This fall I’ve been doing my best to get out for short runs a few times a week to clear my head and relish the vivid colors of the season before Colorado’s cold forces me into snow yeti running gear.
Cheesman Park, Denver. Image by author.
And while some folks need driving bass or intense guitar noodling to stayed pump on runs, this month I’ve become more of an X-Files Files podcast athlete. After downloading an episode, I tie on my trainers, and as soon as the opening notes of the show’s theme sounds in my ears, I know I’m ready to dodge cars and count twitchy-tailed squirrels at the nearby city park.
Retrieved from MyTeeVee’s Guide to the Best Podcasts.
For those unfamiliar with the creator of The X-Files Files, Kumail Nanjiani is a talented comedian and actor whose love for all things X-Files rivals my own. His weekly podcast features him and a guest as they deconstruct favorite episodes and share thoughtful and humorous anecdotes about the show and its rabid fan base. For those unfamiliar with The X-Files (come on, really?), it’s the 90s TV series that redefined science fiction writing for the small screen and paved the way for sci-fi and speculative fiction to move from “nerd” to mainstream.
It’s been more than 20 years since The X-Files aired on network TV, and still scenes from its many Monster of the Week and alien myth arc episodes occupy an unhealthy amount of space in my mind. Sure, some of the more dated episodes make me cringe now, but its overarching theme of rooting out false truths to reach a greater Truth about life and our meaning on this planet captivated an angst teen obsessed with British Romanticism and American Transcendentalism. And the show’s gritty realism (in the form of police procedural) juxtaposed against its investigation of the supernatural and more-than-human is the kind of storytelling I gravitate toward as a reader and writer. Despite Fox Mulder and Dana Scully’s self-seriousness in the midst of what their peers deem quackery, the writers drop in enough comic relief to make the characters real and lovable as they seek out cryptozoological beasts and uncover top-secret human-alien alliances. Did I mention the lead actors were easy on the eyes, too?
In order to obsess over the show without familial chitchat drowning out the actors’ dialogue, I’d hightail it to my bedroom with a huge glass of Coke and viewing snacks and pray I wasn’t called to do chores during showtime. For the record, I lived in a world before internet TV and before I owned a personal color TV (at least for the first two seasons), so if I was forced into my room for The X-Files then, I was in for a particularly moody and hard-to-see episode. No matter. I had a ritual, and I followed it religiously. Ten minutes before showtime, I’d turn the channel dial on my black-and-white 13″ and maneuver its rabbit-ear antenna so I wouldn’t miss the show’s cold open. Even now when X-Files incidental music plays on Nanjiani’s podcast, the same giddiness I felt when the cold open flicked to the show’s opening credits bubbles up and I’m catapulted back to the days of bracing orthodontics, college admission essays, and high-school dreams of adulthood. Not a bad feeling to inhabit when I’m racking up mileage on my running shoes. Thanks, Mr. Nanjiani!
And now, back to our regularly schedule autumn and good eats blog post.
Below you’ll find an unusual winter squash pasta pairing. When I think pumpkin, I’m more likely to imagine butter-, cream, or olive oil-based recipes, but Sarah Copeland features this one-bowl pasta dish in her cookbook Feast, one of my favorite vegetarian cookbooks, so I decided to give it a try on Tuesday.
I was skeptical about mixing pumpkin with the acidic heft of tomato, but Ms. Copeland knows what she’s doing. Sautéing the pumpkin with olive oil, rosemary, and garlic before topping the pasta allows the squash to absorb oil and soften on the inside while browning enough on the outside to provide crispness to the dish. Topping the sauced pasta and pumpkin with toasted pine nuts amps up the savory even more and makes for a hearty dinner packed with vitamins A, C, and E. If you’re looking for a less conventional autumn pasta dish, give this recipe a try, and if prepping the fresh pumpkin is too much work, butternut squash is an excellent substitute for texture and flavor.
Image by author.
Whole-wheat Penne with Pumpkin, Rosemary, and Pine Nuts
(adapted from a Sarah Copeland Feast recipe)
– 2 to 3 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
- 3 or 4 garlic cloves, smashed
- 2 cups of pie pumpkin–peeled, seeded, and chopped
- Pinch of red pepper flakes
- 2 small sprigs fresh rosemary
- Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 1/2 lb whole-wheat penne
- 2 cups marinara sauce (We used a flavorful jarred marinara sauce)
- Parmigiano-Reggiano or pecorino cheese for grating or shaving
- ¼ cup toasted pine nuts
1. Bring a large pot three-quarters full of salted water to a boil over a high heat.
2. Meanwhile, heat 2 tbsp of the olive oil in a large skillet over a medium heat. Add the garlic, pumpkin, red pepper flakes, and rosemary, and cook until the pumpkin is tender, 7 to 10 minutes, adding the remaining 1 tbsp of oil if needed. After the pumpkin absorbs all the oil, add 2 tbsp boiling water and continue cooking. Season with salt and black pepper. If you like, chop up a few of the crispy rosemary sprigs for a garnish, or remove and discard them.
3. Add the penne to the boiling water and cook until al dente, about 9 minutes. Drain, reserving ¼ cup (60 ml) of the pasta cooking liquid for the sauce.
4. Warm the marinara sauce in a large pot over a low heat. Add the cooked pasta to the sauce and toss gently to coat, adding the pasta cooking liquid as needed, 1 TBS at a time, to your desired consistency. (I used about 3 TBS total.)
5. Scoop the dressed pasta into shallow bowls and spoon the pumpkin mixture over the top. Grate or shave Parmigiano-Reggiano over the top with a vegetable peeler and sprinkle with the pine nuts. Serve warm.