It was gray and drizzling and I was thoroughly bummed yesterday morning. But as the subway crossed Manhattan Bridge, I spotted a bicyclist in a skirt suit keeping pace with the train, sitting stalk-straight and riding with no hands on the handlebars. Her blonde hair streamed out behind her, and even though she must have been getting rained on, she had a big smile across her face. She kept riding like that the entire length of the bridge, and by the time my train went back underground, I had forgotten about myself and my terrible mood, and thought, Sometimes, I really love people. I love when people do delightful things, just because they can. We can easily chalk up so much of human behavior to self-preservation and to keeping the social balance or whatever. But when someone does something small and unobtrusive just because it makes them happy — like riding a bike with no hands on a foggy morning — it makes me think there is still a lot of mystery to life.
There's not a whole lot of mystery to stuffed squash, but it was a recipe I came up with earlier this week, just because. I had read a recipe taken from the fantastic Hell's Kitchen in Minneapolis for bison sausage, and was reminded of the stuffed squash my mom used to make for my birthday when I was a constantly-hungry teenager in need of huge amounts of food. Her version was savory and mild; she used acorn squash and bound the stuffing with loads of Parmesan cheese. My version was spicy, and I added hazelnuts because it seemed like an autumnal thing to do. The end result was cheering and festive, and it tasted great with hard cider — a simple and unobtrusive invention that added a little delight to the day.
Autumnal Stuffed Squash
Filling haphazardly adapted from The Minnesota Homegrown Cookbook's section on Hell's Kitchen.
Any kind of tasty winter squash, cleaned out and roasted until tender. I used butternut squash, roasted at 350 degrees until I could easily pierce it with a fork — about 45 minutes.
1 pound ground bison
1/4 cup minced shallots
1/2 cup chopped roasted hazelnuts
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 teaspoons red pepper flakes
2 teaspoons fennel seed
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 teaspoon ground white pepper
dash of salt
1. Place all the ingredients together in a bowl, and using your hands, incorporate all the seasoning into the meat. You could also place the ingredients into a mixer fitted with a paddle or bread hook, and slowly blend everything together.
2. Heat olive oil over medium-high heat and add the sausage mixture, breaking it up as it cooks. (You could also do as the Minnesota Homegrown Cookbook suggests, and make bison sausage patties.) Bison meat is extremely low in fat, so add a bit more oil if it starts to stick to the pan. When the meat is cooked through, scoop it into the hollowed-out squash.
3. Eat this autumnal loveliness with hard cider.