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
Inspired by Tournant
1 2 to 3 pound Kombucha Squash
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
4 cups arugula
1/4 cup toasted pepitas
1/2 cup crumbled Feta
Zest and juice from 1 lemon
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.