Autumn Colors – Pumpkin Feast

Fall came early this year. There was no smooth transformation, from hot, sticky summer weather to cold autumn days. No Indian summer, no warning not even a tiny hint at all, that it is time to pack away the summer dresses and time to dust off the rain boot. One day was still hot and sunny, and the next day the new season hit us with all its harshness and I welcomed it with open arms.

Suddenly, I felt calmer, happier. I did not rush anymore, had the feeling that I have all the time in the world to do the things I like to do, the things I planned to do for a long time. It was time to tune down the tempo a bit. Fall was always my favorite from all the seasons. Could it be the fact that I was born in October? Some might agree, but somehow I doubt that. I think it just suits me better, Fall and I make a better match. Maybe because of the deep colors it carries, or the sound of the wind that makes me longing for a hot cup of tea and a warm blanket, or just the cold foggy mornings that bring a hint of smoky smell. To me, there are all of the above and some other that I can’t explain.

With the rapid change in weather came the new produce. All of the sudden gorgeous plums, apples, pears, mushrooms, winter squash, and pumpkins were covering the shelves of the grocery stores. My excitement grew even bigger when I’ve seen the opening of a nearby winter squash farm. All kinds of squashes were just rolling around a field waiting to be harvested.  I was thrilled and went a bit overboard with shopping.  But again, how could anyone resist pumpkins or any kind of fresh market bounty. I know I can’t, never could. The autumn found its way into my kitchen too, and I was more than ready to put on my apron and face the tons of winter squash I bought.

I anyway planned to spend more time in the kitchen, taking time and focus on slow cooking, carefully planning every move, enjoying every second of it, and these beauties gave me the perfect kick. Time of the fast meals has passed with summer, it’s time to put some hearty food on the table.

My head is exploding with ideas. It was very difficult to pick one recipe to start with, especially that I’m feeding two very picky eaters. As much as I adore winter squash, as much the rest of the family detest them. Finding a way to incorporate any of these beauties into the meals they eat is a challenge, and I live for challenges.

The cake was the least of my worries. Spiced pumpkin cake is something I bake every year, and we all admire it. Salty strudel was a regular at my grandmother, and I knew I want to turn the original recipe inside out to fit the flavor of the winter squash. I was not sure how the others going to respond to it, but as it turned out, I worried too much. The strudel was heavenly, just as creamy and crunchy as I imagined.  The rest of the squash ended up in meatballs. I carefully hid the orange squash meat into the meatballs, which turned out to be a hit – spicy, sweet, a bit exotic, and made a perfect match with the garlicky tzatziki. They couldn’t get enough of it. It seems my family would eat anything that is packed in a Pita.

Even if you’re not a fan of winter squash, there are so many ways to blend them into regular recipes, to add an interesting bang to an everyday meal. I have still a few recipes up my sleeves, and a few a winter squashes left on the terrace, that are patiently waiting for their destiny to happen.

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