

Squash is a rather deceiving name for the vegetable to which it refers. With pudgy approachability and even cuteness, the squash family is far from cushy. Take, for example, this buttercup. Looks delightful enough. With its little cap and almost folded-in appearance, it’s the grandmother of the fall harvest.

But set a knife to it and it sure puts up a fight. This hard fact is what led me to one of the most important realizations of my cooking life: squash need not be peeled before cooking. Nope. No matter what those recipes tell you, “squash, peeled, seeded, and chopped” need not require a follow-up cool down and protein shake.

The secret’s in roasting the squash first: Hack it up (or not, as some argue) throw it in the oven, and digging into that squishy soft squash-flesh will become one of your happiest soup making memories.

Lately I’ve been trying to venture out of my butternut rut. There are just so many other squashes to try: hubbard (not so impressed with my specimen), spaghetti, and acorn (one of my favorites to stuff), to name a few. I finally got around to this buttercup, whose dense, creamy flesh surprised me. I’ve also got two Delicatas on hand to try sometime this week.

There are as many ways to prepare squash as there are to love it, but one of my favorites has to be soup. I know I could have just substituted this buttercup into any squash soup recipe, but instead decided to do an off-the-cuff version with whatever needed to be used.

And it was good. Very good. With bright tomato red, spinach green, and buttercup orange, this soup is fall’s palate in a bowl.

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walnut, gorgonzola and caramelized onion pizza

I tried to come up with a more clever name for this amazing Monday night surprise, but knowing that few could resist such an alluring combination, decided to tempt away. I came home at 8 p.m.  to the fruits of Mark’s unlikely domestic day: fresh pizza dough and israeli couscous salad for tomorrow’s lunch. Not to mention the new 15$ box of wine sitting in my cupboard, happily plump.

Even when it comes to life’s finer things, sometimes I’m not afraid to admit to a cheap streak. Drinking wine with pizza on a cold and rainy Monday night would otherwise seem too indulgent. That’s the short story of how boxed wine became my best friend.

Let me walk you through this creation we’re just on the brink of perfecting. The first time we made it we used too few onions, and our blue cheese wasn’t blue enough. Add our too-toasty walnuts to the mix and we had ourselves a disappointment. But I wasn’t prepared to give up on such robust ingredients, waiting there as if to beg me to bring them to justice.

This time we ramped up the caramelized onions, spreading them thick and sweetly gooey over olive-oil brushed dough rounds. (Next time I’d do even more than the picture shows!)

Then we added the walnuts, in chunks big enough to be surprising but small enough to blend in. If you’ve never had nuts on a pizza, you’re in for a treat. Pine nuts could work well here, too.

After about 7 minutes in a firey hot oven, we dotted them with cubes of perfect gorgonzola, and placed them back in the oven 5 more minutes.

The result? A crisp, yet chewy pizza dough (we used this month’s Bon Appetit recipe because of its large, freezeable yield), teeming with flavors that almost seem to good to be hanging out together on a pizza. I almost felt guilty finishing mine, but then I remembered how stressed I am, and how food tends to make medium-sized sorrows turn to extra-large joys.

Even if for only 30 sweet, candle-lit minutes.

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