Last spring one of my awesome students, who knew I was food crazy and blog obsessed, asked me if I read Joy the Baker. I told her I didn’t and she said, “JESSICA. You have to read her blog–she reminds me of you, if you drank in the shower!” Little does she know, I thought to myself, that I consider drinking in the shower one of life’s greatest treats (seriously, try it! champagne will make you feel especially like you’re getting away with something). I started reading, and was quickly hooked. When I told my student, who has a fantastic blog of her own, she urged me to listen to Joy’s podcasts, too.
The podcasts, which I finally started listening to when I was packing up to move this summer, instantly reminded me of two of my most treasured possessions: audio tapes my sister and her best friend made for me when I first went off to college. For a few nights, they put a tape recorder on the console between them in the car while they drove around to all of our usual spots, and recorded themselves just chatting and singing along to the Oldies station on the radio. It is embarrassing to admit how often I have listened to these tapes over the 13 years (!) that I’ve had them–I listened to them while writing papers during both undergrad and grad school…and I wrote a lot of papers. Even tho I practically know these crazy tapes by heart at this point, making them not exactly fresh, listening to them still makes me laugh out loud and feel as if I’m right there in the car with two of my favorite people.
I get the same feeling listening to the Joy the Baker podcasts, except that I feel like I’m hanging out in a friend’s kitchen instead of riding in the backseat of my sister’s car. Joy and her friend Tracy (aka Shutterbean) talk about everything and nothing, share stories and give advice, always with a lot of wonderful silliness. Just like my sister’s tapes, they give me the giggles and keep me company–I blasted through the archive while packing and unpacking, and since I’ve been settled in my new place I’ve gotten into the habit of saving the newest podcasts for big cooking nights. By now I’ve listened to most of them twice. Worth it!
I started reading Tracy’s blog after listening for a while, and just like with Joy I loved her photos, food, and stories. This recipe for nut-stuffed delicata squash stood out out to me when I was poking around her recipe index, because I had been noticing delicata squash (the cutest of the squashes, I feel) in the farmers market for the last few weeks. I’d only had it once before, at Roberta’s last fall, and had been thinking of it off and ever since. I was also intrigued by the idea that this smelled like Thanksgiving, especially because I’ve been describing a dish at a favorite Greek restaurant as tasting like Christmas for years. I love the idea of a recipe that can evoke something like that, without actually making a huge holiday meal. And I wanted to see what Tracy’s version of Thanksgiving smelled like (weird? maybe!).
This recipe was really satisfying to make. Scooping out the squash, chopping all the nuts, mixing everything together into a delicious smelling creamy mush and filling the squash back up was some of the more really fun hands-on cooking I’ve done recently. It comes together quickly, and the 45 minute baking time is a great excuse to tidy up (or watch an episode of Revenge, either way) while you wait. The dish didn’t exactly smell like my version of Thanksgiving, but it did smell fantastic–I checked the squash for doneness a couple of times near the end and think I made an audible “mmmm” sound every time I opened the oven door. It’s also a really complete feeling meal, since you get both a veggie and the filling protein from the nuts. And, of course, the all important cheese tastiness.
I followed the recipe’s instructions and ingredients, but only cooked one squash (each half was the perfect amount for a meal) and got a little fuzzy with the other amounts. This was actually a big deal for me–my comfort zone, as I’ve said before, is following recipes to the letter, so saying to myself “ok, so I just need roughly a half a cup total of nuts–let’s eyeball it” is progress. This recipe, full of such yummy ingredients, seemed like a safe one to experiment with.
And yes, I listened to a Joy the Baker podcast while I made it.