Starting to write a dissertation is no straightforward thing. You can be lost for weeks and not know it. And the advice you tend to get, while sometimes painfully obvious, is still hard to follow. I've been feeling shrunken, scared, and incapable lately. I've been wondering whether in fact I really belong here. And though I've been told that this phase of grad school is like this for lots of people, trying to push through it all, to actually believe in myself, has been hard. Sometimes, it's just been easier to retreat to the kitchen.
Still, I haven't allowed myself to take on anything too consuming. Spending time on something extravagant--a layer cake, another batch of preserves--would at this point, I think, just leave me guilt-stricken. So, I've stuck mostly to simple things, things to help keep me humming through the day, like this sunny delicata-squash hummus.
Though I spend most mornings at my desk--typing, cursing, thumbing through books--I usually find myself desperately hungry a couple of hours after breakfast, no matter what I eat. So, almost inevitably, I drop what I'm doing, tear through the cupboards, and find a bag of something salty and satisfying to mindlessly crunch my way through. I am never at my best when hungry.
Having a jar of delicata hummus around has helped. Its mellow, nutty sweetness, which gives way to a lingering serrano-kissed heat, is worth slowing down for, worth savouring. So it at least makes for more mindful snacking. I often spread it just as it is on crackers or toasted baguette. But it takes well to being gussied up too. A dab of Greek yogurt tames its heat and adds welcome acidity. A drizzle of maple syrup brings out the delicata's sweetness. Pomegranate and sesame seeds add some nice pop. And though I haven't tried this yet, I get the feeling that something smoky would really make this hummus sing. Smoked sea salt? Crumbled bacon and chives? I don't know, but I can't wait to try.
This recipe, by the way comes from Modern Farmer, a new-ish quarterly magazine that I've enjoyed paging through recently. It isn't exactly a food magazine in the expected sense (the hummus recipe is the only recipe in this issue), but unsurprisingly, it touches on issues we should all take some interest in (food waste, breeding heat-resistant strains of lettuce).
Adapted from Karen Lebovitz in Modern Farmer, Fall 2013
2 pounds delicata squash (or of another variety of your choosing)
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper
2 heads garlic, separated into cloves and peeled (about 1/2 cup of cloves)
2 or 3 serrano peppers, sliced in half, stems and seeds removed
1/4 cup tahini
3 tablespoons lemon juice
Greek yogurt, maple syrup, pomegranate seeds, and toasted sesame seeds
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Cut the squash in half and remove the seeds and string. Rub the flesh with 2 tablespoons of olive oil and 2 generous pinches of salt. Place the squash cut side down on a half-sheet and bake until very soft, about 1 hour.
While the squash is baking, place the garlic, serranos, and remaining olive oil in a small saucepan over low heat. Poach the garlic and peppers in the oil until completely soft, 30-40 minutes. The garlic should be very lightly browned.
Scoop out the flesh from the roasted squash and place in a food processor. Add the poaching oil, garlic, serranos, tahini, and lemon juice. Puree until smooth, about 1 minute. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
The texture of the hummus will vary with the squash. Add up to 1/2 cup of water and blend until the desired consistency is reached. Refrigerate at least 3 hours or up to a week. The hummus also keeps well frozen in an airtight container.
Makes 5-6 cups.