Smoked Pumpkin with Arugula, Pepitas, and Feta

It feels so good to be writing in this space right now. I always hate being away but there are seasons that demand it. Like the ones in which you spend writing a book.

The manuscript is in. Oh my word, you guys, I’ve not even officially shared the title of the next book with you. Badabadabada (that’s a drum roll). My second book is called: Let’s Stay In: More than 120 recipes to nourish the ones you love. I love it. I hope you do too.

I’m still deep in the process of photographing and editing but my mind is freed up enough that I can think about all the recipes I want to share with you here. It’s been frustrating for me as I imagine it has for you too, to tease you with tempting images and plead with you to wait until next Fall before I give up the recipe. I’m eager to share the book with you and watch you all bound into your kitchens and make the recipes that I have been creating for you over the last year.

We’ll talk more about all of that soon but really I came here to talk about two things; 1. Smoked Pumpkin and 2. Inhaling and Exhaling.

On a recent trip to San Francisco I snagged Brené Brown’s latest book, Braving the Wilderness, from the airport bookstore. It’s been so life giving to me that I hardly think this will be the only time I reference it in conversation here but the concept she introduced to me that I’m living currently is the inhale/exhale of life.

“There is the in-breath and there is the out-breath, and it’s easy to believe that we must exhale all the time, without ever inhaling. But the inhale is absolutely essential if you want to continue to exhale.”

After Date Night In came out I started to understand my creative career, and life in general, as an undulating cycle of output and input, or as Brené would say; inhale and exhale. The inhale is as vital as the exhale. The part in the cycle where you refuel, recharge, and gear up for the next season of exhaling.

This has been a year of a lot of exhale as I once again poured myself into a book while at the same time building our flagship store here in Seattle. As the gray clouds roll in and both projects reach (near) completion my mind is shifting to the season of inhaling.

Inhaling for me can be as simple as sitting with a long neglected cookbook. Although sometimes that hits too close to my day job so I’ll reach for a novel or a book of poetry instead. Last week I took a cooking class from one of my cookbook hero’s, David Tanis. And this morning, while having a hard time getting out of bed, Ivy and I made plans for a cozy day over winter break. We’ll linger in bed all day if we must while we work to hit our goal of finishing Little Women before Christmas.

Inhaling can be simple but it must be a part of the process.

Next let’s talk about smoked pumpkin. While on a recent trip to Utah where I taught a class to some lovely people at the Barebones flagship store in Salt Lake City, I was served a meal cooked entirely over the fire by Mona and Jaret from Tournant. Ever dish inspired but the one that sent me immediately into the kitchen upon my return was the ember roasted pumpkin salad. The exterior was crisp and charred while the flesh so tender it nearly melted. It was sweet, smoky and perfectly offset with tang from lemon and peppery arugula. Pepitas, roasted with great depth and salty sheep feta finish the salad. We started off properly scooping tidy portions onto our plates but after that we moved right to the large platter making sure that our forks each had the perfectly balanced bite.

Over the summer, Traeger sent one of their grills/smokers and I have been using it constantly. For the pumpkin I smoked it for 2 – 2 1/2 hours on 400°F or until it felt tender. Alternately you can roast in a hot oven until tender or bury in embers as Tournant did for their dish. However you decide I do think it is a lovely addition to the holiday table.

Smoked Pumpkin with Arugula, Feta, and Pepitas

Ingredients

Inspired by Tournant

1 2 to 3 pound Kombucha Squash

1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil

Flake salt

Pepper

4 cups arugula

1/4 cup toasted pepitas

1/2 cup crumbled Feta

Zest and juice from 1 lemon

Instructions

Smoke the pumpkin until tender. The longer the pumpkin sits in the smoker the more intense the smokey flavor will be.

With my smoker set to 400°F my pumpkin was tender after about 2 - 2 1/2 hours. Next time I may try 300°F for 3 - 4 hours for more smokiness.

Alternately you can roast the pumpkin whole, in the oven at 400°F until tender. Poke a pairing knife into the pumpkin and when it easily slides all the way you know it's done.

Let the pumpkin cool for at least 10 minutes before cutting off the top then carefully removing the seeds.

Roughly break the pumpkin into smaller sections. Top with some of the olive oil, flake salt and lemon juice.

Pile on the arugula on top then dress with the remaining olive oil and lemon zest and juice. Scatter the Feta and pepitas all over the top.

Serve while the pumpkin is still just warm or room temperature.

If you are making this for the holidays you can easily smoke or roast the pumpkin in advance then dress the salad just before serving.

Be sure to use plenty of olive oil and salt on the pumpkin.

 

 

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Grilled Peach Toast with Crispy Prosciutto and Pecorino

I’m rarely one to jump into trends with much force. Okay, fine there was that one pair of hammer pants in the third grade but I returned them immediately after seeing myself in the mirror. But I’ve never tucked into a smoothie bowl capped with perfectly frosted frozen berries or made anything “unicorn”. The one food trend I will stand by as a devout fan is toast. But to me it hardly feels like a trend as I’ve been eating toast since I taught myself how to slip a piece of bread into the toaster then retrieve it with a butter knife. Said butter knife then immediately dove into the butter  where I proceeded to slather nearly half the stick on my one piece of toast. To this day a deeply toasted piece of thick cut bread with butter and tart jam is my ideal breakfast.

This toast is a bit more involved than the toast of my childhood but only a bit. First salty prosciutto is crisped in a cast iron skillet where peaches slip into the open spaces to caramelize and mingle with any bit of fat that melts off the white laced prosciutto. The bread, thickly sliced, is toasted in the same pan slick with a bit of butter or olive. It’s toasted until just golden and crisp on the exterior while the airy crumb remains soft and billowy. While still warm peppery Pecorino sits on top of the bread followed by slices of the caramelized peaches, a wafer of crispy Prosciutto and a light wisp of finely chopped rosemary. The beauty of this entire dish is that it’s made in one pan and best cooked over an open fire, which as you all know by now, is my favorite way to cook.

I prepared these toast bites a couple weekends ago at Camp Campari in San Francisco. I was there cooking with my friends at Barebones Living. We set up camp near the grill and watched as fellow campers painted with watercolors, enjoyed Campari laced cocktails, and hand tied Shibori cloths in tents flapping in the warm San Francisco breeze. I created this simple toast to pair with a pine infused Campari cocktail with bourbon and sherry.

Of course a campfire isn’t required to make this recipe but it sure does help.

These images were taken by Caroline Hargraves.

*This post was created in partnership with Barebones Living. I’m thrilled to partner with this brand who believes as Rumi said,  ‘Let yourself be silently drawn by the stronger pull of what you love.’ Come, be drawn to your True North.” Barebones creates beautiful and practical products made for a life lived out of doors. They also have a heart to serve and have provided numerous tents to act as shelter in disaster stricken areas. Check out their website to learn more about their story and gather your tools for more outdoor living.

Grilled Peach Toast with Crispy Prosciutto and Pecorino

Prep

Cook

Total

Yield 6 toasts

The key to this dish is the quality of the ingredients. Save this one for the season when peaches perfume the markets. The salty pecorino and prosciutto soften under the smoky sweetness of the grilled peach.

As for the toast, I prefer a butter or oil crisped exterior with a soft bite inside so eating the toast doesn’t feel like a chore.

Ingredients

3 thinly sliced pieces of prosciutto

1 large, ripe peach, pitted and quartered

1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil or unsalted butter

6 thickly sliced pieces of baguette

12 long wispy shavings of pecorino

Flake salt

Freshly cracked black pepper

1 teaspoon finely chopped rosemary

Instructions

In a large cast iron skillet set over coals or a hot grill fry the prosciutto until shriveled and crisp about 3 minutes then flip and cook an additional minute or two.

Add the peach quarters to the same skillet and sear until charred on the exposed flesh. Set aside the peaches and prosciutto.

Add the olive oil or butter to the skillet then crisp the bread until golden on both sides, about 1 to 2 minutes per side.

Add the pecorino to the toast while warm then thinly slice the peaches and add 3 to 5 slices on top. Sprinkle with flake salt and black pepper then add a broken piece of the crispy prosciutto. Finish with a little pinch of chopped fresh rosemary. Serve while warm.

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