Folding, Squash Triangles, and Food Banks

I was looking for a recipe that combined squash and phyllo dough. Ultimately, the method I found for rolling them up was exactly the technique we used in grade school to make paper footballs (and for folding up a flag). The footballs began with a strip of paper, often old homework, that was folded first on a diagonal, then rolled up as triangles to the end; any leftover piece was tucked back into the main body of the ball. To play, one kid would hold his index fingers and thumbs out to form the goal, another would flick the ball and try to make it fly between the posts. 

I began wondering if kids are passing notes in school, are making paper footballs, and are folding up fortune tellers and paper airplanes now that they do everything on their phones. And what does this mean for problem solving and hand skills and cooking?

We can pause here to contemplate these questions.

It's the season for eating, and the hand work for cooking is no different from that of making books or sculptures, even down to the same repetitive/contemplative steps. Here is a recipe for squash triangles that are made the same way as the footballs, but they are meant to land in your mouth. 

If you have leftover squash, yams, or pumpkin, for example, you can use it here. I roasted chunks of peeled and seeded butternut squash with olive oil, salt, and pepper at 425°F for 30 minutes, stirring and turning every 10 minutes. I then sautéed and carmelized one half of a red onion in olive oil, added a little cumin, sage, and soy sauce, and puréed it with the squash and one egg (optional). You could substitute different spices for sweet or savory.

As a dessert, you might try a purée of brown sugar or honey, butter, cinnamon and ground almonds, walnuts, hazelnuts, or pecans, either with the squash or all by itself. (I think we're talking something like baklava or pecan pie, at this point.)

You will need about one half pound of phyllo dough (aka filo or fillo), thawed at room temperature for 4 hours or so if it's straight from the freezer, (or you can plan ahead and follow the package directions). The package I bought contained one pound, with sheets measuring 13" x 18"; I used eight sheets. 

Carefully unfold the stacked sheets horizontally, gently separate out a stack of eight and cut the stack down into six strips, about 2 1/2" wide each. Dampen a linen towel and cover the phyllo dough with the damp towel while you work. Allow at least an hour to fold up all the triangles.

Melt 4 T butter in 4 T olive oil. You may need to warm this up again as you proceed.

Place one strip on your work surface and brush it with the liquid butter/oil mixture.
Put a heaping teaspoon of squash about an inch from the bottom.

Start rolling up by folding the strip diagonally over the squash. You may need to flatten it a bit to continue, or move the filling down a little. You can experiment with the right amount to make it fold up nicely. This example has a tiny bit too much and should be a little lower.

Flip up the diagonal and try to align the right and left edges as you continue.

Eventually, you'll get to the end, where you'll just fold the flap over. It will stick together with the butter/oil.

Brush the tops with the oil/butter mixture and place on a parchment-lined baking pan.
(Note: you can postpone the baking until you are ready: wrap with plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator.)

Bake in preheated 350° oven for about 20 minutes or until golden brown.
Serve hot, while they are still crispy.

Makes 48.

The gift of food is a meaningful, and I would argue the best, way to help people in difficult times. Food banks across the country accept cans and cash. Monetary donations are particularly encouraged so that the organizations can purchase in bulk and buy exactly what is needed. Consider this.

Two examples in the San Francisco Bay Area (there are hundreds across the country):
Alameda County Community Food Bank works with the goal to end hunger by providing for those displaced by personal or natural disasters, low-income families, children, adults and seniors:

Contra Costa and Solano County Food Bank in addition to the above, is providing some relief for those affected by the Camp Fire, which just destroyed 13,906 homes.

Have a safe holiday.