Meta, Recipes, Seasonal

Yo.

Food is home to me.

My mother’s Christmas cookies, a favorite little Italian restaurant, my father-in-law’s deer jerky, ridiculous sushi, a massive pot of duck stock simmering for half a day in the kitchen — that’s how I get a sense of place. It is, to a degree, how I get comfortable.

Pittsburgh is my new hometown. As of pretty much now. As I eat and drink my way around, I’ll post my observations here. The only commonality you can expect is my mouth. Sometimes I’ll write about a restaurant, a favorite beer, a neighborhood vibe, my love for the immersion blender, cooking in my own kitchen — whatever inspires me. That photo at the top of the homepage? It’s the fruit of a chocolate tree at the Phipps Conservatory. The background image? Pickled cherries I made this spring along with a homemade mustard and (not at all homemade) duck sausage.

I’m no pro. I didn’t grow up around a professional kitchen and I’ve never worked in one. I’m a writer. One who eats.

So feel free to pass along your favorite places, recipes, experiences. I’m always looking for something new to try. Or yell at me if you disagree, though I’ll warn you now I have nothing at all against fries on sandwiches.

Welcome. Should be fun.

One favorite fall recipe to get you started is on the jump.

Butternut squash soup

Ingredients:
3 large butternut squash, peeled and seeded.
1 medium yellow onion.
1 jalapeno, seeded and sliced. Optional.
2 red bell peppers.
3 cloves garlic, smashed and peeled.
2 or 3 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil.
1 lime.
1/2 cup fresh cilantro. Can substitute flat-leaf parsley or, for something different, mint.
2 cartons chicken stock, low-sodium of salt-free. (If you have homemade, all the better.)
Roughly 1 tbsp. each dried oregano, dried sage, dried basil, ground cumin, ground coriander, smoked paprika.
Cayenne pepper to taste.
Coarse Kosher salt and white pepper to taste.

Method:
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

Cut squash, bell peppers, onion and jalapeno into chunks. Place squash on a pan, drizzle with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Rub to coat and make sure squash is in one layer on the pan. Roast in the oven for 20 minutes, mix, then roast for another 10 or until the squash is soft and caramelized.

In a deep, heavy pot over medium heat, add olive oil. When hot, add onion and garlic. When onion softens and before garlic burns, add the herbs and spices and stir, then the juice from half the lime, and stir again. After a couple minutes, add bell pepper and jalapeno and raise the heat to medium high. When the peppers soften, add the squash and mix well. Add in the stock, stir, and raise heat to high. There should be enough liquid to suspend all the ingredients densely but loose enough it’s still very easy to stir.

Allow to reach a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer uncovered for 40 minutes. Kill the heat, add the cilantro and the juice from the other half of the lime. Blend until smooth.

If you want, you can garnish with bacon crumbles or sliced Italian sausage and/or a little creme fraiche or sour cream.

Eat.

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2 thoughts on “Yo.

    • It’s a savory recipe I made up. Turned out nice, I thought. Really good with something a little fatty or sweet. Or both, actually.

      If I remember right, it was like this:

      — 2 to 3 pounds cherries, washed and stems trimmed to about an inch or less

      — cups water

      — 2 cups white vinegar

      — cup and a half or two cups sugar

      — pinch salt

      — couple dozen black peppercorns

      — couple bay leaves

      — half-dozen allspice berries

      — cinnamon stick

      Add water, vinegar, sugar and salt and slowly bring to a slow boil, stirring occasionally so the sugar doesn’t stick on the bottom. While simmering, add in everything but the cherries. Simmer together just a little while, maybe 10-15 minutes.

      Pack cherries tightly into jar(s). Should be a quart or two. Remove the cinnamon stick and pour pickling liquid over cherries to almost the top — leaving enough room for a little air and to close to jar(s) — and seal. Should be a quart or two.

      Refrigerate for at least three days — I’d go more like a week — and eat with duck, turkey, cheese, what have you. The longer they sit, the more the flavor will mellow while drawing out something almost a little almondish from the pits.

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