The Cookin’ is Easy

When I was little, I hated vegetables. Hated them. Avoided them at any price.  Would not eat them unless I was forced to, which generally was in the form of having to stay at the supper table until I cleaned my plate. And we all know how wonderfully delicious cold lima beans are. (Parents!) But now? As a card-carrying adult — and that’s an AARP card — I adore fresh vegetables and eat them any chance I get. Luckily, folks dear to my heart are skilled vegetable cooks so I get to enjoy the fruits of their labors. Such as Older Daughter, who replanted her vegetable and herb garden after the April 27 tornado near Huntsville, Alabama, pretty much flattened it. Today, less than three months later, it’s thriving and healthy and all she has to do is walk across her back yard to get makings for the lightest and most flavorful vegetable & pasta dish ever. I’m not a big fan of pasta — although I love the way Nigella Lawson says it: “Past-ah.” — but I asked for seconds of this. It was that good. And then my friend Evelyn made a yummy summer feast that starred a cool and refreshing watermelon salad along with lightly cooked and delicious yellow squash. Now, what’s for dessert?

 

Oh My Gosh! I’m A Squash!***

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.