Friday, December 2, 2011

Solid Oak

I have a table!

It's oak. That's right. I didn't say it looks like oak. It IS oak. Solid wood. It makes me feel like a grown-up.

Before my new oak table there was a chrome edged vintage diner table. I bought for $25 at a garage sale. Love it. Doesn't seat my whole family.

Before that, some nondescript Goodwill table that I gave back to Goodwill when I realized I'd rather eat dinner off my lap and have the extra space than dedicate precious square footage to an ugly blonde table. And so we did.

Before that was my first table, inherited from my husband's bachelor days, inherited from his Grandmother who either had it for decades before or inherited it from someone else who'd had it for decades.

That was the table I first served dinner on when Ryan and I were dating - cheese sauce over broccoli. The sauce was so rubbery I tried to improve on it by deep frying spoonfuls of the gloop. The minute the cheddar concoction hit the rippling oil it burst into a rank cloud of black smoke. Not good! Still, I tried it again. And again. Ryan and his roommate had to find somewhere else to sleep for the next few nights due to culinary catastrophe induced atmospheric pollution.

When we played rummy on that table, the cards would get stuck in the cracks between the myriad leaves. There were more leaves than actual table and not one surface lined up with another. So many good memories stood on in its wobbly legs. Still, I was thrilled to see it go.

Growing up, we weren't allowed to touch my mom's table. We had a house sitter while we were on vacation. When we got home, the house and the table looked exactly the same as before we'd gone, However, Mom is still convinced that the mohawked, introvert, slacker, son-of-a-friend housesitter set something(s) on her table. Oh yeah. She saw invisible scratches all over that dining room. After all, that's what table disrespecting kids from the 80's were like - turds!

History repeating: my kids can't sit at the oak table unless it's covered by a thick table cloth covered with many absorbent place mats. Hopefully I get over that . . . but only after my children get over youth. I love my new table.

On the other hand, it makes my house look like grown-ups live here. My 30th birthday is coming up. I've been doing a lot of reflecting lately . . . while I sit at my old, grown-up, oak table. Hmmm. . . .

Comfort food seems appropriate when you're thinking about entering into a new decade - thick and creamy yet nutritious so you don't end up hating your new grown-up table.

This is the sort of thing that goes on a oak table. A warm, hardy, healthy meal on a heavy, oaky, hunk 'o wood that has earned the title, furniture.

Butternut squash. Sweet and savory.
Penne. Sturdy, starchy, chewy, and delicious.

Butternut Squash Penne
1 Butternut squash
2 packages penne
1 large white onion - diced
2 cloves garlic - crush to peel, then crush some more
2-3 tbsp canola oil
1-2 tbsp better than bouillon (chicken base)
1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
Kosher salt
Grated pepper jack cheese (optional garnish)

1. Preheat oven to 475 degrees Fahrenheit. Peel, half, and scoop seeds out of the squash. Cube to about 1/2 inch pieces. Toss cubed squash, diced onion, and garlic with a couple tbsp canola oil and lay out in one layer on a tinfoil lined baking sheet  (to expedite clean up). Roast for about 30 - 40 minutes or until squash is tender.

2. Meanwhile, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. When you take veggies out of the oven, throw the pasta in.

3. Work roasted vegetables in batches through a blender or food processor thinning with water. Add dabs of Better than Bouillon as you go. Process just until saucy rather than completely pureed like baby food (yuck!).

4. Once pasta is tender but not limp (aka al dente), drain, return to pot, pour butternut sauce over the top. Gently turn the squash mixture into the noodles. Season with salt to taste. SERVE! I like to add a little grated pepper jack cheese to the top, french bread on the side to schmear around the empty bowl at the end, and glass of chilled Pinot Grigio - but that's me! My kid like it with water, mostly cause I'm that kind of a mom. They'd take it just as easily with root beer if I made it available. It hasn't happened yet.

Thanks Jack and Faye for finding the oak table at a yard sale, putting it in your garage, getting fed up with the space it sapped, mentioning to my parents that you want to get rid of round oak table, listening to my mother when she chirped I would probably want it, tracking me down, fixing it up, bringing it to my house, setting it up, cleaning it up, and helping me christen. Your caring and my lack of it makes me feel less than grown-up. And that's a good feeling once in a while.

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