The weather has been on a steady downward trend for the last couple weeks here in northern CA, not that it is particularly consistent in any season. On second thought, I might instead blame my romantic fall inclinations on the mounds of pumpkins and squashes that have started popping up at my local natural foods stores, replacing the summer racks of perennials and cut flowers. In any case, my increasing sense that autumn has arrived has been inspiring me to linger in the kitchen over some of my favorite comfort foods: warming soups or stews paired with cornbread or some such baked deliciousness. Deliciosities? Whatever. Also, I’ve been trying to make meals early in the week that remove some of the onus for coming up with meal ideas every freaking day while C is trekking diligently back and forth between where we live and the classes he’s been teaching in San Francisco. Last week I made a very garlicky white beans and leafy greens soup and a pan of cornbread laced with caramelized onions.
This week I was thinking about chili. I decided to make a mixed kidney and pinto bean, very tomatoey concoction, and I mixed in some chopped up baked seitan steaks for some of that extra protein on which C is so inevitably fixated. Sadly, I had to learn once again that seitan steaks don’t fare all that well when immersed in liquid of really any sort. They just tend to get a bit…spongey might be the right word. The resulting chili was just fine for us, but I won’t be feeding it to guests any time soon. What stole the show this week was the bread I made on the side. Since I had resisted the urge to put squash in the chili—really, I like to put squash in just about everything, much to C’s consternation—it just had to find its way into the bread. I was very much hoping to make squash muffins for a little variation, but at the eleventh hour I couldn’t locate my pans. This development sent me crawling back to the large cast-iron. Supposedly, a little iron leaches out of the pan into whatever food is cooked in it, and this is particularly welcome since I tend just a bit toward anemia in my old age. We were both very happy with the resulting bread. The squash gives the bread a very satisfying moistness and mouth-feel, and the bread itself differs from the cornbread of which this is a kind of cousin in being very light and fluffy. I’ll definitely make this again, and I humbly suggest that you give it a try as well.
I used delicatta squash because I'm deeply averse to peeling vegetables. I suppose you could use any traditional winter squash like hubbard or pumpkin or kuri or whatever. Instead of just cubing the squash, skins and all, you would want to bake it, scrape it out of its shell, and then mash it.
Golden Squash Bread
1 medium delicatta squash—or butternut, carnival, etc.
½ c stone ground cornmeal
1 c corn flour (alternatively, you could use 1 c of whatever cornmeal you have around)
1 ½ c whole wheat pastry flour
¼ c raw sugar
1 T baking powder
1 t baking soda
1 t salt
2 c unsweetened non-dairy milk
2 T apple cider vinegar
1/3 c canola oil
½ c grated vegan cheddar cheese
1 T oregano
Preheat oven to 350.
Cut squash in half and remove seeds. Cut squash into 1 inch chunks and arrange on baking sheet. Drizzle lightly with olive oil, sprinkle with salt, and roast for about 30 minutes, stirring halfway through. When the squash is very soft and lightly browned, remove from oven and allow to cool. Mash thoroughly and set aside.
Preheat oven to 375.
In a large bowl, combine flour, cornmeals, salt, baking powder, baking soda, and sugar. In a small bowl, combine milk, vinegar, and oil. Allow wet mixture to stand for several minutes, then whisk in squash, oregano, and cheese. Fold wet mixture into dry. Turn the batter into a lightly oiled cast-iron pan. Bake for 35 minutes and let stand five minutes before serving.