Last month the calendar told me it was now fall, and when it did I felt my first real pangs of homesickness for the east coast. A particularly rainy September in my new world brought it on, and as the sog soaked into Hood River, I pined openly for crisp days past and brightly colored fall leaves that crunched under foot. But now, as the left coast October closes around me in spectacular fall splendor, it’s only fair to give my new autumnal surroundings its due. So, gentle readers, get ready for some serious scenic gushing…
There is a trail along a creek a few blocks from my house and I hike it most days either early in the morning or right around sunset. Oh my poor Facebook friends… Since I moved here, the friended gang has been inundated with pictures of this creek in various stages of late summer, early, and now mid autumn. Most of my pre-relocation cyber-pals know I tend to get clicky with the iPhone camera when I spy something that stirs me, and have graciously thumbs-upped through countless pixs of urban walks along the Hudson River or the High Line. Naturally when I moved to Oregon, I felt compelled to share my new views with curious friends and family, many of whom unhesitatingly supported my new mid-life renaissance, but didn’t really know where this planet ‘Hood River’ was, let alone what it looked like. I have a feeling they know now. Perhaps a few pictures would have sufficed, but I just can’t help myself. Each time I think I’ve snapped enough, I turn the corner and there is something that takes my breath away with its stunning beauty. Sunrises are spectacular, sunsets indescribable, and when you add in tons of trees, vineyards, orchards, and farm land vying for autumnal attention, and it’s hard not to get visually intoxicated.
Words are nice, but a bit superfluous when it comes to describing a beautiful picture, especially when you have them. So here you go – a view of my new world in fall. As far as words, I have just two – HELLO GORGEOUS!
With fall thoughts come musings of squash. Well, for me it does. Varieties abound, especially when you live near a farming community, and I’m often looking for new ones to supplement my recipes for pumpkins, butternuts and acorns. This year I met a lovely couple of local farmers named Ian and Dawn who introduced me to the delicata. A perfect size for one or two, its sweetness reminds me of butternut but even better, and it’s easy to clean and cook. Inspired by my new squashy find, I came up with this recipe, Delicata Squash with Mushrooms, Breadcrumbs and Hazelnuts, with the things I had on hand. Since I now have wonderful local chanterelles, they were the mushrooms I used, but creminis or any other mushroom you have work just fine too. Serve along side roasted chicken, fish or meat, or all by itself with a green salad. Hello gorgeous!
Delicata Squash with Mushrooms, Breadcrumbs and Hazelnuts
- 1 Delicata squash, halved lengthwise and cleaned of seeds and membranes
- 2 TBSP roasted hazelnuts
- ¼ cup fresh breadcrumbs
- 1 ½ TBSP butter
- 1 tsp olive oil, plus more for drizzling
- 2-3 TBSP finely chopped shallot or onion
- 2 ounces mushrooms, torn or chopped to bite-sized pieces. (Use what you have available – I used chanterelles, but creminis work beautifully too.)
- 2 tsp aged good balsamic vinegar, or balsamic crema (this is available in most supermarkets now as ‘balsamic cream’)
Preheat oven to 425°F. Line a baking sheet with foil, then drizzle the cut side of squash half with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Roast cut-side down on the foil for 20 minutes until soft. Take squash out of oven, cover with foil to keep warm, and turn oven down to 350°F.
Chop the hazelnuts and add to a bowl. Melt 2 tsp butter in a pan and sauté the breadcrumbs until toasted and lightly browned. Add to the bowl with the hazelnuts. Wipe out sauté pan; add the remaining butter and teaspoon olive oil and sauté the chopped shallot or onion with a good pinch of salt until softened, about 3 minutes over medium-high h heat. Add in the mushrooms; turn heat down to medium-low and sauté until the mushrooms have given up most of their liquid. Add onion/mushroom mixture to bowl with breadcrumbs, hazelnuts. Drizzle lightly with olive oil, add a few grinds of black pepper and toss well.
Stuff the squash with the mushroom mixture and bake at 350° for about 10-15 minutes until everything is heated through and the top is crunchy. (You could assemble these ahead, stow in fridge and bake them off right before dinner – just bring to room temperature before baking.)
Drizzle with balsamic or balsamic cream and serve. Calories: approximately 230 per serving.
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