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Posts tagged ‘sage’

Butternut Squash Crumble with Goat Cheese and Sage

Of all the hypotheticals I’ve entertained in the daydream hours of spring, there’s one I return to with special frequency. If I had my own restaurant kitchen, what would be on my opening night playlist?

To say music sets the tone for an eating experience may be an understatement, but in many dining rooms the soundtrack goes woefully ignored. Neutral and instrumental seems to be the direction of choice, followed closely by a Pandora-style lineup of “Greatest Coffee Shop Hits: 80s, 90s and Today.” When a place does it right, though, the effect can be magical. Full disclosure: I loved The Little Owl on Bedford as much for their playlists as for their meatball sliders, and secretly bookmarked their website just for the pleasure of streaming Frankie Valli & the Four Seasons. (Do it! Their 3-song loop brings back many happy memories.)

At Love Apple Farms we frequently blasted music out over the garden terraces. Our garden manager had a proclivity for Phish and The Dead, but the best days were when a laptop in the tool shed was plugged into the speakers with an open playlist. “It’s not about choosing a good song, it’s about finding the song that captures your mood right now,” Ross told me earnestly one afternoon, and I took the wisdom to heart. My choices were generally scattershot, often verging on embarrassing (Sting, anyone? No, not the Police… “Desert Rose”). Fortunately my cohorts had better musical taste. When I think of the farm on late-summer afternoons I think of overripe cherry tomatoes, the clouds parting over Monterey Bay, and Ross sprinting to the laptop to play The Talking Heads’ “This Must Be the Place.”

Recently I’ve realized the same wisdom can be applied to cooking. It’s not about a perfect meal every night, but rather putting together what feels right. Sometimes I genuinely crave spaghetti with grated cheese; many afternoons I crunch on slices of raw red cabbage; other weekends I want a three-course Moroccan feast, the spices satisfying some unknown culinary desire. Some nights I need the pleasant ache of Madeleine Peyroux’s “I’m All Right” and Mayer Hawthorne’s “Just Ain’t Gonna Work Out”; other nights I slide around the kitchen to Lyle Lovett’s “Don’t Touch My Hat.” There’s a lot to be said for being true to the moment—in music and in food.

Butternut Squash Crumble with Goat Cheese and Sage

I fell in love with this savory crumble the moment I saw it on La Tartine Gourmand, and though it took me awhile to get around to making it, it didn’t disappoint. My adaptation uses goat cheese instead of tomato to make the filling smooth and creamy, and I also found that pre-roasting the butternut squash makes for a delicious, caramelized treat.

2 medium butternut squash

olive oil

salt & pepper

1 large onion

handful fresh sage leaves

1 small round goat cheese, crumbled

1/2 cup white whole wheat flour

2 Tbsp. butter, cut into small pieces

1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Peel the butternuts and cut them into small chunks; toss with olive oil, salt and pepper and arrange on a baking tray. Roast in the oven until soft and browned, about half an hour.

While the butternut is cooking, slice the onion and saute in olive oil in a medium saucepan. Roughly chop the fresh sage and add to the pan with a sprinkling of salt and pepper. Cook until the onion is translucent, then set aside to cool.

Mix the flour, butter and parmesan cheese in a bowl, rubbing the butter into the flour with your fingers until the mixture resembles course crumbs. Set aside.

Reduce oven heat to 350 degrees. Toss the warm roasted butternut with the onion mixture and the crumbled goat cheese. Spread evenly in a buttered baking dish and top with the crumble mixture. Bake until the topping is golden, about 25-30 minutes, and enjoy!

garlic soup with sage and poached egg

I’m giving you advance warning: this is going to be another one of those “life philosophy” posts that I secretly planned on indulging in when I started this blog. One of the things I love most about working outside with my hands (ok, physical labor) is that it gives me ample time to let my mind wander, and as a former English major random acts of thinking are what I do best.

Of course there is such a thing as too much thinking. The times I’ve let my mind ramble a bit too freely I’ve either A) composed elaborately worded letters to boys who clearly didn’t like me anymore or B) come up with plotlines for truly original works of fiction (boy meets girl who tells him she’s a ghost come back to fall in love, but wait—she’s actually just delusional! Unfortunately I actually wrote that). Thinking is an art—no one wants to do a mental tally of the month’s finances, but take thirteen of an imagined conversation isn’t a good place to end up either (although that time, you really nailed the withering comeback). Overly pragmatic or dramatic thoughts keep you going in circles—reflection gets you somewhere much more interesting. Farming is work that gives you space to reflect, and that’s something I’ve discovered I really like.

Leaving home for New York my freshman year in college wasn’t the easiest thing, but I came out the other end having learned something that changed the way I looked at life. The lesson? Find the small things that consistently make you happy, then make sure they’re part of your life each day. It doesn’t matter whether I’m in the middle of Oklahoma city or the rolling hills of Virginia—if I can go for a nice run in the morning and spend a couple hour in the kitchen cooking at night, I’ll be that much happier. Dramatically happier. I know it sounds simple, but it works. There are dozens of things that can change how you feel, but when I’m sad or lonely I just run, cook, and do crossword puzzles more.

And now I think I’ve found something to add to the list: work that gives you room to think. It’s something that farming and cooking share, and for me, space to think is space to write. Someone I believe understands this very well is the chef and writer David Tanis, whose new NYTimes column City Kitchen I stumbled across the other day after reading an interview on Eater. Smitten I decided to try one of his recipes, and this simple garlic soup caught my eye. As a meal it was perfect—just a few key ingredients that come together to make something flavorful and rewarding.

A little bit like life.

Garlic Soup with Sage and Poached Egg

From David Tanis’ City Kitchen

8 cloves of garlic, roughly chopped

6 sage leaves, sliced into thin strips

3-4 cups water

salt and pepper

egg

toasted slice of good bread

In a medium saucepan, heat garlic and sage over medium-high heat for a minute or two. Add water before the garlic browns and simmer gently for 10 minutes to create a broth, seasoning with salt and pepper to taste. When your 10 minutes is up crack an egg in the broth to poach for two minutes. Lay your slice of toasted bread in a shallow bowl and ladle the egg on top, and finish by pouring in the broth.

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