One Squash, Two Meals - or - This One's for the Grad Students

I have a theory. If you are a busy graduate student of fine tastes, and who also enjoys cooking (Michelle, Lauren, Natalie, Mark) I believe you might want to pass a leisurely Saturday or Sunday afternoon cooking something delicious. But you're so busy! You'll need that something to last you a while. Such, I will argue, is the dilemma of graduate students.

Let's test this out.

I have run a small case study that focuses on a single graduate student at the University of Chicago; however, I believe attention to this particular case will serve to illuminate similar patterns evident in graduate students around the country. Prelimenary research of students at Duke and Stanford leads me to believe that such patterns can easily be uncovered elsewhere.

Point one of the case study begins on Saturday, November 11, 2006, when the University of Chicago graduate student made a large and awe-inspiring pot of soup (of which I was lucky to partake).

The following Sunday night, said grad student again ate this soup (and I invited myself over for seconds). I couldn't help but notice that she had stored the remainder of her soup in small, individual serving size portions, indicating her desire to sustain herself - tastefully and tastily - over the coming days.

Let's turn to some textual evidence to see how the soup played out over the course of the week. I refer to an email correspondence dated (today) November 14, 2006:

"I am eating the last of the soup!!!!!"

and a few minutes later:
"I just finished soup, and I miss it already..."

Now, as mentioned above, this was an exceptional soup, prone to aging well, only growing in complexity, vibrance and deliciousness as the days passed (unlike so many unfortunate vats of kimchee). But what to do when that Large Pot of Sunday Afternoon Leisure doesn't fare so well when microwaved on Day Three? Or conversely, what to do with the graduate student of fine tastes, but a palate of short attention span? The key is for your starting point to be simple enough to become something else. For example, I recently made White Beans with Rosemary from Peter Berley's The Modern Vegetarian Kitchen. Delicious the first day straight out of the oven, they later became a panko-crusted gratin and then a thick, creamy soup. And not a bored taste bud in sight!

I turn then, to my recent adventures with Red Kuri Squash. I'm quite proud of *both* of Kuri's incarnations, I hope you'll have a chance to try them out (for the record, does anyone ever try out any of my recipes?).

Other people these recipes could be useful for:
(1) employees of interfaith organizations
(2) employees of interfaith organizations who are also graduate students, but in denial about the latter (you know who you are)
(3) former employees of interfaith organizations now looking to go back to graduate school
(4) potential graduate students of 19th century Russian literature (you know who you are)

I believe that exhausts my readership. One squash, two meals - what could be better?

Meal One: Roasted Red Kuri Squash with Maple Ancho Mole

Red Kuri is a very, very special squash. Bright red-orange on the outside, bright yellow-orange on the inside, it is really one of the most beautiful vegetables I've ever seen. The flesh itself is incredibly rich and creamy and with no stringiness at all (as I feel accorn and butternut are sometimes prone to).

for the squash:
1 large red kuri squash, about 2 1/2 lbs.
olive oil
salt and pepper to taste

for the mole:
two ancho chiles, stem and seeds removed and torn into small pieces
the juice of one lime
1/4 cup olive oil (or more, as necessary)
4 tbs. maple syrup
1 clove of garlic
salt to taste

Soak the chiles in enough boiling water to cover them by an inch for 30 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 450, and place oven racks in the top and bottom third of the oven. Halve the squash lenthwise; trim ends and discard seeds. Cut each half into 1 to 1 1/2 inch wide wedges. In a large bowl, drizzle squash lightly with olive oil and sprinkle generously with salt and pepper. Toss gently.

In two large roasting pans, arrange squash with one cut side down. Don't crowd the squash! They'll roast much more nicely if they have a bit of room.

Put one pan on the top shelf and one on the bottom. After 20 minutes, remove pans and brush the top side of each squash half with a light coat of olive oil. Switch oven positions and continue roasting for 15-25 minutes, or until the squash are very tender.

Meanwhile, drain the chiles, and rinse lightly. In a blender combine the chiles with all remaining mole ingredients (does anyone know what makes a mole a mole? I certainly don't, but this "sauce" seems to have the general texture of a mole, so why not?). Puree until very smooth, and add a bit more olive oil if it seems too dry.

When you are ready to remove the squash from the pans, use a steady hand and a sturdy spatula to keep the golden crusty goodness that will have formed on the bottom sides of the squash attached to the squash. This is a bit tricky, as the squash is quite soft, but I promise the effort is worth it. Arrange the squash however you like, with a generous drizzle of mole.

Meal Two: Roasted Kuri Squash Soup with Ancho and Maple

(get it? same basic flavors. fabulously different form. tastebuds rejoice!)

4 wedges roasted kuri squash, peeled and cubed
3 tbs. ancho maple mole
2 tbs. olive oil
1 shallot, finely chopped
1 cup vegetable broth

In a small saucepan, heat the olive oil over medium high heat. Add shallot and saute until beginning to brown, about 2 minutes.

Lower the heat to medium and add mole, stirring until fragrant and saucy, about 2 minutes. Deglaze with vegetable broth and then bring to a simmer.

Add squash to broth and simmer until squash is warmed through and broth is reduced a bit. Puree soup in batches in a blender or with a hand immersion blender.

(If you think pureed soup tastes like baby food, just remember how you used to turn up your nose at parsley. And now look at yourself. That's right.)