As the days get shorter and we see frost on the ground in the mornings, our appetites might be growing keener as our bodies urge us to put on a little extra insulation for the coming winter. And gardens and fields everywhere are winding down, giving us their final gifts of their season. Enjoy this delicious, filling, vegetarian stew from Deborah DeBord that combines winter squash, beans, peppers, and onions with interesting seasonings such as cocoa, cinnamon, and cumin. Happy Fall!  —Mi Ae


The bossy kid always had the best ideas, usually ending in small explosions or some other flavor of trouble. But the neighborhood scarecrow contest was a pretty good plan, complete with our trademark, oddball rules: Everything must come from nature and your own yard; you could incorporate three items from your house but not your garage; and there was to be no midnight marauding. It was an invitation to high-volume “Yessirree, the bayou is too part of the yard!” and “the Juicy-Fruit-gum foil from the bird’s nest is too part of nature.” Nobody remembers whose scarecrow won, or if there was even a prize. But I heartily congratulate myself on the brilliant moo-box toy attached to the second hand of the alarm clock, making Jake the only stickman with sound.

Jake’s Autumn Squash Pot
Serves 4 to 6 hard-working scarecrows

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 medium onions (any color), chopped
1 teaspoon sea salt
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
¼ teaspoon powdered cocoa
3 to 4 plump garlic cloves, peeled and minced
4 peppers (mixed kinds for desired color and heat), trimmed, seeded and minced
2 tablespoons chili powder
3 cups water
1 (2-pound) winter squash (pumpkin, acorn, butternut, delicata), peeled and cut into 1-inch cubes
¼ cup freshly squeezed lime juice
2 cups cooked beans (black, anasazi, pinto)
Garnishes (yogurt, sour cream, toasted squash seeds, fresh cilantro)

  1. In your favorite stewpot, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat. Sauté the onions, salt, cumin, cinnamon, and cocoa for 5 minutes until the onions are tender, stirring frequently.
  2. Add the garlic and peppers; cook for a few more minutes, stirring occasionally.
  3. Add the chili powder and water; lower the heat to medium and simmer uncovered for 10 minutes.
  4. Add the squash and lime juice. Cover and lower the heat for a polite simmer, and stew slowly until the squash is very tender but not mushy, about 20 minutes.
  5. Adjust the seasonings. Fold in the beans and warm everything through for about 5 minutes.
  6. Garnish and serve warm with cornbread or tortillas.

Cook’s Tips and Tricks: If the raw squash is particularly pesky about giving up its treasure, roast it halved, face down, for about 15 minutes in a 375ºF oven. This releases the shell a bit without thoroughly cooking the flesh. You can also add a few raisins and walnuts to the beans for sweet, nutty intrigue.

If you’d like to add meat, use cooked sausage, bacon, or high-quality ground beef pork, chicken, or turkey.

—From Picked at the Peak by Deborah DeBord, Ph.D.



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