with Cashew Cream and Toasted Pumpkin Seeds
gluten-free, dairy-free, egg-free, vegan, soy-free, sugar-free
I am flexible. I meant that figuratively, though I’m not going to deny the fact that I can do the splits and plough pose with ease. I’ve worked hard enough at keeping myself limber to have earned the right to brag about it. Achievements worthy of praise from Gumby aside though… I am flexible. I go with the flow. I don’t choose.
I’ve been flexible for as long as I can remember. Growing up, if we ever went out to eat, I had no preference. I was always up to see any movie at the cinema. I didn’t insist. About anything. In fact, I came out of the womb wide-eyed and silent, completely laid back about the fact that I’d just been born and entered a world which most babies meet with a pre-conceived opinion that incites fierce bawling. I have always been flexible.
However, I fear my days of flexibility are coming to an end mainly due to the fact that I am becoming an old lady. Prematurely. Very prematurely.
Here’s something else I’ve always been: an old soul. Now, I’m becoming an old person to match that old soul of mine. I’m serious. This issue is not up for debate. Let’s review the evidence:
- I’m a hot house flower that would rival Audrey II.
- Cooking for myself always beats having a restaurant cook for me.
- An evening spent cuddling in bed and watching “I Love Lucy” (or “Bewitched” or “I Dream of Jeannie”) appeals to me far more than going to a party. Or anywhere further than my front door.
- I’d rather drink tea than alcohol.
- I like to be in bed by 10:00.
- I complain when I get less than eight hours of sleep.
- I did Dr. Schultz’ Intestinal Cleanse two months ago and haven’t stopped talking about it since.
And that barely scrapes the surface. Part of becoming an old lady means becoming less flexible. It means facing “my ways” head-on and then, quite matter-of-factly, getting stuck in them. It means knowing exactly what I want and making no secret of it. I know all of this because my grandmother – affectionately known as Nonnie – might as well have a license for being an old person. She is a Professional Old Timer. When I see her in action, I marvel at her skill. She is as proficient at purchasing nothing but an extensive variety of massive candy bars and calling it “grocery shopping” as she is at always speaking her mind, which most of the time includes creative insults that would otherwise jeopardize her relationships and social standing if she were any younger. Ah, what handiwork.
I suppose all of this analysis deserves both a conclusion and correction to my first statement: I was flexible. Now I am stubborn. I am stubborn over plenty of things. But maybe being stubborn is a good thing. Maybe it has nothing at all to do with being unreasonable or single-minded. Maybe being stubborn simply means defining what makes me Desi. To be stubborn is to settle for nothing less than what we believe we deserve. To be stubborn is to bend in no way to fit any single mold. To be stubborn is to actively be unique.
At this time of year, I’m stubborn about one thing in particular: letting go of Autumn. So what’s an old lady to do? Not let go. Instead, I bring Autumn with me into Winter. I make my own season. And it is my favorite one of all. Autter? Hm… That sounds like “otter.” Wintumn? Add “the third” to that and it could be the name of Mummy’s eldest son who’s just been offered a polo scholarship to Oxford. Well, whatever the name of this new season be, Butternut Squash Risotto is a dinner that represents all the season stands for…
Butternut Squash Risotto
1-2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
3 heaping cups butternut squash, cut into 1″ cubes
2 cups sliced shiitake mushrooms (4-5 oz)
1 small onion, diced
1 1/2 cups dry arborio rice
5 cups chicken or vegetable stock
2 or 3 cups water (as needed)
2 tsp salt
3/4 tsp pepper
1 1/2 tsp dried thyme
1/3 cup cashew cream
handful of pumpkin seeds, toasted for 5 minutes at 375˚
1) Sauté onions for 2 minutes in olive oil over medium heat.
2) Add squash and mushrooms. Cook and stir for 5 minutes until mushrooms give off their liquid.
3) Add thyme, salt, pepper, and cook for another 30 seconds.
4) Add rice and stir until translucent – about 1 minute.
5) Add 1/2 cup of the stock and cook for about 1 minute, until absorbed.
6) Add 1 more cup of stock and reduce heat to a gentle simmer. Cook, stirring constantly, until all the liquid has been absorbed.
7) Continue adding broth (and then water) 1 cup at a time until all the liquid has been absorbed and the rice is tender and creamy. This should take about 30-40 minutes total. Stir constantly throughout this whole process to prevent the rice from sticking to the bottom of the pan and burning.
8) Stir in the cashew cream last, heating it for 1-2 minutes. Sprinkle pumpkin seeds on top. Serve!