Happy New Year!
Is it terrible that by the time the January issue of Feast hit the stands, I had completely forgotten what I had done for the column? I remembered nothing: not the ingredient, not the recipe. It’s the curse of working 2 months ahead combined with all the holiday distractions in recent weeks, I suppose. As it turns out, I did actually write a column for January, and it’s about Opo squash. If you’re longing for that bounty of zucchini we Midwesterners are so lucky to see during the summer, read on.
Opo squash (sometimes written as O-po, also known as Calabash), are light green gourds with an hourglass figure ranging from subtle curves to Marilyn Monroe, making them beautiful and bright. Cleaned and dried out, they’re sturdy enough to be used as water carriers; in fact, that was one of their original and very practical uses. While you may not be in need of an edible canteen these days, their texture, muted flavor, and water content make them a perfect substitute during the winter, when good zucchini is nowhere to be found.
In a way, I hate to make the comparison so soon, lest you think i’m relegating Opo squash to secondary status; rather, i’m trying to emphasize its flexibility in healthy recipes that I know we all make, especially around this time of year (zoodles, anyone?). It’s fabulous in quick breads to add moisture, simply sautéed with herbs and spices as a side dish, or this way, which may be my favorite: a crispy little fritter which can serve as a vehicle for whatever you’d like to top it with.
It’s a tradition of mine to begin the new year with one thing for breakfast: a luxuriously-sized, smoked salmon-topped bagel with all the capers and red onion and tomatoes in the land. I don’t know why I do this: there’s no historical significance to this, no superstition involved, no memory of anyone from my childhood performing this ritual. It’s simply an indulgence and my own way of marking the new year, just before all the pesky virtuous eating begins. This was my way of handing this tradition over to you, albeit in a slightly healthier way than my own. Maybe you can make this for guests coming over this month, but they’re simple and comforting enough to make for just yourself, and are particularly lovely on a cold winter night when you want something a little less heavy.
Let Opo squash be your new heathy buddy that also knows how to have a good time. If you want to know more about this guy, head over here to this month’s Feast column about it. While you’re there, grab the recipe for these Opo Squash Fritters with Smoked Salmon and Watercress Herb Salad. Honestly, these things are delightful when left completely unadorned, so make them, eat them, and think about what you’d most like to top them with.
See you in a few days with some New Year’s resolutions, some plans for 2015 which I will either accomplish with varying degrees of success or fail at miserably (who knows!), and of course, food, food, food.