12 October 2009

cauldrons bubble

Double double toil and trouble,
Fire burn and cauldron bubble
Nyyyaaaaaaah HA HA HA HA!!

For the last two weeks, Jules has been telling me that what he really wants to be for Halloween is a witch. Of course I was more than enthusiastic about this, and went out immediately and bought a wig and a black witch dress. Witches have always, always, always been my favorite Halloween character, since as far back as I can remember. Always. For several years running, the witch was my costume of choice because, above all others, I felt completely transformed the moment I donned that hat, that ratty black dress, and those spiky-heeled vinyl knee-high boots my Grandma donated to my Halloween wardrobe. In the sixth grade, I had the unbelievable fortune of playing a witch in the class play. We were doing some kids' version of King Arthur's Camelot and I was Morgaine. It was delicious. I hammed it up like you would not believe and developed the creepiest witch cackle ever to emit from the throat of a 12 year old. It was one of the happiest moments of my life, and the beginning of a theater career that lasted, sadly, only about halfway through college.

So this morning,
Jules and I set about stirring our cauldron together and learning our lines. It was just like old times (granted, those times were way before he was born, but still). He got really good at the cackle, too. Quite impressed me, actually, that he could pull off that kind of sound with the vocal chords of a not-even-four-year-old. But by the end of the morning, Jules had shed any vestiges of witch to don his superhero costume and head to the park, and by the afternoon he was asking me if it would be OK if he "did not be a witch for Halloween" and chose to be a superhero instead. I tried to hide my disappointment in a smile as I told him, "of course, honey. You can be whatever you want to be for Halloween." Drats. Curses. Guess I'll be stirring my pot alone again this year.

Fillet of a fenny snake,
In the caldron boil and bake;
Eye of newt, and toe of frog,
Wool of bat, and tongue of dog,
Adder's fork, and blind-worm's sting,
Lizard's leg, and owlet's wing,—

Guess it's a good thing that my pot's serving up some tastier flavors than Macbeth's witches. Like what this guy's snuggling:

That's a delicata squash for those of you among the uninitiated. And it has got to be the tastiest squash that has ever made its way past these here cackling lips. Let me say that I find just about nothing more annoying than people waxing poetic about some obscure (to me) vegetable like, say, rainbow chard or rutabagas or Vidalia onions or fingerling potatoes or what have you. It's always seemed so contrived to me. So snooty. But this squash, seriously, is different. For one, you don't have to peel it to eat it. And unless you're talking about zucchini or yellow summer or pattypan (OK, I'm starting to think I know too many squash varieties to not be ashamed in some circles), then you're pretty well stuck with a paring knife or a vegetable peeler and, if you're like me, a few swear words.

So far, I've only roasted it. Cut it up in chunks, tossed it with a little bit of olive oil, salt, pepper, maybe some thyme, and popped it in the oven. It forms the basis of a great pasta or soup. And I even like eating it hot off the roasting pan. My first delicata, I roasted and then tossed in a pan with bacon, onions, garlic, white beans, spinach and tomatoes from the garden, then added pasta and served it with a squeeze of lemon and some parmiggiano reggiano.

The second time around, we made a creamy soup of roasted delicata, roasted red kuri squash, onions, stock and whole milk (recipe here, more or less), which we ate with a thick, crusty bread and good cheese.

And with the weather cooling, my pot's been in constant use. Tonight it was a spicy sausage and sweet potato stew with garlic, onions, kale and fire-roasted tomatoes.

For a charm of powerful trouble,
Like a hell-broth boil and bubble.

It was very, I'd almost say, bewitchingly (nyaaah ha ha), good. I suggest you try it, if you know what's good for you.

Spicy Sausage and Sweet Potato Stew (based on this recipe in Cooking Light)
2 Tbs.olive oil
2 cups chopped onion (about 2 large)
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. crushed red pepper
3 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
1 pound Italian chicken sausage
3-4 cups coarsely chopped peeled sweet potato (about 2 1/4 pounds)
4 cups water or broth
2 cups kale, stems removed and coarsely chopped
1 (14 ounce) can diced, fire roasted tomatoes
1 (16-ounce) can cannellini beans or other white beans, rinsed and drained (we skipped these tonight, but they're good if you're in the mood for them)

Heat oil in a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add onion; sauté 5 minutes. Add salt, red pepper flakes, and garlic; stir, cooking until just fragrant, about 1 minute. Squeeze sausage out of casings and into the pan. Cook 5 minutes or so, breaking up sausage into small bite-size pieces as you stir. Add sweet potato, tomatoes, and water or stock and bring to a boil. Reduce heat, and simmer 8 minutes. Gradually add kale; cook 10 minutes or until tender. Stir in beans; cook 5 minutes or until thoroughly heated. Slurp and eat.


  1. Julia had been telling me she wanted to be a witch for the last month. Yep, she switched up to a princess as soon as I brought out the hat. My sentiments exactly, drats and curses!

  2. You're such a great mom. Not everyone is willing to be so flexible about Halloween costumes. I'll bet you'll still get some use out of that witches stuff since dress up is a year round thrill.

    I'm so impressed that you're not trying to force Jules into gender specific costumes. The preschool years are a time to be whatever you want to be!

  3. Logan's still going to be a dino (so far). But for pretend play with Liam - Liam is always Wolverine (with sharp claws) and Logan is Mindy (with sharp claws). Many days at preschool Liam greets Logan, "Hi Mindy!" Too funny. I still owe you that superhero costume - got sidetracked by sickness! I promise we will give it back. Also, I LOVE delicata - and am now jonesing for the pasta you made - damn this vegan crap! And we need to go to Bastille - lamb buger - YUM! I don't want to make Mark cry by eating it in front of him-so let's go!

  4. I didn't know you had an actor living inside of you! So does Alaina - I've been encouraging her to look at community theatre. Outside of zucchini, I haven't been a big fan of squash, but your pics and recipe may have changed my mind :)


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