Chipotle roasted pumpkin with borlotti beans, green onions and avocado

Go ahead. Say it. I know you’re thinking it, so might as well. You think I’m a curmudgeon. A party pooper. A kill joy. See that wasn’t so difficult was it? And all because of one simple thing: I’ve had it up to here with Halloween.

I can hear the collective gasps. The shaking of heads. The pursing of lips and knowing glances. But if I’m the Ebenezer Scrooge of Halloween, then so be it. Halloween? No thanks.

What’s my problem? It’s simple. Halloween has gone way overboard and OTT. It used to be kids dressed up in homemade costumes. Bobbing for apples. Ghost stories and pillow cases to hold candy. It was simple, sweet and fun.

But today? Today it’s a competitive sport. Costumes are more tricked out than outfits on the Paris runway. No more pillow cases (heaven forbid) – now we’re talking about the equivalent of a Gucci handbag to hold candy. And don’t get me started on the lights, the gigantic tombstones and spiders that decorate front yards. It makes the Macy’s Day parade look like a small town country fair.

I could almost stomach it until the time a kid stuck his hand in the bowl of candy and grabbed a whopping handful and wouldn’t let go. His parents smiled proudly. So this year, I’m closing the curtains, turning off the lights and hunkering down until it’s all over.

The only pumpkin at my place will be this chipotle roasted pumpkin with borlotti beans. I’ll serve it with a sassy glass of red (or two) and wait until the kids are gone, Halloween is over and it’s safe to go outside. Halloween? Bah humbug.

Chipotle roasted pumpkin with borlotti beans, green onions & avocado

Serves 4

Don’t use the pumpkin you’d use for carving. Instead, look for a small pumpkin like the ‘Uchiki Kuri’, also known as the Winter, Onion, Hokkaido or Potimarron squash. It has a gorgeous yellowy-orange flesh with a lovely sweetness. If you can’t find that, then try a silvery-blue-skinned ‘Crown Prince’ or even a butternut squash.

Preheat oven to 425°

1 small pumpkin, about 1 ½ lbs

½ – 1 tsp Chipotle rub & mix

½ tsp Chimayo blend chile powder

2 Tbsp olive or vegetable oil

10 oz borlotti or other beans, cooked

½ avocado, peeled and diced

Small bunch of cilantro, chopped

2 green onions, chopped

Chile pequin

Salt

Slice the pumpkin into wedges – you don’t need to peel it. Toss with the oil and Chipotle rub & mix, the Chimayo red chile powder and a generous sprinkle of salt. Roast in the hot oven until you can insert a knife easily into the flesh of the pumpkin. If it’s getting a bit too brown, turn the heat down to 350°.

Arrange the pumpkin and beans on a platter. Garnish with the avocado, cilantro or parsley and the green onions and a generous sprinkle of Chile pequin.

Roasted butternut squash with a chile, lime yogurt sauce

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Halloween – like youth – is wasted on the young. We send out a bunch of adrenalin-fuelled kids to terrorize the neighbours with thinly veiled threats of ‘trick or treat’. Meanwhile, their older hormonally-challenged siblings pelt eggs and strew toilet paper on the homes and yards of long-suffering teachers.

The young ones arrive back home with enough candy to feed a small island state and proceed to eat themselves into a sugar frenzy that ends in tears and tantrums. You get little Susy into bed (finally) just as the phone rings to alert you that her older brother is down at the station, caught red-handed with half a dozen eggs and a can of shaving cream.

Sometime around midnight you collapse into an armchair, clutching a large whiskey like it’s a life jacket on a sinking ship.

Wouldn’t the world be a better place if we left the kids at home and the adults went out instead? Forget the trick or treating, I’m thinking glam Halloween parties instead. Imagine costumes, but nothing made of rayon or other ghastly fabrics –Swarovski crystals and vintage Dior will do nicely, I think. Music – of course – but ‘70’s disco or classic Motown. Food – natch – will be a more refined offering and candy will be nothing less than 70% dark chocolate.

No eggs, no shaving cream, no toilet paper except in the bathrooms (Diptyque scented candles shimmering seductively, please). This is a kinder, gentler Halloween where order is restored and kids are where they should be – at home doing a rather lengthy and laborious project on the Louisiana Purchase with a babysitter who resembles Mary Poppins in look and attitude.

It’s an idea, right?

Roasted butternut squash with a chile, lime yogurt sauce   

img_0873This recipe looks long but only because I’ve given rather lengthy instructions on cutting up the butternut squash. The basic idea is that you want the squash pieces roughly the same size so they’re done at the same time. I peel butternut squash but you don’t need to – the outer skin is edible or you can remove after cooking. The choice is yours.

Serves 4

1 butternut squash, roughly 2 lbs

2 Tbsp olive oil

Salt

½ tsp Ancho chile powder

Sauce

4 Tbsp CO YO coconut milk yogurt

Zest and juice of one lime

1/2 tsp New Mexico green chile powder

1 tsp honey

Garnish

1 Tbsp pumpkin seeds, lightly toasted

1 tsp New Mexico green chile caribe flakes

Preheat oven to 425°F

I peel my butternut squash as I think it looks nicer but by all means leave the outer skin on if you like. Regardless, slice off a bit from the top and bottom to remove any stem and tail. Then slice the butternut squash into two pieces. Make the cut at the end of the slender neck, right before it bulges out into the round bottom section.

Take the tall ‘neck’ portion and cut it in half creating two short columns the same size. Take one of these and slice it down the middle. Cut one half into four wedges. Repeat with the other half and then again with the other column. You’ll end up with sixteen wedges that are about the same size.

Now take the round bottom section. Slice it down the middle so you have two bowl-shaped pieces. Scoop out the seeds and remove any fibrous bits. Slice each half into six wedges, for a total of twelve wedges.

img_0875Place all the squash onto a baking sheet and toss with the olive oil and a generous sprinkle of sea salt.

Roast the vegetables for about 30 minutes or so until they’re nicely browned on the outside. If a knife slips in the squash easily, it’s cooked. Give the vegetables a turn every ten minutes or so to ensure they brown evenly. For the last turn, sprinkle with the Ancho chile powder and give a toss.

While the squash is cooking, make the sauce. In a bowl, mix together the yogurt, lime juice, Green chile powder and honey. Give a good stir and add salt to season.
img_0878Place the roasted butternut squash on a serving platter. Drizzle with the sauce and sprinkle with the pumpkin seeds, Green chile caribe and the grated lime zest. Serve hot or at room temperature with any remaining sauce on the side.

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Halloween Heat Wave

Halloween feels a bit unfair. Think about it. Kids get to dress up, go out and bag boat loads of candy. And adults? Gosh, we get to dole the candy out and hope some wise acre doesn’t decide to toilet paper our trees or plaster our windows with shaving cream. And have you noticed that kids don’t just grab the candy, say thanks and take off? Now they give your candy the once over like they’d been expecting a Godiva gift box.

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Sour grapes? Okay, maybe. Let’s face it – I’d like a pillow case full of sugar packed chocs too. And why can’t I dress up like a vampire/ghost anymore?

The answer is simple: you can. Take back Halloween. Own it. Make it yours. Put on that DVD of Psycho. Crack open an extra bag (or three) of candy and eat yourself silly. Go ahead. It’s only once a year.

And while you’re at it, invite a like-minded friend or two over for some Halloween-inspired Butternut Squash Soup. You can sip it in between chowing down on mini Mars bars.

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Chile Spiked Butternut Squash Soup

Makes about 5 cups of soup which is enough for me or 3-4 normal people

2 Tbsp olive oil
1 medium onion, diced (about 1 cup)
1 clove garlic, crushed
1 butternut squash, around 2-2 ½ lbs.
3-4 cups vegetable or chicken stock
whipping cream (optional)
1 dried whole Negro chile
¼ tsp Chipotle chile powderSea salt flakes

Sauté the onion in a pot in 1½ tablespoon of the olive oil over low heat. While the onions are cooking, peel the butternut squash and chop it into cubes. Remove the squash seeds and reserve. When the onions are soft but not brown, add the crushed garlic and cook for another minute or so.

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Add the cubed butternut squash and the Negro chile. Stir and cook for 2-3 minutes. Add 3 cups of the stock, cover and cook until you can insert a knife easily into the squash.

While the soup is cooking, rinse the squash seeds to remove the fibers around them. Place the seeds in a frying pan and toast for a minute or two. When the seeds have dried out, add the remaining ½ tablespoon of oil and the chipotle chile powder and a sprinkle of sea salt. Cook over medium heat for a few minutes until the seeds are lightly toasted but not burned.

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When the squash is cooked through, remove the Negro chile, remove the stem and seeds and chop it up. Return the chopped chile to the soup. Puree in a food processor or with a stick blender. Check for seasoning and add more chile powder if you’d like an extra bite. Add more stock and/or cream so the soup has a pourable consistency.

Serve in bowls with a drizzle of cream and topped with the chipotle squash seeds.