Monday, September 05, 2005

eat autumn

I've been deservedly chided by one of my regulars for taking such a long time to write an update, but what can I say? August turned out to be a busy, eventful month. One day, maybe I'll scrawl about the crazy, up-and-down, rollercoaster goings-on of the last month. But tonight, I prefer to avoid all of that and talk about the one topic we all know and love - food.

In a cruel twist of fate, autumn has beset itself on western Canada extra early this year and, alas, the leaves are turning colors and starting to fall from the trees. But rather than recoiling in horror at the prospect of the near-term arrival of what I'm sure will about 8 months of freezing, bone-numbing winter, I consciously choose to embrace autumn. Yes, goddamnit, embrace. And by "embrace," I mean I'm going to eat it. Well, that's a bit of a lie, I can't actually eat an entire season but I can do the next best thing and eat my butternut squash agnolotti with sage, avocado and toasted hazelnuts - the consummate autumn dish.

Wow, lucky you, in about 10 seconds you're going to be inundated with another one of my crack recipes. (Note: the following recipe contains no crack. Second note: I use the phrase "my crack recipe" loosely here, as this is a recipe I originally stole from Giada De Laurentiis and then made slight modifications to. Ok, my lawyers are now happy. Let's move on).

Butternut Squash Agnolotti with Sage, Avocado and Toasted Hazelnuts
250 grams of butternut squash agnolotti (pumpkin ravioli or tortellini also works)
5-6 fresh sage leaves (use dried if fresh leaves aren't accessible)
1 small avocado, cut into slices
1 handful of hazelnuts
1 amaretti cookie
3-4 pinches of ground nutmeg
1 pinch of salt
1 tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons of butter
freshly grated parmigiano reggiano (yes, this is expensive but it's worth it)

Preheat oven to 350F. Place your hazelnuts on a cookie sheet and toast them in the oven until they smell nice. This takes about 8 minutes in my retro (not by choice) General Electric oven. Remove the hazelnuts from the oven and coarsely chop them. Discard the dark brown hazelnuts skins if you prefer; I tend to keep mine around. Set the hazelnuts aside and allow them to cool.

Meanwhile, for your agnolotti, bring a pot of water to a light boil. Remember to salt your pasta water. Add the butternut squash agnolotti to the water and cook for about 7 minutes or until done. Remove and plate. Cover the plate with aluminum foil to keep the pasta warm.

In a small saucepan, warm the olive oil and butter at medium heat. After about 2 minutes, toss in your avocado slices and stir fry them a little for a couple of minutes. Next, add the sage leaves and fry for maybe 30 seconds - by then, they should start to crisp ever so slightly. Remove your sauce from the heat and stir in the nutmeg.

Pour your olive oil, butter, avocado, sage, and nutmeg sauce over the agnolotti. Sprinkle on the toasted hazelnuts and the parmesan cheese. Grate your amaretti cookie over the agnolotti and serve. There should be enough for two - one plate for you and one for your honey. Enjoy!

Himeji-Jo (Himeji Castle), Himeji, Japan. (2002). All right, fine, so this picture really has very little to do with the above recipe other than the fact that it's autumn in the photo, too. I took the shot with my Kodak F300 point-and-shoot during a short holiday to Japan in the Fall of 2002. Note the goregous Japanese maple trees in the foreground, whose delicate leaves are no bigger than a silver dollar. A sight to behold, for sure.

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