The Welcoming Warmth of a Late-Fall Kitchen by Susan Guillory

The warmth and glow of a home kitchen after a chilly late-fall venture to the farmer's market can turn one to more inward thoughts. At the market, the shopping experience is usually quicker and less connected with not as much socializing than it is in warmer months.  For this reason, restoring a feeling of centeredness can be beneficial when returning home with your market fare.

There are a few methods I use to help center myself depending on the weather and my spirits. A hot beverage is my favorite—especially a steaming cup of chamomile tea for a calming tea meditation. Playing my favorite peaceful music and taking a hot bath or shower with a change into lighter clothing can also be very restorative.

Sometimes we are so rushed that it’s common to approach the kitchen with waves of anxiety. If my time is limited, I make sure to stand over the sink with my back to others and bring my breath into my diaphragm and whoosh it out about 10 times while visualizing calmness. I find that the energy produced with just these in and out breaths will permeate the kitchen and affect everyone else in the room. This is when the culinary fun begins!

A favorite family recipe of ours this time of year is a very simple kale pesto. Even children love to help make and eat it:

Kale Pesto
Serves 4

2 bunches of any type of kale (lacinto or dinosaur kale is the most traditional one used in Italy for this recipe)
1 cup lightly toasted pine nuts or walnuts
½ cup olive oil
2-4 cloves of garlic
Dash of hot sauce or cayenne pepper
Salt to taste

Put the kids to work stripping the leaves off of the kale stalks (leaving the stalks on will yield a very bitter pesto). Wash well, lightly shaking them and then placing the damp leaves in a pot with lid on low heat. Add salt, stir occasionally so they will not burn and cook until very soft. Place in a separate bowl to cool. In the meantime roast raw walnuts in the oven at 350 degrees for 7 minutes, or pan roast pine nuts for about 3 minutes (stir constantly and immediately place in a bowl or they will brown or burn). If you do not roast the nuts then the pesto will have a mealy taste. When the ingredients cool to room temperature, place them in a blender. You may need to  puree in batches depending on the size and strength of the appliance. Slowly add the oil and other ingredients until you reach a desired consistency. Add a few drops of water if the kale is especially tough and will not blend smoothly. Serve warm over your favorite pasta. Occasionally I will take the pesto and put it on top of veggies like thinly sliced turnips and bake in the oven for about 20 minutes. It adds pizazz to an otherwise mundane dish.

 

Southwestern Squash Salad
Serves 4

Fall salads are often a challenge as well as finding unique uses for winter squashes. This is a dinner party favorite and I have been serving it for years.

2 acorn and delicata squashes
1 cup chopped cilantro or parsley
½ cup toasted pepitas (pumpkin seeds), could substitute pecans
½ cup olive oil
Juice from a whole lime
½ teaspoon ground cumin (optional)
¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper (optional)
Salt to taste

The best thing about these squashes is that the skin is not only edible but adds an excellent source of fiber to the diet. Scrub squash well then cut lengthwise and scoop out seeds. Slice crosswise into ½ inch pieces. Mix the olive oil with the salt, cumin, and pepper. Lightly coat all the squash with a small amount of the seasoned olive oil. Then place individual pieces on multiple baking pans (you may need to roast in a couple batches). Place in a pre-heated oven at 400 degrees for about 40 minutes. The squash need to be cooked thoroughly, but check often so that they do not brown or burn. When done, let cool to room temperature (family members love to snack on these candy-sweet slices when they are fresh out of the oven!). Take the remaining olive oil mixture and add the lime juice and mix well (a blender is helpful). When squash is cooled place in large bowl and mix with dressing, cilantro, and pepitas.

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