An Open Cookbook

An Open Cookbook


Butternut Squash Dip

Fall has officially arrived when my counters are filled with pears and pumpkins, hooks are covered in coats, rain boots have a slot next to the dresser, and the warmly spiced smell of change is in the air. We have now celebrated my brother's, my mom's, and my birthday this month. October has always encompassed change, parties, favorite foods, and the milestone of a new age to embrace.

This is one of the bigger birthday years for me. So far in my timeline, 20 felt like a huge jump. Going from teenage status, to an age that began with twenty just sounded incredibly old to me...back then. Although I have generally been someone to celebrate a new age. My parents have always made birthdays a fun celebration in our family, which in turn, has always made it feel like an exciting time. I generally see it as an opportunity to make changes in my life. This is year no different in that regard, but I have a significantly new perspective. I gather it is a result of so much change in the past year. I have completely repaved the yellow brick road.

Butternut squash dip can be a metaphor. Normally I would have pureed roasted butternut squash into a soup with the pears sitting near the window sill, which I did do a few weeks ago. But there are so many new flavors and dimensions to experiment with. So why not give it a try? A new recipe may sprout from this experience, or a new recipe never to be made again may also happen. Either way, a culinary adventure awaits when we open our eyes to the endless possibilities that are at our finger tips. So try something new today or this week. Whether it is putting sweet potato in your smoothie, admitting and embracing the fact that you like a certain R&B song, or booking that trip you daydream about. Regardless of the outcome, you have grown and expanded your horizons into becoming an even better form of yourself. Motto for the day: Just go with it...the future awaits.

Butternut Squash Dip
Makes 2 to 3 cups

This dip was concocted through major trial and error. I wanted it to be a somewhat sweet dip, that vegetables, pita chips, or fruit could be dipped. But I also wanted the squash-like flavor to be mellowed. I suspect the honey and tahini were major players in rounding out the earthiness. Pumpkin or any other squash puree can be substituted for the butternut squash.

2 cups butternut squash puree*
1/4 cup plain yogurt
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
2 pinches cayenne pepper, or more to taste
3 tablespoons honey
2 tablespoons tahini
1 1/2 tablespoons butter

Stir squash puree, yogurt, cinnamon, salt, ginger, and cayenne together in a medium bowl. Place honey, tahini, and butter in a small bowl. Heat honey mixture in microwave until butter is melted and mixture is easily stirred. Stir honey mixture into squash mixture until fully incorporated. Serve chilled or warm.

*Directions for roasting butternut squash:
Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Cut squash in half lengthwise. Scoop out seeds and pulp attached. Seeds can be roasted just like pumpkin seeds if desired. Place squash halves, cut-side up, on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper or Silpat. Brush the squash flesh with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Roast in the preheated oven until a knife is easily inserted into the center of the squash, about 1 hour. Remove from oven and cool. Remove skin from squash. Place squash in a food processor and blend until completely smooth.


Warm Potato and Apple Salad

It is Recipe Swap time of month again where Christianna of Burwell General Store gives us a recipe from a vintage cookbook to alter and create into our own. This month is Russian Salad, which worked out quite nicely because I happen to have some leeks in the refrigerator. While the original recipe did sound delightful (minus the herrings), my mind went immediately to potato leek soup. So potato salad and warm soup synergized, creating warm potato salad.

Potato salad was always a food item I took two steps away from at picnics and potlucks...until I discovered the vinegar-based versions. So Russian Salad was just the inspiration needed to hop on board the fall foods and use an apple in the potato salad, which actually adds a nice crunch. You bite into the salad not knowing if it is an apple or a potato.

We have been having the most amazing fall in Seattle. It is pretty uncommon to have consistently sunny days in the 70s in October, so my brain hasn't been thinking about autumn foods. All the magazines and department store windows are on schedule with the season, but our open-toed shoes and short-sleeved dresses are speaking another language. So the potato and apple salad was the gateway to also roasting my first butternut squash of the season today for a curried squash and pear soup.

Fall is always the time of year of new beginnings. School goes back in session, summer activities end and we start having more of a regular schedule, my mom, brother, and I all celebrate our birthdays, and Halloween is the start of the holiday season. I usually take this time of year to check on my New Year's resolutions, seeing if I have overlooked any one in particular. I reflect on the past year, and make goals and plans for the approaching new age. This week has now become listing making week and going through clothes, papers, etc. to get rid and start anew. The seasonal clean-up has begun. So thank you Christianna and Russian potato salad for getting me into the season of new!

Warm Potato and Apple Salad
Makes 4 to 6 servings

You can also go more along the lines of the Russian Salad and add hard-boiled eggs and chicken for a heartier salad. Or serve it alongside roasted chicken and a spinach salad.

4 red potatoes, cubed
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 leek, finely chopped
Salt and pepper
1 apple, cubed
1 large clove garlic, minced
1 tablespoon olive oil

1/4 cup white wine vinegar
1 1/2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon sugar
Salt and pepper
3 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley

Fill a large pot of water with salted water and bring to a boil. Add potatoes and boil until tender enough to break with fork, 10 to 15 minutes. Drain and set aside.

While potatoes are boiling, heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a skillet over medium heat; saute leek until fragrant and lightly browned, about 10 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Stir apple, garlic, and additional 1 tablespoon olive oil into leek. Continue cooking, stirring occasionally, until apples are slightly tender, 5 to 10 more minutes.

Whisk vinegar, mustard, sugar, salt and pepper together in a bowl; stream 3 tablespoon olive oil in while constantly whisking until fully incorporated. Stir in parsley.

Toss potatoes, leek-apple mixture, and dressing together in a large bowl. Serve warm or chilled.