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
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.
1/2 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.
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.