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.
2015 is almost over. I can’t believe how fast it has flown by. It has been a big year for me: I transitioned into working completely from home and for myself. I spend more time with Jonah than ever before, seeing as he is now working from home as well. I went to Israel (I still can’t believe that – did I dream it?). I finally learned how to use my camera and got my blog setup a little more polished. And the future is seeming just as bright: Jonah and I will hopefully be living abroad by this time next year, living our lives as digital nomads. Eek!
But before we look too far ahead, let’s look back, shall we? What better way to remember the last year than by my favorite things I ate? (These are listed in no particular order.)
1. Caramelized fennel and farro salad: This farro salad from Not Without Salt has been a game changer. I think I’ve written about it before. I tend to make double batches of it when I know I’m going to have a busy week, as it makes fantastic leftovers. It has all the perfect elements of a dish: crunchy, creamy, spicy, sour, and sweet. The only adjustment I make is to substitute dried apricots for the dates.
2. April Bloomfield’s A Girl and Her Greens: This book has been amazing for me. Everything I’ve cooked out of it has been fantastic AND pretty easy. Her writing is lovely, and I love her style of cooking. It’s so easy to riff on, to sub ingredients based on what you’ve got, and it has inspired me in the kitchen. I highly recommend the roasted carrots with herbs, the steamed eggplant with ground pork and thai basil, and the corn soup with chanterelles (but maybe wait on that one till it’s summer again).
3. Foil Yaki: This is a recent addition to my meal arsenal, but I can tell it’s going to be a keeper. It may not look like much, but this recipe is so unbelievably simple and packed with that scrumptious umami flavor (thanks mushrooms and sake and miso!). Here’s what you need to know: put a bunch of delicious ingredients in some foil, wrap it up like a jiffy pop, bake for half an hour, then eat supremely tasty, perfectly caramelized onions and mushrooms in a super savory broth. I recommend adding some soba noodles and eating it like a noodle soup or ladeling it over some rice.
4. Hummus: I’ve always liked hummus, but my trip to Israel really made me understand the pantry staple that it should become in my life. I adjusted Ottolenghi’s recipe from Jerusalem to suit my tastebuds, and now I’ve got a perfect recipe always ready in my back pocket. It is particularly delicious drizzled with good olive oil and sprinkled with za’atar.
5. Tomato and peach salad with tofu cream: If you’d asked me a couple years ago if I’d ever want to make something with tofu cream, I probably would’ve said…um, no thanks, I’m ok. But times they are a-changin’ my friends! This salad became a summertime favorite: easy, impressive, and tasty. Rich sweet peaches, tangy tomatoes, spicy onion, and this salty tofu cream underneath it all. Perfection.
1. The American Local: This restaurant has got to be one of my favorites this year. Every meal I’ve had there has been pretty dang flawless. The drinks are lively, the service is friendly but not overly involved, and the food is creative, unique, and just plain fun. Wondering what to order? I suggest sticking mostly to the fish dishes (often prepared in a sashimi style) and the vegetables. Pictured above is a dish with heirloom tomatoes, buttermilk dressing, crunchy quinoa, and herbs from their menu last summer.
2. Nodoguro: This dinner was a birthday treat, and I must say it was one of the most magical dining experiences I’ve had in Portland. I can’t speak to what Nodoguro will be like in their new location, but sitting with a small group at the counter of Nodoguro’s old space and having Chef Ryan Roadhouse come around to each party individually to chat was such a great way to start the experience. It truly felt like sitting in a friend’s kitchen and having them make you the most creative, fantastical Japanese meal. After dinner, all of the guests and cooks and servers lingered, standing around talking, not wanting the evening to end. I loved my conversation with Roadhouse’s wife Elena about our favorite places to eat in Portland. Wherever I dine, I can tell you that the next iteration of Nodoguro will make it onto the list.
3. Coquine’s breakfast: Ok, this place has gotten quite a fair amount of talk this year. And while I haven’t been for dinner (I’ll make it happen soon), Jonah did take me for breakfast on my birthday. I had a stellar hash with mushrooms, spinach, and potatoes, and poached eggs. I don’t know what magic they put in this dish, but holy moly it was good. Also their chocolate chip cookie is divine.
4. Seastar Bakery/Handsome Pizza: Cozy and warm (mostly thanks to the giant wood fired oven) and smelling of equal parts spiced baked goods, cheesy pizza, and campfire, this new spot houses both Seastar Bakery and Handsome Pizza. This combination has become one of my favorite work spots: I can come in and have tea and any of their stellar baked goods or toasts for breakfast, work for a few hours, and then get a slice of pizza (or a small pizza if I’ve got someone to share with) for lunch. I’ve only had the pizza a couple of times, but it has not disappointed. The bakery and I are becoming fast friends, and so far favorites include the cocoa, yogurt, and rye muffin, the salted black licorice cake, and the house made english muffin – get half with jalapeño cream cheese and half with whatever jam they’ve got that day.
5. Tea Bar: This place has become a go-to for me. I love seeing the same folks working there every time I go. I love the space that manages to be both kind of cavernous and cozy at the same time. And I love the menu, where it’s hard to decide between matcha, a hong kong tea with boba, or the perfect London fog.
I’d love to hear about some of your favorite things you ate in 2015, and what you’re looking forward to eating next year! Here is to another year of delicious eats!