Squashes and pumpkin, brown butter and chickpeas

(FYI: That title should be sung to the tune of “My Favorite Things.”  My thoughts often come in the form of show tunes…)

It’s FALL, people, and I love it!  I’m a big fan of fallish food, new notebooks, breaking out the cardigans, crunchy leaves, all that stuff.  I went a little crazy in the apartment kitchen this week…but don’t worry, I still did my homework and everything.  First, let’s talk squash.  Butternut squash is my number one favorite food (OK, except for chocolate), but in an effort to branch out, I made my first official squash of Autumn 2K10 a spaghetti squash.  I brought that baby home, sliced it in half, scooped out the seeds, and put it skin-side-down in a 9×13 pan.  Drizzle of olive oil, salt and pepper, a tiny bit of water in the pan (because that’s how my ma does it), covered with foil, and into the oven until it flakes easily when scraped with a fork and looks like…guess what…spaghetti.  I can’t give you reliable time and temperature information, because I have an oven that is, as far as I can tell, always conspiring against me and my recipe success.

Sure, it looks like a normal oven.  But, as I learned during my first baking adventure in this apartment (ill-fated sugar cookies), it burns everything unless you set it for at least 25 degrees less than recommended and watch things like a hawk.  I also preemptively open the windows and get out a hand-towel in case I need to fan the smoke detector to make it stop going off.  So, I guess I’ll suggest 350 for around 30-40 minutes for your squash, but take that with a grain of salt.

While cooking the squash, I made some spaghetti-type sauce to go on top.  I didn’t measure anything, so I have no proper recipe to give you, but here’s a blurry picture of the pan for your viewing pleasure, followed by a run-down of what I used.

I chopped half an onion and sauteed it with some grated carrot I needed to use up.  After that had cooked for about ten minutes, I added a couple splashes of balsamic vinegar, a can of chickpeas, and a jar of spaghetti sauce, homemade by my dear mother and stuck in my laundry basket the last time I visited home.  I let that all heat through and bubble for awhile, and when the squash was ready I threw a couple handfuls of spinach into the sauce.  Then I scraped the cooked squash with a fork to get some “noodles” and topped them with a scoop of the sauce, like so:

I had a great discovery at the grocery store on my way home from class yesterday.  About a week ago I tried to find canned pumpkin in Des Moines and was told the store was out because of a “national shortage.”  I was NOT pleased, my friends!  But yesterday I found some, bought six cans just in case, and returned to the apartment to apron up and get baking.  Triumphant canned pumpkin face below:

Baking implements ready for action:

I used a pumpkin bar recipe from everyone’s favorite saucy Southerner, Ms. Paula Deen.  Here’s the link.  I tried to healthify things a little bit, though.  Instead of Paula’s recommended 1 and 2/3 cups of sugar, I used 1 scant cup and one mashed, overripe banana.  I also replaced 1/2 cup of the flour with whole wheat flour.  And if there’s one thing I’ve learned from my Paula Deen recipe experiences, it’s that this woman’s ideas about how much frosting you need border on insane.  I made a half batch, and it was plenty.  And here’s a hot tip: butter in frosting is good, but BROWNED BUTTER IS BETTER.  Here’s what you should do if you want cream cheese frosting that tastes like….everything right and good in the world.  Put 4 tablespoons of butter in a small skillet and cook over medium heat for approximately 5 or 6 minutes.  Stir often.  You’ll know it’s done when it smells like toasted nuts, caramel, and heaven itself, and when it looks like this:

Mix 4 ounces of cream cheese (room temperature!) with one cup of confectioner’s sugar and 1/2 teaspoon of vanilla.

Let the butter cool for about ten minutes, incorporate it into the cream cheese mixture with an electric mixer, frost, and then do some quality control (by that I of course mean eat some).

And I still have five cans of pumpkin left!


2 responses to “Squashes and pumpkin, brown butter and chickpeas

  1. Is watching baked goods in your oven easier for you because you are a hawkeye?? (“watch it like a hawk”) haha. Man…it’s been a while, I’m glad to see a new blog out of you. Also, I will attest that these pumpkin bars were DELICIOUS.

  2. I’ll be purchasing a spaghetti squash tout suite! (not sure about my French spelling, but you know what I mean 🙂
    And–the frosting looks insanely creamy and delicious! I think you’ve got it down!

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