Farro Stuffed Delicata Squash

Farro Stuffed Delicata Squash | Serious Crust by Annie Fassler

Farro Stuffed Delicata Squash | Serious Crust by Annie Fassler
Farro Stuffed Delicata Squash | Serious Crust by Annie Fassler
Farro Stuffed Delicata Squash | Serious Crust by Annie Fassler
Farro Stuffed Delicata Squash | Serious Crust by Annie Fassler
Farro Stuffed Delicata Squash | Serious Crust by Annie Fassler

There are meals that sit in my head for a while. Rolling around, popping up every now and again, asking to be made. Some of them never come to light – either I can’t figure out what it’s missing or what it needs to make it pop, or maybe I think it’s a really original idea only to search the internet and find a handful of recipes just like it already in existence.

There are plenty of stuffed squash recipes out there. You need only do a quick search to be overwhelmed by the various types of squash, fillings, toppings, mix ins. But maybe this one will happen to contain a bunch of things you already in your fridge. That’s how it happened in my kitchen, anyway. I had been thinking about stuffed squash – it had been one of those ideas rolling around in my head, poking at me every time I brought home a squash from the store. And it took a few weeks to really figure out what I wanted to fill it with. And really it came down to necessity – we needed dinner, I’d been saving the squash and we didn’t have much else in the house. So I dug around the pantry and the fridge, rustled up some soyrizo, farro, manchego, dried cherries, and parsley. It sounds like an odd combination of things, but I promise they all fall into place quite nicely – a little bite from the farro, sweetness and creaminess from the squash, a little heat from the soyrizo.

It’s an easy meal that comes together quickly, though I will warn you it uses a handful of dishes. But for a filling, comforting fall meal, it’s worth it.

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Miso Caramel Apple Cake

Miso Caramel Apple Cake | Serious Crust by Annie Fassler
Miso Caramel Apple Cake | Serious Crust by Annie Fassler
Miso Caramel Apple Cake | Serious Crust by Annie Fassler
Miso Caramel Apple Cake | Serious Crust by Annie Fassler
Miso Caramel Apple Cake | Serious Crust by Annie Fassler
Miso Caramel Apple Cake | Serious Crust by Annie Fassler
Miso Caramel Apple Cake | Serious Crust by Annie Fassler

We decided not to go to a pumpkin patch this year. I have some regrets, but mostly we wanted to spend our time doing things other than driving half an hour to a patch just to pick a pumpkin, something we easily could have done at our local grocery store. I’ve been really impressed by the homes in our new neighborhood. There’s one down the street that has no fewer than seven of those large inflatable, light up creatures: two spiders on their roof, one weiner dog with a mask, a couple pumpkins, and more. They even hung a little ghost from the telephone wire! There are pumpkins galore, gravestones, lights, and those faux cobwebs everywhere. I like how Halloween has really been embraced and so many people decorate and get in the holiday spirit. I like that it has such a sense of humor about it, a lightheartedness.

What did we do instead of the pumpkin patch? Well, we did get pumpkins, and we carved them. We got a skeleton named Gary who looks like he’s emerging from our garden beds. We threw a murder mystery dinner party. And tomorrow we hope to be handing out a lot of candy (seriously, we have two very large bags) to kiddos dressed up in costume, hauling pillowcases or plastic pumpkins or whatever the kids use these days. And as for the adults? We’ll likely be munching on this cake (if there’s any left by then), sipping mulled wine or mulled cider spiked with rum, maybe watching Stranger Things (if we don’t finish that by then too) or The Nightmare Before Christmas or some other movie that is equal parts Halloween and nostalgia. Sometimes certain holidays can be weird as adults, but I’m feeling pretty good about this one.

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Kale & Sweet Potato Soup

Kale & Sweet Potato Soup | Serious Crust by Annie Fassler

Kale & Sweet Potato Soup | Serious Crust by Annie Fassler
Kale & Sweet Potato Soup | Serious Crust by Annie Fassler

We’ve turned on the heat. On the afternoons when the cold is seeping into my bones I nudge the thermostat up a couple of degrees. We’ve had four fires in our fireplace. Jonah even acquired one third of a cord of wood (which is a lot). I am drinking tea most mornings. The leaves are fiery red, more neon than I remember them being in years past. I think I’m so excited about all of this because I missed fall last year. I’ve always loved fall for many of the usual reasons: sweaters, tea, cozy gatherings with family and friends. But this year it all seems bigger. Last year we went pretty much straight from summer in Portland to more summer in Thailand, and then straight into winter in Germany. I missed my favorite season and some of my favorite ingredients.

But having more appreciation isn’t the only thing that’s different. There have been little things in our day to day lives that have altered since we started making this home. It seems silly, but I used to be very particular about leftovers, and often didn’t really like eating them very much. These days I am a leftover guru: combining bits from different meals to make something completely new and also really good (if I do say so myself). I am working on going with the flow more, and am getting better every day. And this season I am determined to confront my mediocre feelings toward soup. It’s not that I hate soup at all – I don’t even dislike it. But there is always something I would rather eat (the exception to this is matzoh ball soup). But with a new kitchen, a new dutch oven, and a new perspective on leftovers, I’m going to conquer soup.

I made this decision over a month ago when we arrived in Chicago for our wedding. Once we hauled our suitcases into the living room at Jonah’s parents’ house after a long day of travel, my mother-in-law asked if we wanted something to eat. She scooped rice into a bowl and topped it with this light coconut broth, simmered kale, and sweet potatoes. There was a healthy pinch of cilantro, and she got out the hot sauce for us to liberally drizzle over. I took one bite and was convinced that I needed to re-examine my relationship with soup. I ate this for the next three days for lunch, secretly sneaking into the kitchen for a slightly early lunch so I would get to it before Jonah’s family finished it off. It was selfish, but I couldn’t help myself.

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Brown Butter Pumpkin Bread

Brown Butter Pumpkin Bread | Serious Crust by Annie Fassler
Brown Butter Pumpkin Bread | Serious Crust by Annie Fassler
Brown Butter Pumpkin Bread | Serious Crust by Annie Fassler
Brown Butter Pumpkin Bread | Serious Crust by Annie Fassler
Brown Butter Pumpkin Bread | Serious Crust by Annie Fassler
Brown Butter Pumpkin Bread | Serious Crust by Annie Fassler
Brown Butter Pumpkin Bread | Serious Crust by Annie Fassler

It has been a time of changes around here lately. Just as the fall weather peeked its head in Portland, Jonah and I were off to Chicago, where summer raged. There we got married: in his parents’ backyard, under the chuppa, crying and laughing and dancing. It was everything that a wedding is supposed to be. The days before and after were packed with events, with tooling around the city seeing friends and gathering with family. The sense of joy and celebration, the high from all the love, felt like it would last forever.

And then, two days after the wedding, it came to a halt: we got a call that Jonah’s grandmother had passed away. At the wedding she had looked so beautiful and strong. She sat chatting with the other grandmothers and blowing bubbles. She stuck to her values, walking right past the dance floor and saying to my now sister-in-law, “Did you see that? I’m a good Mennonite.” The morning after the wedding, we sat with her and unwrapped a beautiful quilt that she had been saving for us, called “Around the World.” We hugged and kissed her goodbye and said we’d see her at Christmas. You see, Jonah’s grandparents lived in a small town in Minnesota and, despite over seven years together and many Christmases with his family, I had never been. Jonah wanted me to see it, to see the town covered in snow, to take part in the holiday traditions his family holds so dear. I told him that this would be the year to go, since I didn’t know how much longer Grandma would be with us.

We balanced the rest of our time in Chicago – friends distracted us, even continued the celebration while being sensitive to the loss. We made plans with Jonah’s family – when was the service? Should we go straight from Chicago? We decided, in the end, to fly home on our previously scheduled flight, and then flew out to Minnesota a couple of days later. I didn’t know what to do, how to help. In situations like this, when I feel helpless, I turn to the kitchen, to something I can have some control over. I went back to my traditions: when we celebrate, we eat; when we mourn, we eat. The slight nip in the air in those two days at home settled in my belly, and while I picked the last hauls of sungold tomatoes from our garden, I started to crave soups, roasted chicken, and squash in all forms. So I decided to bake this pumpkin bread. It is a bread of changes too: pale gold butter becomes a caramel, nutty, liquid. A soft, sparkly batter turns into a moist, dense loaf with a perfect crunch on top. It may not have been much, but it was what I could offer. Grandma, I promise to keep my new family well-fed.

When we heard the news, I emailed our wedding photographer to see if she could send any photos of Grandma from the wedding. She sent a handful of beautiful pictures, but this for some reason stands out to me. That’s her on the right, talking to Jonah’s other grandmother, as they watch the dancing.
Photo credit: Anna Zajac.

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Tomato and Ricotta Galette

Tomato and Ricotta Galette | Serious Crust by Annie Fassler
Tomato and Ricotta Galette | Serious Crust by Annie Fassler
Tomato and Ricotta Galette | Serious Crust by Annie Fassler
Tomato and Ricotta Galette | Serious Crust by Annie Fassler
Tomato and Ricotta Galette | Serious Crust by Annie Fassler
Tomato and Ricotta Galette | Serious Crust by Annie Fassler
Tomato and Ricotta Galette | Serious Crust by Annie Fassler

There is a weird thing about being a food blogger. You compose pictures just so that none of the mess in your kitchen shows. You (mostly) never write about all the recipe testing and research. And you definitely don’t write about the failed attempts. And then there’s the stuff like, I made this and took pictures about 2 weeks ago, but am writing the post in Chicago. It all feels a bit weird, you know? Like I’m pretending, or I’m creating this fantasy world where everything is clean, and everything works perfectly the first time I try it. But I want you to know, that’s not true.

Another weird thing is knowing where to draw the line between keeping the writing here light and fun and ooh look tomatoes! Do I talk about my personal life? How far do I go? Last year when I was traveling, I certainly wrote about being homesick, and that got personal. But do you really want potentially heavy, personal stuff amidst pretty pictures of pastries?

The point of all this, I suppose, is that I’d like to be a bit more real. I want to not worry about there being a mess in the background of my pictures. And I’d like you to know some of those things about myself, and I’d like to feel safe writing those things in this place. So in that spirit: I’m getting married in three days! It’s big and exciting and for some reason scary and also very normal at the same time. What is really changing? Nothing. It feels like such a big step, but for now most things will stay the same, except that I’ll wear an extra ring on my finger and my taxes will change. We’ll still eat dinner too late, I’ll still listen to my favorite Pandora station when I bake, he’ll still take me out to dinner where the restaurant is a “surprise” but I’ll actually give him a list of three to choose from. And you’ll still be here, maybe, reading about all of it.

This meal was one of those ideas that was marinating in my head for a while. I’m trying to get better at making a few blog recipes at a time so I have content ready to publish, but it can feel overwhelming. He has been ever supportive, asking while we’re making dinner, “Wait, do you want to photograph this? Go grab your camera!” He waits while I set up the shot, he oohs and ahs over the pictures after I edit them, and he still proofreads almost every post. This galette was the epitome of summer to me, and the last recipe I photographed before we came to Chicago to get married in his parents’ back yard. I made it while he was at soccer, and waiting for him to come home and eat it, I realized how cool this all is, how cool he is: encouraging me to continue to write and cook and photograph, pushing me to try new recipes, offering me a safety net when things don’t go as planned.  This tomato galette? It’s my love note to him.

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