Creativity is a funny thing. Sometimes lying in bed at night I have so many ideas flying through my head that it’s hard to sleep. Other times, I feel like my mind is blank, not that I don’t have thoughts, just that they aren’t exactly creative or new ones. Lately, I have been spending more time in the latter.
I have spent more time thinking about creativity since picking up Elizabeth Gilbert’s new book, Big Magic. There are many noteworthy passages in the book, and I have gone a bit highlighter crazy on my kindle. What has left the greatest impact so far is what she says about curiosity. She draws a contrast between passion and curiosity; passion being intimidating and out of reach at time, and curiosity milder, quieter, more welcoming. Curiosity only asks one thing, and that is, “Is there anything you’re interested in?” Elizabeth Gilbert goes on to write that these little interests that catch our attention, even just for a moment, are clues for us to follow and trust. She calls it a “scavenger hunt of creativity,” one that can lead to amazing, unexpected places. The most important part out of the whole process, is to not judge the outcome… to find it all just interesting.
As much as I love following recipes and reproducing other people’s creativity in the kitchen with my own spin, I love the process of putting together different flavors and textures to form something new. It’s not that the outcome of my actions is overwhelmingly new or different, it’s the satisfaction of creating something through a process of experimentation and imagination. I was interested to see how I could bring this “curiosity scavenger hunt” into the kitchen. The worst that could happen would be for the outcome to be described as “interesting” rather than a resounding “delicious.”
I decided to start cooking without having a set idea of what the final result would be. With Thanksgiving flavors on my mind, I started with an acorn squash, cut it in half, removed the seeds, and placed in into a stovetop steamer. While it was steaming I started on a filling. Luckily, I had cooked up some wild rice earlier in the day so I decided it would be a great starting point. I sautéed a shallot in some coconut oil and added in the wild rice. With that, I reached for the cooked chickpeas in the fridge and mixed those in. My “curiosity scavenger hunt” had now turned into a fridge scavenger hunt. I debated throwing in some carrots or peppers, maybe some peas… but ultimately decided I liked the simplicity of what I had. I picked some fresh parsley from the garden, chopped it up, and stirred it into the rice.
What came together wasn’t anything ingenious or totally new, but I have to say, it was delicious! The shallots give the perfect sweetness to the nutty rice, with a nice richness from the added chickpeas. The whole dish comes together with the warm, creamy squash. I seasoned the rice with Coconut Aminos, which is what I use as an alternative to gluten free soy sauce. I was happy to have cooked the wild rice earlier since it takes a little longer than other “grains.” Not technically a grain but a grass, the rice takes about 45 minutes to cook. Each “grain” should open up to be perfectly chewy and not too hard or crunchy. This squash would be lovely drizzled with a nice tahini dressing, however, I thoroughly enjoyed it just as it was.
Wild Rice Stuffed Squash
1 Acorn Squash
1 tablespoon Refined Coconut Oil
1 Shallot, finely chopped
2 cups cooked Wild Rice
1 tablespoon Coconut Aminos
1/2 cup cooked Chickpeas
a handful of fresh Parsley, chopped
Cut squash in half, remove seeds, and steam for 20-30 minutes. It is ready when a fork can easily pierce through the skin and flesh.
Heat coconut oil in a large skilled over medium heat. Add the shallot and sauté until translucent. Stir in the cooked wild rice, coconut aminos, and chickpeas. Cook over a low heat for 3-5 minutes, until flavors have combined and everything is warm. Remove from heat and stir in the fresh parsley.
Remove the steamed squash from the pot and spoon the prepared rice into the squash cavities.