Wednesday, November 9, 2011

The Best Laid Plans

Of mice, men, and it turns out, locavores, oft times do go astray. Sigh...

It all started several weeks ago at the Des Moines Downtown Farmers Market. At the time it was mid-October, which meant wonderful fall vegetables were available. In the future we'll plan to grow many of these on our own "farm," but neglect and theivery had left us with none in our community gardening space. In the interim, we simply had to pick up some of each of our fall favorites: sweet potatoes for Greg and butternut squash for Stacia.

Now, the classic butternut squash dish is soup, but Greg really wanted to try something different, so we settled on a squash, sage and pine nut pasta recipe found online. It had been several days since we'd seriously cooked, so we were both excited.

We cut open our squash and scooped out the seeds. (Pretty, isn't it?)

Chopped it up with some onions (from our garden!), garlic (from the farmer's market) and sage (which we had been growing ourselves but lost to cold temperatures, so we got packaged stuff from a nearby herb farm). It looked like this, and the whole house smelled sage-y!

Into the oven it went to roast while we cooked the pasta and fried up some more sage. If you've never fried sage in olive oil, man that is a fragrant and tasty concoction.

Look how crispy they are!

Finally, we threw the squash mixture into a big pot with the pasta and the pine nuts to cook for a bit, then tossed with some shredded parmesan cheese and voila! - fancy dinner. Time to uncork a nice bottle and turn on the dinner jazz!

But wait... Isn't something missing? Nowhere in that whole list of steps was there mention of a sauce. And with starchy pasta, starchy squash and sticky parmesan cheese, that quickly became apparent. Great sage and squash flavor, to be sure, but it sure was hard to eat. And with this being our first really home-cooked meal in a while, it became even more disappointing.

But if there's one thing we've learned, it's that cooking is not an exact science, and adaptability is key. With a half-full pot of leftover squash pasta, simply giving up wasn't an option. We opted for the lazy route - buying a storebought alfredo jar, not wanting to spend a lot of time or effort if it wasn't salvageable. Fortunately Bertoli came to the rescue and, though the final product may not have been our favorite dish ever, at least we were able to polish off the leftovers the next day.

We can probably chalk this up to being a bit rusty in big-deal cooking lately. With all the moving and the yard work, most of our meals have been quick and easy, so we forgot the obvious steps of reading through the comments on the recipe (many others commented on how dry it was) and just critically thinking through the process. We should have recognized right off the bat that this pasta needed a sauce, but we stuck to the directions and needed to improvise at the last minute.

Fortunately there's another farmer's market in a few weeks, and hopefully someone will still have squash available. It would be sad for Stacia if this were her only butternut squash experience of the fall. Now we'll just need to decide what to make with the next one. Perfect this dish, make the traditional soup, or something else entirely? What's your go-to for squash?

1 comment:

  1. You should make this with the next squash:

    It is so good I daydream about it. Seriously.