Eating with the Seasons: Spring Menu - Dessert and Tea

It's the last part of our spring menu, and many people's favorite -- dessert! Your belly is full with that tasty artichokelemony asparagus, and bitter greens pesto noodles. But there's always room for pie, right?

The credit for this recipe goes entirely to my husband. A few weeks ago I had a hankering for a cheesecake or cream pie (in all likelihood after watching an episode of Golden Girls) and he set to making us one. As a vegan you often get to have fun playing around with traditional recipes to make them equally tasty (if not more so) without the milk, eggs, and butter. Our first run with this pie was good but not mind-boggling. After simplifying the ingredients, the second pie was perfect! There may have been a third and fourth pie since then as well... This recipe employs one of my husband's favorite ways to measure ingredients and ensure the dish tastes the same each time -- by weighing them. For those makers out there, this is one of those times when you get to use your mailing scale for fun!

This pie is perfect for spring -- light, mouth-watering, and a crowd-pleaser. You can even forgo the crust and use this filling to make little pudding cups! Make this pie a day ahead so it has time to set. 


Serves 8


14 oz brick of firm tofu

60 grams organic dark brown sugar, or your preferred dry sweetener

70 grams lemon juice

5 grams vanilla extract

less than 1 gram sea salt

Pre-made organic graham cracker crust (or your favorite crust recipe, pre-baked) 

Place the sugar, lemon juice, vanilla extract, and sea salt in a blender (a Vitamix makes this filling extra smooth). Blend until all the sugar and salt has dissolved in the lemon juice. Remove the tofu from the package and rinse under cool water. We want to remove the excess water within the tofu. You can do this by putting the tofu in a colander, covering it with a plate, and putting a weight on top (a can of beans or bag of sugar works well) and letting it sit for a while. Or put the tofu in the middle of a clean dishtowel, fold the ends together, and twist to wring out the excess water. Get as much water out as you can, otherwise the final mixture will be too soupy. There is no firming agent like agar or tapioca in this recipe. The firmness of the filling will come from the dissolved sugar and the chilly rest time in the fridge. 

Add the squeezed tofu to the liquid mixture in the blender and blend until smooth. Pour the filling into your favorite pie crust. For this pie we kept the filling low compared to the crust. If you love a filling that's close to the top of the pie edge, feel free to double the recipe! Spread the filling smooth with a knife, or make a design using a fork, or use your fingers to give it a swirl. Have fun with it! Cover with tin foil or parchment paper and put in the fridge to rest for at least 12 hours. 24 hours is even better. Giving it at least 12 hours in the fridge will help the tofu settle and set while also giving the alcohol in the vanilla time to evaporate. Without the evaporation time, some of the bitter flavor of the vanilla extract may linger. 

Garnish with seasonal berries and some mint or basil leaves. Cut a slice and enjoy!

The night is winding down, the spring air has cooled, and you're looking forward to a warm beverage to cap off the night. A hot mug of kukicha tea with freshly sliced ginger is just what you need! (If you can grow your own ginger, all the better!) Kukicha tea is made from the twigs of the tea bush and offers a very low caffeine content (90% less than a cup of coffee). The tannins in the tea balance both acids and alkalines in your food, and aids in the digestion of grains. If I could only drink one kind of tea for the rest of my life, it would be kukicha! It has a dark but smooth flavor that's warming and satisfying. 

Fresh ginger is perfect to eat in the spring time. It aids in digestion, fights infection, and has anti-inflammatory properties. Have you ever noticed those headaches you might get after a new spring day in the sun and air that turned brisk and chilly once the sun went down? Ginger can help relieve that pain! Ginger adds a warm spiciness to this hot beverage. Drink this tea 20-30 minutes after your meal -- drinking liquids while eating can dilute your digestive juices. Feel free to chew on the ginger slices when you reach the bottom of the mug for an added bonus!


1 bag of kukicha tea

1/2 inch of fresh organic ginger, sliced

Filtered water

Place the tea bag and sliced ginger in your favorite mug. Boil the water, and then let it sit a few minutes before pouring into your mug. If the water is boiling hot it will start to cook the ginger. Let the tea steep for five minutes and then drink when the temperature is just right. Take a moment to reflect on the delicious meal, the good people you shared it with, and the joys in your life. 

It has been wonderful to put together these recipes that are near and dear to me for all of you. I can't wait to hear what your favorite dish was! See you back here at the summer solstice for a whole new menu of seasonal meals! 

Molly Clarke // Rock That Gem

Eating with the Seasons: Spring Menu - Main and Side Dishes

I hope you had fun making the artichoke appetizer from yesterday's blog post -- wasn't the heart delicious? Since artichokes are only available for 3-4 months out of the year, it's fun to savor their goodness during this short window of time.

In the spring we turn to lighter foods with an emphasis on steaming and boiling. The vegetables that grow in the spring have a rising energy that you can see clearly in the way they come up from the ground. Think of leafy greens, sprouts, chives, garlic, and asparagus. During this change in weather we want to embody that kind of energy as well. On that note, let's start with our spring side dish! (For all ingredients, choose organic when available).


Serves two (or one very hungry person)


1 bunch of asparagus 

1 teaspoon chickpea miso (or similar light miso)

1 teaspoon lemon juice

1/2 teaspoon olive oil or sesame oil 

2/3 teaspoon umeboshi plum vinegar

1 teaspoon filtered water

Herbamare (an herb salt seasoning)

A note about umeboshi vinegar: if you have never tried umeboshi vinegar before, this is a must-have in your pantry. You can often find the Eden brand in health food stores (and larger chains like Whole Foods). It is worth ordering online if your local stores don't carry it (but feel free to ask them to!). Umeboshi vinegar has a salty, tangy, bright flavor that works well with vegetables and in sauces and dressings. This vinegar is excellent for your digestion and balancing your body's acidity/alkalinity -- if your stomach is upset from something you ate, sprinkle a few shakes of umebosh vinegar in a glass of water and drink it for relief. Your world will be changed from this one liquid!

When choosing your asparagus, look for the leaves at the tip to be tight -- if they are open, dry, or slimy, they're not as fresh and won't be as tasty. The stalk thickness doesn't decide tastiness, so feel free to get skinny stalks or fat stalks, whatever tickles your fancy! If you're purchasing the asparagus a day or two before eating, cut the very ends and place them in a Ball jar or vase with a half inch of water at the bottom and store them in the refrigerator. This drink of water will help prevent them from becoming wilted before you're ready to cook.

I think the tastiest way to cook asparagus is by steaming it -- you could always boil it, but I find steaming retains the green flavor a bit more. If they are thin stalks, it could only take a few minutes to steam. You want the color to brighten and the crunch to soften a bit. Taste and try the stalks as you steam them, and take them out just before they're perfect. They cook a bit more when steaming on the plate, and taking them out a moment early keeps them from yellowing and overcooking. 

Asparagus is another vegetable, like the artichoke from yesterday, that is tastiest when hot. Make this sauce on the side as you're steaming the asparagus so that it is ready to drizzle on top and serve!

Preparing the dressing: In a small bowl or teacup mix the miso, lemon juice, oil, umeboshi vinegar, and filtered water together with a fork. This sauce should have a creaminess from the miso, a smoothness from the oil, and a tang from the lemon juice and umeboshi vinegar. Taste it and see what it needs -- these amounts are just a starting point! I love to add a splash more umeboshi vinegar as the acidity brings out the sweetness of the asparagus. Try not to make the sauce too thin and watery. You want the dressing to adhere a bit to a dipped stalk or when drizzled over the whole bunch. 

My favorite vintage pink LuRay platter!

My favorite vintage pink LuRay platter!

Present the asparagus on your favorite serving platter -- beautiful objects are meant to be used and enjoyed! You can keep the dressing on the side and dip the asparagus stalks one by one, or drizzle the dressing over the asparagus bunch. If you choose the former, a sprinkle of Herbamare seasoning is lovely to accentuate the flavor of the asparagus. This is finger food -- use your hands to eat the stalks, feel free to get dressing on your fingers, and enjoy!


Serves 3-4


Soba noodles

Your choice of spring greens and herbs -- basil, kale, arugula, watercress, mustard greens, dandelion greens, chives, scallions, garlic scapes are wonderful options to choose from

Your choice of seeds or nuts -- sunflower seeds, slivered almonds, or cashews work well

Olive oil or sesame oil

Umeboshi plum vinegar

Herbamare (an herb salt seasoning)

Filtered water

This is a lovely and light main dish that shows up on the table in spring and stays into the summer months. Bitter greens are nutritional powerhouses and are fantastic in promoting enzyme production and digestive well-being. In the spring you want to awaken your system and clean it out. Bitter greens do just that!

The recipe for this sauce is purposely vague with the proportions -- I want you to taste as you go, see what it needs, and make it perfect for you! Choose the greens that look best at the greenmarket that day, the ones you're most drawn to. Try to add one of the more peppery or bitter green options to your mix, like watercress or arugula, alongside an allium like chives or scallions. Dandelion can be quite bitter, so use a light touch when adding it. My favorite mix always includes basil and garlic scapes (when they're available). I love sunflower seeds with this pesto because they add a hint of sweetness and provide a bit of texture to the sauce. If you use cashews, consider soaking them in water beforehand so they're extra creamy when blended.   

Preparing the sauce: Add all your greens to the blender with a little bit of water and blend until they are well chopped. If you're lucky enough to own a Vitamix it will make it even easier to get a smooth sauce. Now add your seeds or nuts and the oil, and blend again until very well mixed. If the sauce gets too thick to blend, add a bit more water. At this point you want the sauce to be as blended as possible. Start blending again and slowly pour water in. The key here is that if everything has been blended well enough beforehand, the water will be adding a smooth lightness and increasing the yield considerably. Avoid making the sauce watery, but as long as it's frothing up nicely, feel free to add more water, making sure it will still adhere nicely to the noodles. Add a few shakes of Herbamare and umeboshi vinegar, blend, taste, and adjust until it's to your liking. As you now know I adore umeboshi vinegar, so I always add a little more to make the flavors pop.

Cook your favorite type of soba noodle -- in this instance I made soba that contains mugwort, which has its own cleansing and digestion properties and a tasty strong flavor. It also has this great green color, which matches so well with the colors of springtime. Try to avoid choosing a refined white pasta for this dish -- the processed grains absorb quickly into your bloodstream and result in a sugar spike, leaving you ultimately less satisfied. Soba noodles like these are made from a variety of whole grains and provides proteins, complex carbs, and iron. 

You have your artichoke appetizer and now your main dish and side vegetable. Join me tomorrow for a light and tasty dessert and a warming beverage to cap off your spring meal! 

Once you make these dishes I would love to hear your thoughts -- are you all about umeboshi vinegar now? Found a new bitter green you love? Do tell!

Molly Clarke // Rock That Gem

Eating with the Seasons: Spring Menu - Appetizer

With the vernal equinox and daylight savings giving us warmer temperatures and more hours of sunlight, spring has officially sprung! Flowers are popping up and so are delicious spring vegetables. A vegan my whole life, I was raised in line with macrobiotics, keeping a yin and yang balance through eating whole grains, vegetables, legumes, seaweeds, and fruits. There is a strong focus in macrobiotics on eating only what is in season in your area. Your body and digestion shifts and changes with the adjustment in climate each season. Nature provides the vegetables you need to smoothly make these transitions at exactly these times of the year. The advent of supermarkets means that every kind of fruit and vegetable, culled from all over the world, is available to you night and day. If you want to know what is truly in season, visit your local farmer's market. The colors you see around you should be reflected on your plate!

Many of you are fellow makers and creatives, developing beautiful products and handling all the aspects of running a small business -- maintaining your shop, mailing orders, vending at craft fairs, crunching the numbers. It can be stressful and chaotic, and in those moments you may reach for a candy bar or salty chips to keep you going. When you eat with the seasons your mind is clear and your body is able to maintain its energy more evenly through whole foods. 

I put together a perfect spring menu to get you started. For the next three days I will post a new recipe each day so you can create a lovely spring meal by the end of the week! Today we start with the appetizer. Remember to always chew your food well, eat until you are satisfied but not stuffed, and be thankful for all that you have!



1-2 artichokes (make one for a friend!) 

Green and purple artichokes -- green ones are the most common, purple was a brand new find!

Green and purple artichokes -- green ones are the most common, purple was a brand new find!

Artichokes are in season from March to May, and again briefly in October, lining up perfectly with the vernal and autumnal equinoxes. These two seasons are times of detox for your liver, especially in the spring after a long, cold winter of heavy foods and excess. Artichokes contain nutrients that help your liver in this cleansing process. Many of you know artichokes in two forms -- either pickled to a yellow color and canned, or baked and slathered in butter and breadcrumbs. This recipe cooks them as close to their original state as possible, retaining the nutrients and resulting in a sweet and delicious appetizer before your meal!

Preparing the artichoke: Cut a half inch off the base and remove any small leaves. Using scissors, cut the very tips of any leaves that have a spiky point -- not all artichokes have them, but they sure do hurt when you get poked with them! Using a knife, slice off the top inch of the artichoke, revealing this beautiful pattern of inner leaves.  

Rinse the artichoke under water, opening the leaves slightly to make sure the water rinses out any dirt or sand. 

Cooking the artichoke: Fill a large pot 2/3 of the way with water and heat until boiling. Place your cleaned artichoke in the pot and cover. Depending on the size of your artichoke it can take shorter or longer to boil. Most are ready within 20-30 mins. Check on it at the 15 minute mark, to make sure it is boiling evenly (if not, turn it in the water to the unboiled side). You will know the artichoke is ready when it is no longer a bright green color, and both the leaves and base are tender. Remove the artichoke using tongs, and let the water drain out from between the leaves before placing on a plate. 

Ready to eat!

Ready to eat!

Eating the artichoke: Boiled artichokes are most delicious when they're hot. Starting at the base, break off a leaf and look for the half moon shape on the bottom fourth of the leaf where it was connected to the rest of the artichoke. Scrape this area along your top or bottom teeth to remove the tasty flesh. It will have a light, sweet, and tender taste. Repeat with each leaf, working your way up. If you can, compost the discarded leaves to thank nature for this treat. This slow method of eating an artichoke, piece by piece, is the perfect occasion for mindfulness. Take your time with it. Enjoy the moment. 

When you get down to the leaves that are translucent and don't yield much flesh, it's time to scrape out the choke and get to the tastiest part, the heart! Pay very close attention to the fuzzy and thin fibers of the choke -- they are not edible, and have the name choke for a very good reason. These spiky fibers can get stuck along your throat. Using a spoon, start at the very edge of the choke and scrape it away, making sure to leave the tender flesh behind. 

Halfway done with scraping away the choke to reveal the delicious heart!

Halfway done with scraping away the choke to reveal the delicious heart!

Once the choke has been scraped away and there are no more fibers you have reached the delicious heart. As you ate the flesh from the leaves you were getting small morsels -- think of the heart as one great big bite of that goodness! You can eat the whole top portion. The base can get a bit fibrous, but feel free to split it open and eat any tender flesh inside as well. One of the most magical things about artichokes, besides their ability to support your liver and stimulate bile production, is that they make everything you eat afterwards taste sweet and delectable. Go ahead and try drinking a glass of water after eating an artichoke. See how the water is now magically sweet? Artichokes contain cynarin, an acid which inhibits the taste buds that detect sweetness. When you take a bite of food or sip of a drink, the cynarin is washed away and your brain perceives the contrast as a rush of sweetness. This makes artichokes perfect to eat as an appetizer before a meal -- they make the main dish and side dishes even more delicious!

See you here tomorrow as we make the main dish and side vegetable! And make sure to comment below and tell me how your artichoke comes out, I would love to hear!

Molly Clarke // Rock That Gem

In Season Recipe: Balsamic Strawberries with Arugula

A recipe?
What does that have to do with crafting, or business owning, or the New York Etsy Team?

Well last week, I wrote about joining a CSA as a way of incorporating a green and sustainable practice in your every day life.  I also discussed the benefits of supporting your local farmers and buying in season fruit and vegetables not just for you and your family, but for the community.

In the spirit of keeping with that idea, I've decided to share some good recipes during the summer and early fall months for you to use with seasonal produce, if you are a CSA member, farmer market shopper, supermarket shopper, or just want to whip up some good food for yourself, family and/or friends.

The requirement is that you love food. Really. That's it!

In a few weeks, I'll share composting (the scraps from your food preparation) tips for city dwellers, but I'll make sure to add in tips that don't require worms for anyone to use, too.

A bit of background before I share today's recipe:
About four years ago, I decided to try vegetarianism. I am not a vegetarian now, in fact, I love hamburgers, but I find myself eating vegetarian meals more and more.  It's been a natural progression and has easily been inspired by my environmental education.

Please know I am not expressing one way over another. I believe everyone should eat what they want and as they want. This is just my story.

When I made the decision four years ago, I purchased a cook book by Mark Bittman called "How To Cook Everything Vegetarian" and it changed my life. It is a monster of a book, heavy and large, but it covers everything you could possibly imagine of cooking vegetables and fruit for every meal.  It has been a life saver since joining my CSA, as there have been countless Wednesdays where I'm staring a bunch of vegetables down, chewing my lip, trying to determine what to do with them.

And so last week, after first distribution, I was staring down a ton of vegetables with no clue what to do with my arugula and strawberries.

Yes, I could have eaten both individually, but should I whip up pesto? Should I make strawberry shortcake? What ingredients in my cupboards could I use to make deliciousness? 

That's where Mark stepped in.

I grabbed my copy of "How To Cook Everything Vegetarian" looked up arugula and found a recipe for "Balsamic Strawberries with Arugula". I can not express just how delicious it is. The arugula was fresh, the berries were the perfect combination of tart and sweet and were the right size (not the jumbo kind you see these days).

I'm pretty sure that I had too many berries to the bunch of arugula, and I definitely added a bit more balsamic vinegar than the recipe calls for, 3 Tbps, I believe, but it was perfect; the best fresh and light salad to kick off the strawberry season!

I also added optional goat cheese (at the bottom of the recipe), because I ate this as a meal with a small piece of baguette and called it a night.

Balsamic Strawberries with Arugula
by Mark Bittman
Makes: 4 to 6 servings
Time: 15 minutes

3 cups strawberries, hulled and halved or quartered
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar, or more to taste
Freshly ground black pepper
4 cups arugula leaves
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil

1. Toss the strawberries with the vinegar and black pepper in a large salad bowl and let sit for 10 minutes.
2. Add the arugula, sprinkle with salt, and toss again. Drizzle with olive oil and toss gently one last time. Taste, adjust the seasoning, and serve.

Balsamic Strawberries with Arugula and Goat Cheese. Before the final toss in Step 2, crumble 4 ounces of goat cheese over the salad.

Happy eating!  If you make the recipe, let me know below. If you have a recipe you want to share or me to include, let me know.  Cooking is a sharing art.

S2 Stationery and Design

In the Kitchen with The {NewNew}

Members of The {NewNew} create some fantastic treats for your home.  Deck out your kitchen and dining table with handcrafted ceramics, light switches, magnets, coasters and more!  Our featured designers are just as creative when it comes to cooking too.  Each one has shared a favorite recipe

Kitschy Retro Light Switch Cover
by LuCrafts
Lu's Apple Crisp
Lu strives to add a "little lovely to every day."  Light switch covers and magnets in a range of patterns are available in her shop LuCrafts. The name of this recipe should really be Lu's Lovely Apple Crisp! It is baked just long enough so that the apples that get soft but not mushy and the topping gets crisp and wonderful. You can warm up leftovers in the microwave.  And don't forget the vanilla ice cream. 

6 large Granny Smith apples
2 tbls white sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
2 tbls lemon juice
1/4 cup butter
3/4/cup brown sugar
1/2 cup flour
Peel, core, and cut apples into quarters then cut each quarter into 3-4 slices. Place in buttered pan. Sprinkle with lemon juice, white sugar and cinnamon. With a fork, mix the brown sugar and flour. Using 2 knives or your hands, cut in butter until you have coarse crumbs. Sprinkle on top. Bake at 350 for 30 minutes.

Bird on a Branch Wood Coasters
by Peppersprouts
Peppersprouts Peppered Up Margarita
A full time graphic designer who says she has too many ideas for things to make!  Visit her shop Peppersprouts to see the results of some of those ideas.  In the meantime, give this Peppered up Margarita a try and be sure to use a coaster.

1 chili pepper (pick based on you heat preference)
1/2 cup tequila
1/4 cup Cointreau or Grand Marnier
2 tbls fresh lime or Rose's Lime juice
Slice the pepper into thin strips and rub it around the rim of a chilled margarita glass.  Drop a pepper strip into the glass. Fill cocktail shaker half full with ice and add tequila, Cointreau or Grand Marnier and lime juice. Shake vigorously and strain into glass.

Linda's Jazzed-Up Curried Lentils
Linda is not only known for her adorable bright colored birds and decorative magnets, she is also famous for this Lentil recipe.  I'm so glad she shared it with us!  Visit her shop PurtyBird.
2 large onions
2 carrots
3-4 large stalks celery
2 Gala apples 
4 cloves garlic
1 pkg. dry red lentils
1 handful anise seed (more or less to taste)
3-4 handfuls raisins
3-4 tbls curry powder (more or less to taste)
6-8 cups water
Salt to taste

Saute onions, garlic and celery in enough oil to cover the bottom of the pot until translucent. Add anise and let cook approx. 2 minutes. Add lentils and water, then apples, carrots and curry. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and let simmer for approximately 1 hour or until lentils are cooked. Add raisins. Continue cooking over low heat for another hour or two. Salt to taste.  Can be prepared a day in advance and refrigerated to allow the flavors intermingle and develop.

May Luk's Pineapple Pound Cake with Pineapple Rum Glaze
May's unique ceramics are both beautiful and functional.  Working with clay and glaze, May creates each of the items in her shop MayLuk by hand.   Try your hand with a different king of glaze, a delicious pineapple pound cake with pineapple rum glaze.

Eat Pink Platter
by MayLuk
Whole wheat pastry flour - 2.5 cups
Butter - 1 stick unsalted at room temperature
Sour Cream - 1 cup
Eggs - 3,  separated
Sugar - 1/2 cup
Vanilla - 1 tsp
Salt - 1/2 tsp
Baking Soda - 1.5 tsp
Crushed Pineapple - 1 cup  drained

Whip egg white until stiff on high. About 3 minutes. Set aside. Mix flour, baking soda and salt together. Set aside.  Whip butter for one minute. Then add in the sugar mix well. Add in the egg yokes and mix well. Then add the vanilla. Alternately add in the flour mixture and the sour cream and mix well. Add in pineapple and rum, mix well. By hand, slowly fold in the egg white. Do not over-mix
Pour the batter into a buttered bundt pan. Bake in a pre-heated oven at 350 deg F for 40 minutes or until a toothpick comes clean and the edges are slightly golden brown.

Pineapple Rum Glaze
Cream Cheese - 4oz   (1/2 package) at room temperature
Butter - 1/4 stick at  room temperature
Powder Sugar - 3 tbsp
Vanilla Extract - 1 tsp
Salt - pinch
Crushed Pineapple - 1 cup drained
Bermuda Gold Liqueur - 2 tbsp. Add more to taste.

Beat cream cheese and butter on high until well mixed. Add in the remaining ingredients and beat until it's nice and fluffy.  Mix in pineapple and rum. Serve with cake.

Hope you enjoy these recipes and hanging out in the kitchen with The{NewNew}.  For more kitchen and dining related items visit the In The Kitchen treasury on Etsy.

Ellis Design 

Butternut Squash Lasagna

I hate winter. I was born on the wrong latitude for sure. I belong somewhere along the equator. So every year around this time I try to think of things to appreciate in the coming months of cold. It's usually food. Right now I'm consoling myself by thinking about all of the hot soups I'll get to make and all of the winter squash ahead in the farmers markets. This recipe is always a hit for me, and is a pretty easy alternative to the ubiquitous butternut squash soup. I hope you enjoy it!

Butternut Squash
Lasagna Noodles
Olive Oil
Mozzarella (high quality)
Ricotta Salata
Fresh Basil

I never really measure anything for this- it's a pretty easy recipe to just eyeball, which is how most of us cook, I think. Start off by hacking your squash in half and scraping out the seeds (don't forget to save these for roasting later). Then microwave it for about 4 or 5 minutes. This will allow you to cut through the rest, and peel it much easier.

While it's in the microwave, put on a big pot of water to boil for your lasagna noodles. Then, get your squash out and peel and chop it into 1 inch cubes and then throw it into another big pot with some olive oil, and add some water to simmer until it's mushy. I used a 3lb squash, about a tablespoon of oil, and 3/4 cups of water.

While it's cooking, your water should start boiling and you can put in your pasta. I used whole wheat noodles- I think the flavor complements the nuttiness of the squash, plus it's better for you. This is also a good time to preheat your oven to 375, and make sure the middle rack is in place. Next start grating your mozzarella if necessary, and chop up your fresh basil into strips. I cannot overstress that fresh basil cannot be replaced with dried in this dish. It just isn't the same.

Once your squash is thoroughly cooked, sprinkle liberally with salt and pepper, then mash it all up with a fork or potato masher. Grate in some fresh nutmeg to taste and a pinch of sugar (optional). When I made this last time, I was out of nutmeg so I substituted allspice. It was still really good- you could also try cinnamon. Next pour in some milk until it's creamy. I poured about a half cup, but if you want to pour more and then cook it back down that's good too. Think mashed potatoes' consistency. Next, add butter- as much as you want. Let's be honest, the more butter you put, the better it will taste. I put about 2 tablespoons of butter in mine at this point.

Now it's time to fish out your lasagna noodles (Don't take my word on the timing though- set a timer for the noodles according to the box). I set out a towel on the table and laid them out to drain and cool. While they are drying, take a little more butter and coat your casserole dish all around. Now the fun part! Start by putting a thin layer of the squash on the bottom of the pan, then your first layer of noodles, then more squash. Next, put a generous handful of mozzarella, and then a handful of basil. The basil flavor mixes amazingly with the squash, so I put quite a lot, maybe 30 or so chopped leaves. Next, a lighter grating of ricotta salata- this is really a key flavor; its saltiness brings the whole thing together. Repeat this layering until you reach the top of your pan, and finish with extra ricotta salata on top.

Cover the pan with foil and bake for about 40 minutes. Then take off the foil and bake 15 more minutes uncovered to get that crispy brown top layer. Let sit for about 1o more minutes, then slice and enjoy!

Oh, and for a later-that-night snack: take all those seeds you saved at the beginning and put them in a pan over low heat with a little olive oil, a drop of sesame oil and lots of salt. Stir or shake occasionally and let them toast for about 20 minutes. Eat them hot- they are AMAZING.