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A Trio of Autumn Vegetables

This time of year is usually time for burrowing in and getting ready for the cold months ahead. The storm windows come down, the heat goes on, and our menu shifts to comfort food. Comfort food at my house might be casseroles or hearty stews. It can also be a variety of cold weather vegetables. Sometimes they are served as side dishes, but I’m just as happy to surround a pile of grains with a trio of different vegetables for a meal.

I just got Melissa Clark’s new cookbook Cook This Now. I became a huge fan after I devoured her previous book In the Kitchen with a Good Appetite over the summer. I feel like she cooks so many of the same things that I like to cook and eat. Her new book is organized by month, with recipes that match the food that’s in season. There are so many new recipes to try. I jumped right into November’s selections with her Roasted Squash with Honey, Smoked Paprika, and Sage Salt. I didn’t have any acorn squash, but peeled and sliced a large nearly 3-pound butternut squash for a delicious result. The seasonings are blended in oil to coast the squash before roasting.

I think my favorite thing about this recipe was the discovery of how easy it is to make your own herbal salt. I baked some freshly picked sage to dry it out, then crumbled it into coarse sea salt. It was a great accent to the squash, but I’m enjoying sprinkling it on other dishes as well. What a great technique that I can use with other herbs. I have to hurry and try some other variations before the frost gets my herb garden.

There was a bag of Brussels sprouts in the refrigerator. While my favorite preparation of these is to roast them, I wanted to try this Mark Bittman recipe that sautés thinly sliced Brussels sprouts with bacon and dried figs. A drizzle of balsamic vinegar tops it off. The sprouts just seem to melt in the pan, and the contrast of the salty and sweet with the earthy vegetables was great. It’s nice to have a fast option up my sleeve.

Sauteed spinach rounded out the plate. First, I sauté some garlic in olive oil. Then, I toss spinach leaves, torn into bite-sized pieces, into the pan. The spinach was washed and drained, but not dried. Put the lid on the pan, and the spinach will steam in the water clinging to the leaves. Once it has wilted, I take the lid off to let the remaining moisture evaporate. Finally, I sprinkle the spinach with a handful of chopped lightly salted almonds.

Whole wheat couscous, cooked with sautéed onions with some pine nuts mixed in filled the center of the plate, and it was dinner.

Roasted Squash with Honey, Smoked Paprika, and Sage Salt
Adapted from Cook This Now by Melissa Clark
Serves 4 to 6

1 large butternut squash, 3 to 4 pounds
2 Tbsp olive oil
2 tsp honey
1 tsp smoked paprika
½ tsp kosher salt
4 large sprigs of fresh sage
1 Tbsp coarse sea salt

Preheat the oven to 350F. Peel the squash, cut (carefully) in half lengthwise. Scoop out the seeds from the center, then cut into ½-inch slices. Place the squash in a large bowl.

In a small bowl, combine the oil, honey, smoked paprika and kosher salt. Drizzle this mixture over the squash, scrapping every last bit out of the bowl, and toss well to coat the squash. Arrange the squash slices in a single layer on a large baking sheet (or two). Place the sage springs in its own, smaller, baking dish.

Put all the pans in the oven. Roast the sage until just crisp, about 10 minutes, then remove from the oven. Let it cool.

Raise the oven temperature to 400F. Continue roasting the squash for 20 to 25 more minutes, flipping the slices over once, about halfway through. The squash should be tender and lightly browned.

Meanwhile, once the sage is cooled, in a small bowl, crumble the leaves into the coarse sea salt and combine (discard the stems).

Sprink the sage salt over the squash slices when serving.

If you’ve stuck with me this far, here’s a picture of my latest knitting project, a sweater for my friend Lauren’s toddler. This was such fun to make. I’d love to make an adult sized version of the same sweater for myself.


Purple and Green

My favorite colors are purple and green, especially together. I really like the combination. I’m not really sure whether they go together, but they do to me.

The doors of my house are painted purple. The room I use at home for an office/project room is painted Corsage Orchid. My dining room is painted Queen Anne Lilac. I like to wear purple and green too.

My niece Rachel asked me to knit her a hat. She’s a girl after my own heart. She requested a hat that was lime green and light purple, a perfect color combination in my opinion. I’ve made Rachel several hats since she was born (she’s 8). It was years before her mother, my sister Jennifer, told me that all the hats I had made for her were too big. The two I made when she was an infant didn’t fit her until she was 5. My biggest worry was that I wouldn’t get the circumference right (yes, my sister did send the measurement of her head).

Rachel's Hat

The hat was so cute that, as soon as I mailed the hat off to Rachel, I made one for myself from some avocado green and a dark purple yarn leftover from a felted tote bag I made. Even though I tried it on as I went, I was disappointed that the finished product was too short. It didn’t cover my ears. It was more of a beanie than a hat, cute, but not so practical. No worries, I’ll just make me another.

Betsy's Hat

On Valentine’s Day, I got an email from Jennifer to say that Rachel loved the hat, but… it didn’t cover her ears. So, now I’m making Rachel another one too.

If you’ve follow my blog, you know that I like to make soup. I had some ham in the freezer, so I tried out a new split pea soup recipe, with ham, obviously. It was different from the usual split pea soup I make, not quite as thick, with some diced potatoes. It hit the spot for a Sunday lunch, plus we’ll enjoy it for lunch at work for a few days. When I snapped the picture, I noticed that my green soup was in a purple bowl. There’s that color combination again, totally unexpected. It follows me everywhere.

Split Pea Soup with Ham and Potatoes
Serves 6

2 Tbsp olive oil
2 medium onions, chopped
2 or 3 cloves garlic, minced
8 cups chicken stock
1 pound dried split peas (I prefer a mix of green and yellow)
2 cups potatoes, peeled and diced
1½ tsp herbes de Provence
1 tsp Tabasco sauce
2 cups diced ham from a ham steak (about 8 oz)

Heat the oil in a soup pot. Add the onion and garlic. Saute for 1 minute to soften slightly. Add the remaining ingredients. Bring to a boil, then, reduce the heat to low. Cover and simmer for 1 hour, stirring occasionally to prevent it from sticking to the bottom of the pot. Add more water if it gets too thick (I didn’t have to). Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Eat it while it’s hot!