Butternut squash has always been a pivotal vegetable for me. The presence of this squash in the garden and at the market indicates a rising level of excitement in the air. My heart starts to race and I always get a little dizzy and out of body when I think about the risottos and lentils to be concocted out of this smooth amber, elongated treasure. It is hard to imagine that it was almost a year ago that I made butternut squash and orange soup and the pristinely cubed and roasted squash that my son refers to as butternut candy. Just cut the ends off and peel the squash with a vegetable peeler. Slice lengthwise and scoop out the seeds. Cut into small cubes and toss with good olive oil and kosher salt and roast at 400* for about 20 minutes. The sugars all get released and start to caramelize and it is a fine little addition to any salad, sauté or just eaten by itself it will give you goose bumps.
It never ceases to amaze me that as soon as my eyes come in contact with the butternut squash, the weather starts to become a ruling factor in my life. All of the sudden we go from the take it for granted hot, to a daily weather event. I find myself saying over and over again how much I adore this time of year around here. The shadows at any given time of day are amazingly different than they were last week. The garden is perking up and losing the washed out look of late summer heat. The air is crisper and I find myself sighing with a smile when the slightest breeze touches my skin. It makes me feel celebratory and I usually throw a party this time of year.
The cooler season vegetables are saying the same thing. The lettuces are sweeter and perkier. The colors and hues are brighter and more pronounced. One can start to imagine the salads that can be created with the baby arugala and frisee, the red leaf Lola Rosa and romaines. The thought of current crop olive oil and new cheeses make me want to sing out loud. Add some fresh walnuts or almonds and pears or apples and well let’s just say it is something that is to be shared with a special one or twenty.
When I am hiking in Briones or the Laffayette hills the colors that come out at you are astounding. On the top of a high ridge I sat down to have a luscious snack of some Alhambra Valley Bartlett pears and blue cheese and after I had taken a few bites and I was able to focus, I looked around and I was sitting in the middle of the orb weaver spider’s commune. There were literally hundreds of these tiger eye colored, huge spiders, one to each web just hanging out probably wondering which one had invited me to their party. The sight of it and the realization of their numbers actually stopped me from eating for a minute.
Pomegranates are in the markets and the fuyu persimmons are already here. I always love to see the scarlet orbs of the pomegranates hanging in a tree next to a persimmon tree. Such contrasts are special to me and never fail to keep me looking in people’s back yards when I am out walking in the neighborhood. What....you don't look in peoples back yards...liar!
Starting to be a nice time of year....my favorite!