Potlucks are one of the best forms of a social gathering. Friends, coworkers, or colleagues all get together and each share a homemade dish, a perfect opportunity to try a variety of food. It makes it even more special since everyone has put effort and love into making their dish, whether it be an old family recipe or their own. Growing up at home, my family and I would go to tons of family friends’ houses for potluck gatherings so it’s nice having them 0nce in a while at school.
This past weekend, our Spoon University members had our first potluck. Once all the dishes were arranged on a table, we all stood around ooh-ing and ahh-ing, taking photos and strategically planning which foods we wanted to try first. There was a nice balance of savory and sweet – pulled pork sliders, honey glazed meatballs, alongside apple crumble, pumpkin donuts, mini oreo pies and much, much more. We were all feasting with our eyes and by the time we were done eating, we were all slipping into food comas.
My contribution to the potluck was a butternut squash and caramelized onion flatbread, a dish that I think is a potluck staple. It can be cut up into small bite-sized pieces to eat with your hands and it is mess-free. I had bought almost all of the ingredients earlier that day at the farmer’s market, including homemade dough. I was originally going to buy pre-made pizza crust from the store but the pizza vendor at the market gave me 2 homemade rolls of dough for $2! Another reason to love farmers’ markets
- 1/2 butternut squash, cubed
- 1/2 large white onion
- 1 pre-made pizza crust or 2 small rolls of homemade dough
- 2 tbsp fresh sage, cut into strips
- 1/2 cup shredded Italian cheese
- olive oil
- salt and pepper
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
- Peel squash and cut into 1/2-inch cubes. Toss with 1 tbsp olive oil, salt and pepper and roast for 45 minutes.
- Thinly slice half an onion. Heat 1 tbsp olive oil on low heat and add onions. Stir periodically for 30-40 minutes, until caramelized.
- When squash and onions are finished cooking, put onto the crust. Sprinkle cheese on top. Bake for about 20 minutes, until crust is brown.
- While flatbread is baking, heat 1 tbsp of olive oil in a small pan and lightly saute sage leaves.
- When the flatbread is finished baking, top with the sage leaves.
One of the many reasons to look forward to weekends is the farmers’ markets. There is one every Saturday that is about a five minute walk from where I live. I got pretty excited when I recently found out that Baltimore has two bigger ones downtown so I routinely try to convince any friend with a car to bring me with them. There’s something special about waking up early and strolling over to the market on a brisk, Fall morning.
The markets are always bustling with people and there is usually someone playing music – everyone is cheerful and relaxed, unlike the stressed-out, in-a-hurry people you see at the supermarket. It truly is a shopping experience like no other, where you get to taste samples of fresh fruits, sip on stellar coffee, and swoon over delicious looking pies and pastries.
After recruiting some friends to join me at the markets, I always start by getting coffee and something to munch on, like biscuits. Then I’ll peruse the stands and get my vegetables and fruit for the week. It’s amazing to see the variety of produce that are available and I always end up buying something I wouldn’t typically buy at the grocery store. This past weekend, there was a notably larger amount of squash. Acorn squash, butternut squash, spaghetti squash, of all shapes and sizes, were scattered around the market. There was even a mini pumpkin patch!
I’ve only bought and ate spaghetti squash once before but I impulsively decided to buy one that day. Spaghetti squash is a freak of a food and by the name, you can probably guess why. It’s technically a vegetable but when cooked, the inside resembles spaghetti. Although it doesn’t exactly taste like spaghetti and doesn’t have quite the same satisfaction as carbs, it is a fun vegetable worth trying. It can be baked or microwaved but I microwaved it for convenience.
SPAGHETTI SQUASH W/ CHUNKY TOMATO SAUCE
1/2 spaghetti squash
3 tomatoes, chopped
1/2 onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon oregano
2 tbsp olive oil
salt and pepper
Parmesan cheese, grated (optional)
Use a knife to cut into the squash 1/4 inch vertically from top to bottom and on the opposite side. Use a fork to poke some holes in the squash for ventilation. Place in a baking dish and microwave for 5 minutes.
Using a dish towel or oven mitt, take dish out of microwave. Use the knife to cut the stem off and then completely cut squash in half vertically. Place squash halves back in tray, skin-side up. Fill tray with 1 inch of water and then microwave for 5 minutes. (Caution: squash will be hot!)
To make the sauce, heat olive oil in a large pot on medium heat. Add garlic and onion and stir until tender.
Add tomatoes and oregano. Simmer for 5-10 minutes.
Use a fork to rake out the spaghetti strings from the squash. Keep the spaghetti in the squash or put on a plate. Top with tomato mixture. Sprinkle on freshly grated Parmesan cheese.
Recipe adapted from Food.com
Brussels sprouts are one of those foods everyone hates as a kid but then loves as they grow older. I know I used to avoid them at all costs because of their bitter taste and because all my friends hated them. Now, I absolutely love them. My favorite way to cook them is with bacon, which I taught to my cooking class in the beginning of the year. I’ve also tried them roasted with cinnamon but they ended up being too dry for my liking. This recipe, however, solves that problem.
My friend Keri, who is on the Spoon University at Hopkins team with me, is actually the creator of this amazing recipe. When she first mentioned “pumpkin spice” and “Brussels sprouts” in the same sentence I was a little thrown off. I usually associate pumpkin spice with fancy Starbucks lattes and Fall desserts but never would I have imagined to combine it with a vegetable. So of course, I had to try it and see for myself.
One bite of these sprouts and I knew this was my new favorite recipe for these veggies. The flavor was so complex, delicious, and new that I was completely blown away. The sweetness from the spice and maple syrup perfectly counters the bitter sprouts and the spiciness of the Dijon mustard ties it all together. I bet even the little kid version of myself would approve.
DIJON PUMPKIN SPICE BRUSSELS SPROUTS
2 ½ cups Brussels sprouts
2 tablespoons + 1 teaspoon olive oil
½ teaspoon + ¼ teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
Salt and pepper
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
¼ cup maple syrup
2 tablespoons chopped pecans (optional)
¼ cup cranberries (optional)
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
Trim Brussels sprouts and cut in half lengthwise. (Make sure sprouts are patted dry so they will get soggy when cooking).
In a medium bowl, mix sprouts with 2 tablespoons of olive oil, salt, pepper, and 1/2 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice.
Bake for 25 minutes or until edges start to brown.
While they’re baking, whisk together Dijon, maple syrup, and remain olive oil and pumpkin pie spice.
Take sprouts out of the oven and drizzle the mixture over the sprouts. Add optional nuts or dried fruit and bake for another 10 minutes.