In Grandma’s Kitchen

One of the really lucky things about living at my in-laws’ house is that I am no longer in charge of making dinner. Thus the absence lately of any posts on what I’ve been cooking. ‘Cause I haven’t been!

Well, only a little. I do breakfasts, lunches, and snacks, but hey, that’s by far the easy part, especially since we usually have left-overs from Grammy’s yummy dinners.

The one full-blown meal I’ve made since we got here was butternut squash burritos. My family could eat Mexican food pretty much every day (and we often do when we’re in California). But even though we’re thrilled to be back in a country where it’s actually possible to find black beans, we do sometimes like a change from beans. Hence the butternut squash. I got this recipe out of one of my mom’s vegetarian cookbooks, but haven’t looked at the cookbook for a long time, and have probably altered the recipe beyond recognition by now. So here’s my habitual version:

Butternut Squash Burritos

1 butternut squash

1 tsp. ground coriander

1 tsp. ground cumin

5 cloves garlic, pressed

1 onion, chopped

olive oil

your favorite tortillas (fresh-made corn if possible)

Cut squash in half lengthwise, set it in a jelly-roll pan with 1/2 inch of water, and bake at 350 for an hour (or until soft). Let cool (if you have time and/or mind burned fingers). Sautee the onion and garlic until soft, sprinkle on the coriander and cumin, and stir. Now scrape the butternut squash out of its skin and into the pan with the onion and garlic, and stir it with a wooden spoon until the spices have mixed into it. Serve on warmed tortillas (you can fry or bake them till crispy if you’d like tostadas) and garnish with all your favorite Mexican accessories (guacamole, salsa, pico de gallo, sour cream, crumbly Mexican cheese, olives, etc.). Yum yum!

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Another fun thing about my mother-in-law’s kitchen is her spice cupboard. For someone who professes to not enjoy cooking with seasonings, she has quite a lovely collection.

Here are my favorites:

Garlic Gold Nuggets. These are so yummy, like luscious roasted garlic in a convenient shaker bottle. I sprinkle them on salads, steamed vegetables, avocados, and yes, occasionally the palm of my hand. Tony and I are kind of garlic nuts (dinner at the Stinking Rose, anyone?), but even my non-garlic nut kids will eat these, since they’re mild, sweet, and not hot or overly strong at all.

Mushroom Ultimate. This is another all-around delicious seasoning. It’s made of mushroom powder, garlic, thyme, rosemary, salt and pepper. The rich, heady mushroom flavor enhances just about any savory dish, whether it has mushrooms in it or not. I also use this for salads. I haven’t tried it, but I think it would make an amazing steak rub.

Freeze-Dried Basil. The fact is, fresh basil is just not always in season. And no, there really is no substitute. My mom gets around this by freezing her homemade pesto. We severely depleted her freezer pesto stash when we stayed at her house several weeks ago. I think I ate more pesto than pasta. Other than frozen, however, if you absolutely must have a Caprese Salad or a Pizza Margherita during the winter months, this freeze-dried basil is the next best thing to fresh, and vastly superior to normal dried basil, which tastes to me like little bits of green paper.

Well, I think maybe I’d better go make myself a garlic-mushroom-basil salad now . . .

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