A man, a plan. Squash, beets. « blogging for burgers

A man, a plan. Squash, beets.

I have made time to make dinner for myself two nights in a row now.  While I usually do eat at home during the week, I rarely make it a big production.  For the past two nights, however, I have found myself wanting more than mere sustenance.  I have wanted to eat something a) fresh b) relatively healthy and c) tasty.

I was off from work on Wednesday, so I made the trek down to the Westside Market on the UWS.  I was going to go to Fairway, but didn’t feel like it, to be honest.  It was already 5.30pm an I knew the lines would be out of control already.

Totally unsure of what I was going to make, I picked up a few random items and decided I would challenge myself: parsnips, a butternut squash, Saga blue cheese, a couple of tomatoes (I know, I know, not seasonal, but they looked pretty decent), baby arugula, bartlett pears, gala apples, vegetable stock, this great pre-made roasted artichoke couscous they have there, and some other stuff unrelated to this blog post (cereal and soy milk if you must know.  burgerboy like soy milk).

I got home with no idea as to what I was going to do with these random ingredients.  Since I have been doing a lot of traveling and galavanting about town, I have had little time to keep my refrigerator very stocked.  I took a quick inventory of the fridge: random condiments of various ages, corn tortillas, couple of Ronnybrook yogurts and an eggnog, an old ziploc bag with dark miso, baking soda, a bottle of club soda, ground flaxseed (yes, I am an 80 year-old man. And I am allergic to salmon, so I need to get my omega-3’s, ok?), and some really old coffee grounds.  The freezer was not much better.  Although that black chicken is looking ready to be used and abused.

Slightly discouraged and ready to call up Land Thai, which I have saved in my phonebook, I gave one quick glance in the far drawer.  This drawer takes a lot of effort to open, because it requires the refrigerator door to be fully opened, which requires moderate agility and effort based on the configuration of my apartment.

Here is a diagram.

The drawer is on the left side of the fridge.  See, that requires some work.

Anyway, I opened this drawer and discovered… BEETS!  I had bought them a few weeks back from the Rexcroft Farm at the D’ag farmer’s market, and they provided me with the inspiration that I needed.  I was going to make a roasted beet, pear, and blue cheese salad with arugula and toasted butternut squash seeds, and a butternut squash mash over the roasted artichoke couscous.  BAM.  How’s that for some quick thinking?

I threw the beets into the oven at about 375 degrees and let them work their magic while I prepped the rest of my dishes.  I cubed up the butternut squash and toasted the seeds with some cumin, cayenne pepper, and salt, and set those aside to top my salad (after snacking on about half of them).  Then it was time to make a bartlett pear wish it had never been picked from the tree.

Look at those skills.  That’s my handy steel in the background. I really showed that pear who is boss.  I think it looks like a big grub or something like you’d see on Andrew Zimmern’s show.

There’s another view.  I thought it was cool.

I pulled the beets out of the oven and let them cool down a bit as I prepared the butternut squash.  For that, I took the cubed butternut squash (pretty good-sized chunks, maybe an 1-1.5″), threw about a cup and half or so into a non-stick pan with some oil, browned them, then added a little water into the pan and covered it to steam the squash through.  When they were fork-tender, I dusted them lightly with some cumin and a little rubbed sage, added a touch of brown sugar to glaze them, and threw in some freshly chopped green onions.  Done.

With that completed, I put my knife skills to the test yet again, this time with the beets.  They didn’t look as cool so i didn’t take a picture.    But I did take a picture of the finished product.

Look at that sweet action.  Look at that layering, look at the attention to spacing and composition.  Look at those nuggets of creamy blue cheese and crunchy bits of butternut squash seeds poking through the spicy baby arugula.  So many simple flavors, coming through in a symphony of salty and sweet, creamy and crunchy.  Dressing, you ask?  Something this good needs only a light-handed pour of some organic olive oil and a few splashes of balsamic vinegar.  It kinda reminds me of a culinary school 101-type dish.  Since I didn’t go to culinary school, I am ok with that.  Well, technically, I did go to a culinary school, but I didn’t learn to cook there.

I also had my couscous on the side, but it looked a little more bland by comparison.  But it tasted damn good.  And just so you guys don’t think I am out of control with portion size, the plate below is not a full-sized dinner plate, I promise.

Tune in next time for but’nut squash, part 2: Faux-sotto, or, “I wish I had a ricer.”

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