Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Back to Boston

So I found out today that I have been awarded a Fulbright scholarship to do research in Paraguay for 2008-2009. This is really great news for my research, because I was starting to get really worried that I was very short on time and now I will be able to extend my project and look at how different peasant organizations are reacting to the cannibalistic spread of the soybean industry. This probably means I'll be going back to the U.S. a little sooner than I expected, and I'll be back in Paraguay a lot sooner. All this back and forth is getting to be a bit much, but I certainly am not about to complain. But I figure I should catch up on my blogging about the meals I cooked in Boston before its time to go back again.

In the last few weeks before my sublet ran out, I took advantage of having the kitchen and made some pretty good meals.

1. This was not one of them: Curried Pumpkin soup. It was an extreme convenience meal. Preparation consisted of me dumping a can of pumpkin left behind by the former subletter of my room in beacon hill into a pot with a can of coconut milk, half a jar of red curry paste, and half a box of chicken broth. I threw in some left over canned tomatoes too, and topped it off with chopped cilantro. My roommate said it "tasted like curry sauce." I can't say that it was the most delicious thing I made while in Boston, but it fed me in less than 10 minutes, used up some leftover ingredients, and let me get back to work really quick as I was preparing my colloquium. And I wouldn't say it was 'bad.'2. This was followed, however, by one of the best meals I've cooked in a long time. Rum braised beef short rib with roasted butternut squash.
I have been meaning to do a big long, ranty post about how much I hate butternut squash. With all the tremendous, delicious diversity of squash that exists in the world and in its native American habitat, the butternut squash has somehow gained a regrettable culinary hegemony. Do a search for squash soup, winter vegetable stew, squash gnocchi, squash risotto--what you will--and you'll observe how the butternut, the bully of the squash world, has marginalized its more delicious and beautiful brothers into shameful obscurity. It's watery, flavorless flesh, smooth, pale skin, and industrial uniformity recalls alarmist cold war depictions of communist consumer autocracy. Yet, it is the capitalist forces of Safeway or Super Stop and Shop and some industrial-scale farm in California or Texas, rather than Big Brother, that has perfected blandness and obliterated choice. How could anyone pass up the turban squashs's explosive colors, the oddness of the hubbard and kabocha squashes, the elegance of the fairytale pumpkin and golden nugget squash, the buttercup squash's rustic charm, and the rich, creamy, even caramely, flesh they harbor for such a miserly vegetable as the butter nut squash? I'll never know. But . . . having just read the omnivores dilemma and being as I am, deeply concerned with agricultural sustainability, I decided that I would try to eat more locally while I was in Boston, and at whole foods (the only supermarket in the vicinity of the room I was renting) the butternut squash and the beets were about the only local produce available. The butternut squash's shortcomings aside, its shape did make for a nice presentation here, and this meal was delicious. I was very sad to have eaten such a delicious meal by myself. But as it was the middle of a very busy week, I couldn't find a dinner guest.
3. I had many guests at another memorable meal: "mussels two ways." In keeping with my desire to eat more locally, I steamed up two heaping bowls of new england mussels, one with tomato broth, olives, and Spanish chorizo, and another with leaks, cream and lemon zest. Mussels are my go to dinner party dish, because they are quick, cheap (at least in Boston) and delicious as long as they are fresh. They make a great impression without much work or expense. These took a little more work than I bargained for, as they were particularly dirty and bearded [cheap, quick, dirty and bearded . . . doesn't sound like the makings for a dinner party], but I put my friend Roberto to work cleaning as I get everything else ready. Luckily the crowd was a relaxed one with no hurry [despite appearances], and when it was ready we worked our leisurely way to the bottom of both bowls as well as many bottles of wine. I hope there will be lots more meals like this with these friends when I eventually get back to Boston.
4. This meal was meant for David while he was in town, but I didn't get to cooking it until the very last day that I was in my sublet kitchen. It's the second installment of squid ink pasta I promised long ago: black linguine with smoked salmon, capers, leeks and cream. The salmon and capers together were a bit salty, but still a good use of squid ink pasta, I think.
The last meal I made before returning to Paraguay was with my friend melanie. I believe this was tilapia, with cream and roasted poblano chile rajas. On the side was balsamic glazed brussel sprouts with caramelized shallots. This is one of my favorite fish recipes. The roasted peppers have a smoky, sweet, and entirely unique flavor that marries perfectly with the cream and fish.


Anonymous said...

That's not nice :(

evergreenknits said...

Congratulations on the Fulbright! That's such wonderful news. I'm really, really happy for you.

But I'm not sure what to make of your prejudice against butternut squash. I mean, butternut squash can be so lovely and flavorful! I cook it all the time, just diced and browned in butter, or afghan-style with spices and yogurt on top, or in a rustic Japanese stew with adzuki beans and mustard greens - yum!

Sam said...

for real-io? a Fulbright? Oh Gustavo, congratulations! I wish we could still hang out sometime. I'll let you know when I make it back to Boston. or Paraguay.

Gustavo said...


Not you too! I mean, if butternut were but one choice among the many, then I would probably have no problem with it. But it has taken over, and for me it is a symbol of homogenization. Try those dishes with some other squash varieties (they do sound delicious though--I'll have to try making afghan-style squash) and I'm sure you won't be disappointed.

Alice said...

Congratulations again! Now that you have all that Fulbright moolah you can keep posting your delicious meals from afar. I'm sure you and mommy have made some good ones. And I'm with you, butternut squash is depressing. With all the different beautiful, subtle, and vibrant other kinds of squash out there, it just tastes really bland and boring to me.
I'm really going to make an effort to eat more locally, although I will be the first to admit with a very picky toddler, I'm getting the strawberries from Cali. But this summer at least we will do our best to eat what's around. Speaking of, they had blueberry bushes at whole foods, I want Leticia to plant some!

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