Right now our roof is balancing more than two feet of snow from three snowstorms that have made this the snowiest winter recorded in Washington history. Desi's spent about half of the last week shoveling snow, and there's more that's collecting right now and will have to be taken care of tomorrow. And as I write this, I can't help but worry just a little about how on earth am I going to get to work tomorrow when Metro has canceled most services and my car is buried out of sight?
But all the work and stresses seem trivial when you look outside the window at a world cloaked in incandescent white. Trees hang low, their branches delicately balancing neat, inches-deep fingers of snow. The sidewalks, streets and winter-brown lawns roll together into an unending stretch of pure white, marked, perhaps, by the long, parallel tracks of a cross-country skier delighted that the ski resort has landed at their doorstep. Occasionally, lightening sends an unusually deep-blue flash lancing across the bright night sky.
Yes, it's hard to be angry at the snow. Certainly not when it gives you the chance to stay indoors and cook up delicious food.
During the winter months, I usually have some hard-skinned squash sitting in my kitchen. Squashes are perfect food for the cold weather because not only are they seasonal but they also infuse into your body-- susceptible to colds and flus in these months-- generous quantities of vitamin C. And as that bright, exquisitely orange color signifies, winter squashes are super rich in Vitamin A which is great for your vision and a potent cancer fighter.
Squashes have a rich flavor of their own, so they don't need too much accessorizing. In this recipe, some garlic, onions and herbs complement the pumpkin's sweetness beautifully while not overpowering it.
So here's my recipe, then, based loosely on a recipe for Trinidadian Pumpkin from World Vegetarian. It's a super-versatile recipe and you can easily use another winter squash like butternut, if you prefer, or different herbs. I'd go with a spicy herb, like thyme, oregano, rosemary or sage (which I used), rather than a sweet one like basil or mint.
About 3 cups of pumpkin, skin removed and flesh cut roughly into 1/2-inch cubes
1 medium onion, finely chopped
3 cloves of garlic, minced
2 serrano or jalapeno chillies, finely chopped (use less if you like less heat, or take out the seeds and ribs)
7-8 medium-sized sage leaves, minced
2 tbsp finely chopped cilantro or coriander leaves
2 tsp sugar
1 tbsp canola or other vegetable oil
Salt to taste
Heat the oil in a saucepan. Add the onions and stir-fry until they just start to brown.
Add the garlic, chillies, sage and cilantro and stir for a few seconds. Now add the pumpkin cubes.
Add 1/4 cup of water or vegetable stock and when the water begins to simmer, turn the heat to low, cover the saucepan, and let the pumpkin cook, stirring occasionally, for about 45 minutes or until it is buttery-soft and tender. Mash some of the pumpkins, if you like, for more texture.
Add salt and sugar and turn off the heat. Serve hot with rotis or as a side dish with rice and a spicy curry.