Even as I write this, I’m looking out the window at the new blue November sky, against which Michael is silhouetted. Michael, who is cutting dead wood out of the dogwood, which is almost, at this point, entirely dead wood, and which is—from my very narrow, personal perspective—the only bad thing about the wild storm that has kept us without power for nearly 3 days now. Well, that and the tick-tick-ticking of a freezer full of produce and meat that may or may not be thawing because I’ve resisted the urge to open it and check.
|Maple, October 30, 2011|
Oh, but mostly it has been heaps and heaps of brilliant snow, the steaming glow of the woodstove, the sizzle of sausages cooking on it, board games by candlelight, a full and happy heart without the pesky distractions of computers, the internet, phones, school, work, or showers. Seriously. I have been in total powerless heaven. The neighbors congregate outside for updates and gossip and supply-trading, and to scheme about whether somebody’s generator can be rigged for the watching of the Patriots game (it cannot). The kids sit by the fire to sew themselves new fleece hats. I nap and read and do crossword puzzles saved up during busier times. The oaks break my heart a little, with their leathery leaves still clinging to the fallen branches that line every street in our neighborhood. We let the cat out, and he steps gingerly through the snow, shakes each paw after every step, and then meows to be let back in.
|I might write a collection of love poems called "Wood Stove."|
|Birdy, by the woodstove, looking at a picture of the woodstove. Do you know this book? The Midnight Farm. Don't spend $89 on it, but do consider buying it used for 1 cent if you still have small children. It is one of the most relaxing and beautiful kids' books I know.|
I try to figure out how to post my column—this column. Will I go to Nicole’s, where their power is restored and there’s the promise of macaroni and cheese and cider? Probably.
But were you maybe here for the recipe, and enough about my fake pioneering life, complete with running water, flush toilets, and digital cameras? I understand. Onward and upward to the squash fries. I have to mention, though, that they’re not really fries, or even anything like fries. But there is chile and lime! And squash!!! But Chile-Lime Squash sounded like a recipe I’d need to apologize for—without the requisite marketing pizzaz! you need for warty old winter produce.
Now you don’t trust me, and I understand. But still, this is a lovely recipe. I, for one, require something spicy or funky to cut through the relentless sweetness of winter squash, and given that not everyone shares my great passion for blue cheese and/or anchovies, lime and chile work perfectly. (Oooh—would a few drops of fish sauce add a little je ne sais quoi? Je ne sais pas.) They stick to your teeth just the right amount, with a little crunch from the frizzled skin and a little softness from the tender flesh. Perfect.
Chile-Lime Squash Fries
Active time: 25 minutes; total time: 1-1 ¼ hours
Winter squash: 3 delicata, 2 acorn, 1 smallish butternut, or some other kind and amount
4 tablespoons olive oil
¾ teaspoon chipotle puree (more or less, depending on how spicy you like it)
1 teaspoon kosher salt (or half as much table salt)
1 tablespoon honey or maple syrup
Juice and grated zest of half a lime
Heat the oven to 450.
Scrub the squash well, then halve them and scoop out the seeds*. I no longer peel squash like acorn or delicata, but for some reason I do still peel butternut. Do what you like in this regard, bearing in mind that the skin is edible and wholesome and a pain in the ass to peel, and that it keeps the squash slices from disintegrating, but also that it might be the final straw for someone who’s already teetering on the back of the liking-squash camel. Michael, for example, at this very meal, said, “Didn’t you used to peel the squash?” the way you might say, “Didn’t you used to bring me flowers on our anniversary?” and it gave me a slight sinking feeling.
Trim the ends off the squash halves, then slice them into half-inch pieces, and toss the pieces in a large bowl with the oil, chipotle puree, salt, and honey or maple syrup. Arrange the pieces on a large, rimmed, greased non-stick baking sheet (or two), and put them in the oven. (If your sheets are not reliably non-stick, then I would line them with parchment paper).
Bake for 20-45 minutes, which I know is a big range, but your goal is to get them simultaneously tender, crisped, browned, and unburned. If turning them over seems like it would help, then do, but I find that to be sort of a diminishing-returns situation and don’t tend to bother. (“Didn’t you used to turn the squash over?” Next thing you know, I’ll give everyone a whole, raw squash and a spork. Enjoy!)
When the squash is done, grate the lime zest over it. Can I talk about my new grater? I am in love with it. I like it even more than my microplane zester, which had perhaps gotten dull? I’m not sure. Either way, this new one is razor-sharp, and you feel like you could leave a block of parmesan near it and walk away, and the cheese would turn into a flurry of shreds just from the proximity.
Now squeeze on the lime juice, taste for salt, and serve. To really gild the lily, a little chipotle-lime-mayo wouldn’t kill anyone, now, would it? But I confess to serving ours with tiny dishes of honey for dipping, which is totally not like me, I know, but I never promised to be consistent.
* You saved the seeds, right? Rinse them in a bowl of water and try to separate them from the stringy stuff, not that it matters that much since once that stuff bakes and crisps it will just be a wholesome little addition of flavor. Now shake the seeds in a colander, then spread them on a rimmed baking sheet, toss them with oil and salt, and roast at 325 until they’re crisped and toasty, about a half an hour. At this point I tend to put something else on them—Worcestershire Sauce or Frank’s Red Hot or Lime Juice or Bragg’s Liquid Aminos—and toss them again before putting them back in the oven to crisp up again. Yum. Better than pumpkin seeds, even, thanks to the more favorable shell-to-seed ratio.