I walked a trail in my neighborhood yesterday and at one point – after I’d thrown off some of the bad-parenting-day funk from the day before – I dropped my shoulders. The air and morning walk were doing me good.
In my not-hiking shoes I stepped up a few feet to an area with a bench. One green plant was dotted with solid yellow leaves. So different from the maples in our yard that metamorphose in unity, the leaves on whole sections of the trees going red at the tips, then surrendering their chlorophyll like the girls at camp used to go into the river for early morning swim classes: daring each other then jumping all at once off the dock.
I wondered if the leaves on this plant would do what they’re advertising: fall away a few at a time; ripening piecemeal, succumbing individually to the cold.
My shoulders dropped again, this time reflexively. It’s one way to look at my own learning curve, I thought: I don’t have to learn all at once how to parent a nine-year-old whose periodic impertinence can throw a whole morning into chaos. I may know how to communicate (I’m sorry for losing my temper, sweetie) but as for knowing how to steer us away from a conflict in the first place? Well, I’m ripening piecemeal, too.
After awhile I continued on, picking around the muddy spots on the path as I worked my way up and out of the park. On the backside the trail climbs to a dead end street where there’s a slate blue split-level with two older Mercedes sedans in the driveway. I walked past them noisily, remembering that these shoes have developed a squeak I couldn’t hear when I was walking over soft dirt and leaves down below.
This made me smile. As a parent, I’m wearing down noisily, too. I protest when I’m in contact with unyielding ground. But the restart button is as close as the woods. Or a simmering pot of oil on the stove.
Pumpkin chips with cashew cream aioli
aioli adapted from The Great Family Cookbook Project
There are weeks when I don’t have food stories.
That’s true this week. But we did cook and the highlight
was, appropriately, a decadence. Just the thing if you’ve
had a hard day.
1 pumpkin, seeded and cut into long wedges that are
approximately 2 inches thick
grape seed oil
1 cup cashew cream
2 large cloves garlic, minced
1-2 teaspoons maple syrup
juice of ½ lemon
1-2 tablespoons olive oil
½ teaspoon ancho chili powder + more to taste
a few grindings of white pepper (optional)
Pour at least 2 cups of oil into a deep pot or dutch oven and place over high heat.
While the oil is heating, slice pumpkin wedges using a mandoline to make a large tray full of thin, 2-inch slices.
When oil is very hot, lower several handfuls of pumpkin slices into the oil using a strainer or slotted spoon. Stir the pumpkin slices periodically to keep them from sticking together.
Meanwhile, combine cashew cream, garlic, syrup and lemon juice in a food processor. Process until smooth then drizzle olive oil into the mixture slowly until it’s creamy and fully incorporated.
Add ancho chili powder and a pinch of salt. Process until smooth and taste. Adjust seasonings and add white pepper, if desired. Continue to taste and season. Transfer to a bowl or jar and sprinkle with extra ancho chili powder. Refrigerate.
Continue to cook the pumpkin in batches, draining chips on a cookie rack or paper toweling. Pumpkin cooks down considerably – a whole pumpkin will feed a family as a nice appetizer.