I am slowly going back to the kitchen. Which is all I want to do, really, with the ice and snow and dark out there.
My body has gone in hibernation mode, like nature out there. Since I cannot move, it has kindly switched off hunger, so that eating less is much easier. I never managed to diet successfully: actually, just the word ‘diet’ gives me sweaty palms. I am not thin and I think you might have a sneaky suspicion that I kind of like eating at this point, but I have always managed to keep my weight more or less stable. Now I know I have some internal regulator to thank for. Certainly not my iron will to resist temptations…
The reduced food cravings does not mean at all that I don’t enjoy food, on the contrary. I just feel full after smaller portions, and I crave light meals. I am appreciating preparation even more. I am much less efficient than normal, thus each small step requires care and attention. Preparing each ingredient, hunting for it in the fridge, washing it, cutting it, bringing it to the pan, used to be one gesture in my mind, and now they are complex processes requiring planning. Lately I have been loving vegetables, their flavours and textures even more. Of course Ottolenghi is a huge source of inspiration, but I just figured out that you need to be a bit of a super woman to cope with the endless list of ingredients. If I am not shopping personally, and if I am exhausted after chopping one onion, there is no way I can put together complex salads with twenty ingredients, or send my shopper to hunt for fenugreek, and in German, for good measure (for future reference sake, it is called Bockshornklee). I never realized this before getting sick. On the other hand Heidi is the same, old huge inspiration. These green beans and these brussels sprouts are the kind of thing I want to eat right now – simple preparation, a light recipe, a dish full of flavour. Like this combination with squash: once I used it to make ravioli, now I have found out that it makes a great side dish on its own.
All in all, this is an easy recipe, which is all I can cook right now, and it is something you can put together with things you have in your pantry, given that you have some squash, and your pantry is as mediterranean oriented as mine. It is good served hot, but it is also very good cold, which makes it a great bento filler. If you make the roasted squash ahead, it is ready in a few minutes. And it really tastes good.
Mashed squash with dried tomatoes and shallots
1/2 Hokkaido squash (big one; use a whole one if small), or any other squash type
1 teaspoon crushed rosemary nedles
3-4 sun dried tomatoes
Cut the squash in large chunks, taking off the seeds. If using Hokkaido there is no need to peel it. Put it on a baking tray with a little salt. Don’t salt too much because you are going to add dried tomateos to it that are quite salty. Roast in the oven (200 celsius) until the squash is tender when pierced with a fork and is slightly brown at the edges – depending on your oven, this will take about 20 minutes (I usually do this when making granola, since the time and oven temperature are similar). Allow it to cool slightly. Can be made up to a day ahead.
In a large bowl, mash the squash with a fork. If the skin bothers you, you can cut it off.
Peel and cut the shallots into 1/2 cm thick rinds. Cut the dried tomatoes into ribbons of similar size. Heat a tablespoon of olive oil in a small pan over medium heat, and gently brown the shallots and tomatoes in it. After a few minutes, when they are slightly brown, add a splash of water and a teaspoon of rosemary needles, lower the heat and continue cooking for a further five minutes, until shallots and tomatoes are soft.
Add the shallots and tomatoes together with their juices to the squash. Mix well, taste, adjust salt and pepper, and let it rest a while to allow for the flavours to mix.