I'd like a medal, please. A nice big, shiny one, preferably with some weight to it so it strains my neck forward just a touch. That way, people will look at me and say, Wow, that's some medal she's wearing. See how it strains her neck?
Today, a Saturday, I drove my kids 90 minutes to Carmel to visit the Mission San Carlos Borroméo. This is not how I normally spend my Saturdays, or any days for that matter, but with a fourth grader in the family I didn't have much choice. See, if you're a fourth grader in California, and you go to the public schools, you and your parents and your 2nd grade brother are tasked with studying the California missions. And if your dad is out all morning training for a marathon, your mom may just toss you and your brother in the car with a giant bag of snacks, put pedal to the metal, and take to the wide, open road.
Now, as a native New Yorker, and one of the Jewish persuasion, I didn't know a whole lot about the missions. I suppose I should have, being American. I mean, I must have studied the missions at some point in my countless years of grade school, college, and grad school. (I'm pretty sure we didn't cover them in culinary school, though a friend just suggested I make a replica out of cake.)
So today I learned that in the 18th century, the Spanish sent an expedition from what is now Mexico to Alta (upper) California to erect missions in order to convert the Native Americans to Christianity. On June 3, 1770, they established the one we visited today in Carmel. It was quite lovely, and impressive.
I imagine you're wondering how I'm going to segue this important historical and religious monument to my food blog and lead it all seamlessly into the requisite recipe.
Ready? Pay attention or you'll miss it...
Last night I made an outstanding wild rice dish with squash.
It's uncanny, no? We just happened to eat wild rice and squash -- you know, native foods, and today, we visited the mission, where the Spanish tried to convert the Native Americans to Christianity.
I amaze myself.
Recipe for Wild Rice with Butternut Squash, Spinach, and Toasted Hazelnuts
Serve this healthy side hot with dinner, then drizzle the cold leftovers with a thin stream of hazelnut oil for lunch the next day. Hot or cold, you'll appreciate the dish's mild, nutty flavor and the mix of dramatic colors and textures.
Serves 4 to 6
1-1/2 cups wild rice
1 tablespoon olive oil
One 1-pound butternut squash, peeled and cut into 1/2" dice (yielding about 2-1/2 cups diced squash)
1/2 cup vegetable broth (or chicken broth)
6 ounces baby spinach, rinsed
1/2 cup toasted hazelnuts, roughly chopped
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
Hazelnut oil, optional, for leftovers
Cook the rice according to package directions. I cooked mine in a rice cooker with about 4 cups of water, and it took about 45 minutes.
Heat a large skillet over medium high heat. When hot, swirl in the oil and add the squash. Season generously with salt and pepper. Sauté the squash, flipping several times with a spatula and shaking the skillet with some muscle until it's golden brown on all sides, about 5 minutes. Reduce the heat, carefully add the broth, cover, and let cook on low heat until tender, about 3 minutes longer.
Uncover and raise the heat again to medium-high. Add the spinach and a bit more salt and pepper, and toss with tongs until spinach wilts and the liquid has evaporated slightly, about 4 minutes. Stir in the toasted hazelnuts. Remove from heat.
When the wild rice has finished cooking, add it to the skillet. The rice will be hot enough to warm up the squash mixture. Just be sure to give everything a good, thorough toss.
Serve hot immediately, or cold the next day with a slick of hazelnut oil.