I spent a good chunk of this past Thanksgiving weekend writing… I was truly inspired by the beauty of the early fall and my writings were oozing bliss, thankfulness and contentment. I was working offline, saving my text regularly. All that was left upon my return to the city where I have full connectivity was to add a recipe I had fallen in love and some photos. And then poof! Just like that, the Microsoft Office Online App I have on my i-Pad crashed. And again… And again… I rebooted and even downloaded the latest updates available for the Microsoft app as well as for the i-Pad. No luck. 1000+ words, rewritten several times, changed, tweaked until I was happy with my text, gone. Arghhhhh! Because it was offline, it didn’t get scooped up in THE cloud. Double injury! You can’t recreate stuff like that. Lost simply because I didn’t want to go over my data monthly allowance. I chatted with someone at Microsoft earlier this week but I had the wrong department, and no, it doesn’t seem like they could reroute me to the correct techy pro. Another arghhhhhh! And then, just as it had magically disappeared, the app started to work again. Poof, just like that!!! So tales of my King and Princes, of flamboyant trees, of missed sunrises, of love, family, blessings and good food were not lost after all, as if a magic wand managed to sprinkle my i-Pad with fairy dust. I am very relieved that my sappy, self-indulgent text I wrote when my heart was content and my soul was at peace has been recovered. And it went like this:
I really tried to catch the early autumn sunrise on the lake this weekend. Sunrise is by far my most cherished “me time” at the cottage (or anywhere for that matter). Each season brings its own moments of awe as the fireball timidly peeks behind the tree-lined edges of the east shore. What Autumn traditionally brings along are the most spectacular dawns: colourful, eerie and still. The cold night air colliding with the lake, its waters still warm from the late summer’s caress, create plumes of steam dancing around in elusive patterns… Even the sky shows off its own seasonal colours: hues of pink, purple, grey and blue. Mystical. Magical. And so on the first 2 mornings of this three day weekend, I sat in front of our large living room window, steaming cup of java in hand, and I waited and waited for the greatest show on earth… Well, the sun popped out on time but sadly covered by low hanging grey clouds. Not the rain type clouds, just plain grey obtrusive clouds. Sigh… On the third morning, I completely missed it and I think it was the glorious one I had been waiting for simply because I slept right through it. Darn!
The mornings may not have delivered their expected splendor but the days have been pretty nice. The trees may not have exploded yet into the deep reds, oranges and gold typical of early Autumn here in Ontario, but there was enough of a hint here and there to thrill the onlookers. The weather was still unseasonably balmy and the sun was almost as warm as in late August. The golden rays now only hitting the world sideways since the sun never quite makes it to the top of the sky anymore, created plays of deep dark shadows against bursts of flaming yellow when hitting the trees. I truly enjoy this time of year even if the stunning scenery is a prelude to the fast approaching winter that will freeze everything up for too long of a time… Don’t take me wrong, I will manage to enjoy the cold season, at times, and will curse it, at other times… Winter is not easy north of 50!
I was amused by our two very opinionated resident red squirrels who are not fond of sharing their property with us. As soon as they spot any one of us, they start yakking with attitude: what a racket! They stare at us with defiance and arrogance. I find them absolutely adorable… Even when they scatter an obscene pile of cedar cone shells all over the deck and the BBQ. They are so tiny, it makes one wonder how much food they can pack in and hide for the winter months. I guess we both have something in common in trying to hoard as much of summer’s harvest as possible before it is all gone. My pantry shelves are loaded with jars of preserves: tomatoes, pickles, relishes, jams and apple sauce.
I could have helped out getting the outside ready to greet the snow but I much rather play in the kitchen. No one complained. As a matter of fact, I think they prefered it that way: if I had been working outside, meals would have been reduced to quick sandwiches and canned soup. I am assuming they were grateful for the food that graced the table… I particularly enjoy cooking at the cottage: the time is uninterrupted by other pressings chores or unplanned shopping expeditions. My cottage kitchen is ridiculously tiny and quirky but it can deliver feasts for many! The weekend meals included chicken in brine for 24 hours then slow roasted on the BBQ, roasted garlic potatoes, plenty of fresh vegetables and copious glasses of good wine. Apple desserts were baked and gobbled up just as fast. One meal stood above the others this past weekend: it was a stuffed delicata squash. I was intrigued and inspired by Paula Roy’s squash recipe stuffed with sunchokes, also know as Jerusalem artichokes. Paula is a fellow Ottawa blogger: you can tap onto her blog Constantly Cooking, it is well worth the visit. I love her close connection to the Ottawa Farmer’s market and how the market association provides her with mystery baskets of produce from which she has to create new recipes. I had every intention of making her exact recipe until I hit a dead-end and couldn’t score the tuberous vegetable. And I was short on time to try and visit a different store… Sunchokes are normally not terribly difficult to find at this time of year, so I was slightly annoyed that it was not available. So I improvised, following Paula’s lead on basic squash preparation while creating a stuffing of my own. Lucky though, I found delicata squash! I had my heart set on trying this particular squash because as its name suggests, the skin is delicate enough to be eaten when cooked. It delivered, the skin melting in the mouth, nearly as tender as the flesh. Another attribute of this squash is that it is not as sweet as many others and paired beautifully with the savoury stuffing I ended up putting together. I think this may just be my new favourite squash! I will hunt for sunchokes on my next shopping expedition because I must make Paula’s recipe. But this rice and sausage concoction of mine worked beautifully. It was rather simple to put together as I prepped most of my vegetables while the rice was cooking. Served with a huge green salad and some warm bread, it was truly yummy!
Stuffed Delicata Squash
2 delicata squash
3 slices of thick bacon I like double smoked, diced
3 med carrots, peeled and grated
3 ribs of celery, finely diced (brunoise)
3 garlic cloves, minced or crushed
3 sausages, casing removed. I used German garlic sausages but any sausages except breakfast sausages will do
2 heaping teaspoons full of sweet Hungarian paprika
1/3 cup white wine (optional)
1 cup brown rice
2 tbsp fresh savoury roughly chopped
1 cup shredded Jarlsberg, Emmenthal or Gruyere
2 tbsp olive oil or melted butter
In medium pot, add the rice, 1 tsp salt and plenty water of water. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and cook the rice uncovered for about 10 minutes. Save some of the cooking water, drain rice in strainer and let cool.
Cook bacon in pan. Do not add oil, the bacon fat will be plenty. Add the onions and celery until they start to brown slightly. Add the crumbled sausage flesh and cook through
add the carrots, garlic and paprika. Cook until the carrots soften slightly. Add the white wine and let reduce a bit, about 5 minutes. Add the reserved rice and savoury. Taste and add salt and pepper to your liking. If the stuffing is too dry, meaning it won’t hold together when formed into a ball, add a bit of reserved rice water. Not too much, you don’t want o water down the filling.
Wash the squash well, slice in 2 lengthwise and scoop out the seeds and fibrous membrane. You may want to shave a little bit of skin off the back of each piece so the squash sits flat in your roasting pan. Brush the inside of the squash with a bit of olive oil or melted butter. Sprinkle with s&p. Divide the stuffing amongst all 4 pieces. Place in large roasting pan, add about 1 inch of water at the bottom. Cover with foil and bake at 325F for 1.5 hours. Remove foil, top with cheese and broil until cheese is bubbly and starts to brown slightly. Let sit 5-10 minutes before serving. The squash will most likely fall apart…
And so here we were on this final weekend at the cottage, counting our blessings for the little lakeside home dreamed of and built by my in-laws. I am grateful for the path that has brought me here, grateful for sharing it with my King and my Princes. Grateful for my own parents who have braved many storms and have given me the gifts of love, resilience and optimism, among many others I will not list today. I am grateful for so, so many people and things… My sisters, who have also weathered storms and have come out victorious in the end: they are a constant source of inspiration. But beyond the immediate bonds of flesh and bones, I am grateful for an endless list of amazing people: my step family, my extended family of cousins & aunts & uncles, my dear, dear friends, (more than any one could ever need in a lifetime and each more extraordinary than the other) and my work colleagues. I think if I dug through a big pile of dead leaves, I would be able to assign a blessing for every single one… Yes, maybe a bit sappy but if one is never truly grateful, one misses out on the true essence of life. Thanksgiving, it was happy!