Shades of Gray

©cookinginmyheels.com

©cookinginmyheels.com

Before you get too excited, I’m talking about sky-gray, not numerous shades of other activities. It’s been about 4 months now since shoes and I moved from right coast to left, so I think it’s time to talk about the weather.

When you tell most people who don’t live in the pacific northwest that you’re are moving to the pacific northwest, usually the first thing they say is “it rains a lot there.” Well yes, it does. And yes, it’s something I’ll be getting used to as my time here moves from weeks to months and likely longer. So let’s talk about the big gray elephant-shaped cloud in the room. First of all, fact is over the course of a year there is more rainfall in NYC than in Oregon. Of course in Gotham that rain usually happens all at once. Here the quantity of raindrop is less, but the number of days the little darlings make an appearance is more. Much more. And yes, at certain times of the year it will feel like that rain is every day. So one thing I know is I’d best figure out ways to deal with it

Many of you know I’m an avid wanderer. When you live in the city, it’s called going for a walk. Here, it’s called hiking, and I like to hike… a lot. So now that I live in a place known for its moisture-filled climate, you might think my wanderlust would be curbed a bit. I mean, going for a walk in the rain wouldn’t be called a pleasant experience by most city dwellers. Between jousting with umbrellas, leaping puddles of dubious size (and depth) and the occasional geyser spray of curb-close cabs, it’s not exactly something one would choose to do for enjoyment. However here, I discovered, it’s been just the opposite.  A little wet weather from overhead doesn’t mean you don’t go out and play. Maybe it’s just foggy, or misting, or lightly raining, or (my personal favorite) downpour through sunshine, but live in a place like this and you quickly learn to just go with it. As they say here, if you don’t like the weather, just wait 15 minutes and it’ll change. Our weather is very democratic and there’s a little slice of climate for every taste. Look up and the sky is a sea of matte gray. Look again it’s dark slate, then bits of blue, maybe some pink, and then it’s sunny while pouring, simultaneously. Here skies here have a sense of style, and a sense of humor. They seem to know the exact moment you’ve geared up with wellies and slicker and headed out the door, into bright sunshine. Or they wait until you’ve gotten your hair ‘just-so’ and have started walking to your car before they open, and then watch as freshly painted face runs down chin. Go ahead, check the weather channel; it’s not going to matter. Any forecast here is a crap-shoot.

By now you’re probably wondering why would anyone want to pick up a life and relocate it to the rainforest (and rain-mountain and rain-orchard). I confess I had that thought myself before I got here. But once I landed I began to see a lot more than just another rainy day. I saw the many shades of gray, and the stunning colors surrounding it. Every artist knows things look better on white or lightly gray walls, so imagine what a spectacular forest or autumn tinged orchard looks like against a gray sky. Ambers become deeper, yellows brighter, greens, well, greener. It’s a beautiful view, shine or rain.

2013-11-12 09.04.17

And if you think all this drippy sentiment is just making excuses for living in a place known for dreary weather, here’s one last thing to consider. Following all that rain you get a lot of these…. Not a bad trade-off for all that gray, is it?

©cookinginmyheels.com

©cookinginmyheels.com

When the weather is gray I look for color in the kitchen. 2013-11-12 13.06.15This week that color was the sunny orange of a butternut squash. But rather than just roasting, or stuffing, or making into a creamy soup, I decided to top pizza with it. The dough and technique are from Jim Lahey’s Bread Book, and I coupled it with an idea or two from Nathan, our amazing bread whisperer/chef at the bakery. Pizza con zucca (Butternut Pizza) makes a great appetizer, lunch, or dinner. And just top with a sunny poached egg for a weekend breakfast treat guaranteed to brighten up even the grayest day.

2013-11-12 13.42.12

Pizza con la zucca (Butternut Pizza)

Makes one 12 x 17” Pizza

  • ½ recipe pizza dough (from Neighbors)
  • 1 tsp roughly chopped sage
  • 1 cup arugula
  • ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 ¼ lbs butternut squash, sliced 1/8” thick on a mandolin
  • 3-4 tsp balsamic vinegar
  • 1 oz piece of parmesan
  • Salt and pepper
  • Good balsamic vinegar or balsamic crema for drizzling

Preheat oven to 500°F. Prepare the pizza dough according to the recipe and set aside while you prepare the topping.

Toss the slices of butternut squash in a bowl with 1 TBSP olive oil, 1 tsp salt, ½ tsp pepper. In a separate bowl, toss the arugula with 1 TBSP olive oil, 1 tsp balsamic vinegar and a pinch of salt and pepper. Add the arugula to the squash slices and toss well to combine.

Rub 1 TBSP olive oil on 12”x17” sheet pan (or 13”x18”). Pick up the pizza dough and stretch to the length of the baking sheet. Using your palms, gently pull, press, and stretch the dough to fill the entire bottom of the pan. Be patient, it will get there. I find it’s easier to press out if I oil my hands with a little olive oil rather than flour them, but both work. You don’t need to make a crust up the sides of the pan, just fill it.

Scatter the squash and arugula over the pizza dough. Put a little more filling along the edges (the edges brown faster). Sprinkle with the chopped sage. Drizzle the remaining tablespoon of oil over, and a pinch of salt and a grind or two of pepper. Finally, shave some parmesan over using a vegetable peeler. Bake for 20-25 minutes until the crust and squash is browned. Drizzle a little more good balsamic or if you have it, balsamic crema over top and serve immediately. Calories: about 195 per slice (8 slices per pizza).

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