As so often happens, once you open your heart and fall madly in love, the object of your desire is cruelly yanked away and you’re left only with the crumbs of passion and teasing reminders of happier times. Not that I’m comparing the loss of Mellow Mushroom‘s seasonal Homegrown Harvest Pie & Drunken Fun Guys & other yummy menu items to an intense but doomed love affair … oh, wait … that’s exactly what it is. Mellow Mushroom craftily got us hooked on this absolutely delicious pizza, made with nutmeg-seasoned roasted butternut squash nutmeg on an olive oil and garlic base & topped with parmesan and Montamore cheeses and a swirl of Arugula pesto. And then there were the Drunken Fun Guys — little pillows of pizza dough served with three beer-infused sauces: a spicy cheese dip with Abita Turbodog brown ale, a stout and honey glaze and a Rouge Dead Guy ale spicy mustard. And there there were the Magic Mushroom Soup and Holy Shiitake Pie — also gone but never forgotten. I only mention these now-unattainable treasures because 1) I’m fascinated with how Mellow Mushroom has merged a successful capitalistic business plan with its counter-culture too-cool-to-care laid-back attitude, 2) maybe you’ll be inspired to try to recreate these taste treats at home and 3) maybe the next round of limited-time offerings will be just as good. Fingers crossed.
All signs point to one thing: It definitely is fall. You can tell by the football games, the cooler temps, the changing leaves … and of course, my favorite: the food. Fall food is simply the best. Who doesn’t love warm, fresh and satisfying? At Jack-O-Lantern Farms market in Muscle Shoals this past week, we got a taste — literally — of fall’s abundance when Marriott chef Josh Quick prepared some winter-squash recipes. One word: Yum. Also, more words: Quick, easy and good-for-you. Quick demystified winter squash and made it seem like something I could tackle myself. As enticing as these big and colorful vegetables are, they often seem overwhelming. I mean, what, really, can you do with a butternut squash? Plenty, Quick says. Roast it, saute it, blend it — it’s versatile enough to play with whatever flavors you want. It’s even easy to peel, Quick said, and he proved it by whipping out a simple plastic Y-shaped peeler. So you no longer have an excuse for passing up these squash treasures. And the rumor that you can make spaghetti squash look just like spaghetti noodles is true. See the pile of “pasta” in the right-hand corner of the top left photo? That, my friends, is spaghetti squash. Read Quick’s winter-squash secrets and try out his recipes at my food story in this past Wednesday’s TimesDaily.
*** This post title is in honor of a favorite book 2 1/2-year-old grandson Capt. Adorable and I like to read: “The Ugly Pumpkin.” In this wonderfully illustrated tale, an “ugly pumpkin” can’t figure out where he belongs until he realized he isn’t a pumpkin at all.