Friday, October 15, 2010


Don't you love this weather?  It reminds me of home.

Last weekend, a couple of friends and I went apple picking.

We also picked eggplant, butternut squash, acorn squash, tomatoes, and other delicious veggies.

Apple picking, check.  Next up: pumpkin carving, cider drinking, and murder mystery party going.  Oh, fall.  Don't you just love it?

A Recipe for Fall: Stuffed Acorn Squash
The stuffing for this dish is really addicting.  The mushrooms add that umami deliciousness, which compliments the sweet squash just perfectly.  Cooking this will warm up your apartment and make it smell like Thanksgiving.  When it starts to get cold out, you just want something that will warm you up, something comforting and soft, light but hearty.  This is that dish.  One bite of it is, in a word, fall.

1 large acorn squash
1 large vidalia onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 pound white mushrooms, cleaned, trimmed, and diced
1 cup red quinoa, cooked
1 cup red lentils, cooked
a knob of butter, vegan or not
olive oil
salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Cut acorn squash in half (from top to bottom) and scoop out the innards.  Discard seeds and pulp.  Grease an oven proof baking dish large enough to hold the two halves of squash.  Season halves with salt and pepper and place face down in the baking dish.  Cook in the oven for about 25 to 30 minutes, or until tender enough to pierce with a fork.  Remove from the oven and set aside.

Meanwhile, heat a large skillet over medium heat.  When hot, add a turn of olive oil to the pan.  Add the diced onion and cook until the onion is tender and translucent.  Add the garlic and mushrooms and saute until the mushrooms are cooked through.  Add the cooked quinoa and lentils and mix well.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Once the acorn squash halves have cooled a bit, scoop out the squash flesh.  Be careful to leave the squash shells intact.  You can even leave some of the flesh intact, for scooping and eating with the rest of the filling.

Add the squash insides to the mushroom mixture and combine.  The squash should be tender enough that you can break it up as you add it to the mixture.  Test for seasoning again and add more salt and pepper as you see fit.  Stir in a knob of butter for good measure.  Scoop this filling back into the squash halves, stuffing them and then overflowing them.  (There will be extra.  There's a reason for that.)  You can then throw them back in the oven to heat them up a bit, or just eat straightaway.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Food for Thought: School Lunch

This week, the organization I work for is hosting a huge conference in New York City.  I've been running around all week, to and from different sites, escorting our international guests, helping backstage at a performance, waking up way earlier and coming home way later than I normally do, and just generally trying to keep the chaos at a minimum.  I. Am. Pooped.

And here we are, Wednesday night, at 10:15 PM, and I'm trying to fit in a Food for Thought before my battery runs out, or the clock strikes 12, whichever comes first.  So apologies in advance for a flustered and perhaps inarticulate post.

The upside of this hell week, of course, is that I'm meeting a lot of cool people and learning a lot of cool things.  In fact, today, I got to visit the Cypress Hills Community School in East New York.  The folks over there are doing some pretty innovative stuff, involving lots of parent activism and youth collaboration. Which brings us to the theme of tonight's post.

When our tour guide led us down to the school's brand spankin' new cafeteria, memories of my own middle and high school lunches washed over me.  In California, at a private all girls prep school, I was very spoiled in my education, and especially in this aspect of my experience.  Our cafeteria was full of fresh vegetables and outfitted with a very caring staff that encouraged us to learn, even in the dining hall.  You don't have to be a food news junkie to know that the lunches served in American public schools today don't exactly meet those standards.

As it happens, Mark Bittman just posted about this very situation, citing this NPR article and starkly pointing out that, when it comes to school lunch, Brazil's underdeveloped towns are doing better than we are.

On the same day, however, Marion Nestle posited on her blog that perhaps New York City can begin to lead the way in the movement for better school lunches.  And just last week, the folks over at Serious Eats provided a great summary of the positive effects of Alice Waters's Edible Schoolyard campaign.

What does this have to do with Cypress Hills?  Well...

As part of the Cypress Hills Community School (CHCS) permanent facility design, CHLDC staff and parents have long envisioned the school cafeteria as a place where students, teachers, and parents can all eat together, and where the food is fresh, delicious, nutritious, homemade and locally-sourced. CHLDC is excited to announce that the Community School kitchen + cafeteria will be outfitted with the necessary equipment and supplies to make this dream possible. We are also developing programming with NYC School Food, East New York Farms!, and Wellness in the Schools (WITS) to ensure that the kitchen + cafeteria will be a healthy, welcoming, and educational space for all of our students and staff.

I had the wonderful opportunity to meet with the staff and participants, including youth leaders and students, of this amazing organization.  And let me tell you, seeing their enthusiasm for their new facilities and feeling their contagious excitement for learning only served to keep my spirits up and bring me hope that maybe, just maybe, things are beginning to change.